Sunday, September 30, 2018
Psalm 147, 1 Cor 1:1-7, Eph 5:22-30, Matthew 16:1-20
Once, Billy Graham told the amusing story of a fire which broke out in a small-town church. When the fire brigade, sirens wailing, arrived on the spot, the minister recognized one of the men. “Hello, there, Jim. I haven’t seen you in church for a long time,” he chided. “Well,” answered the sweating man struggling with the hose, “there hasn’t been a fire in church for a long time.” (1)
What they are talking about is the church that we call the ‘visible’ church.
How many times have you sung this song? –
“You are the church! I am the church! We are the church together! All who follow Jesus, all around the world! Yes, we’re the church together!” Shall we sing together?
The church we’re singing together about is the church that we call the ‘invisible’ church. The church building is the visible church. Christians are the invisible church. Those who served God in the Old Testament worshiped God in the following places: Moses served God around the Tent or Tabernacle in the days of the wilderness when he led the people of Israel. After the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, they lived a life of faith centering on Solomon’s Temple. And the Israelites continued their faith life around the synagogue that they established in each region. Even today, the Jews are serving God in synagogues from all over the world. Invisible churches that want to serve God well and to keep their faith are living a faith life around visible church buildings. Looking at today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus is discussing the beginning of the church with his disciples. When Jesus was ministering in the world, the Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him with many tricky questions. In his wisdom, Jesus responded to all their questions and led a spiritual guidance.
However, Jesus was telling his disciples to watch out for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Human One is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then Jesus replied, “Happy are you, Simon son of Jonah, because no human has shown this to you. Rather my Father who is in heaven has shown you. I tell you that you are Peter. [‘Petros’ which means ‘rock.’] And I’ll build my church on this rock.” Peter’s confession and faith to Jesus is the foundation of the church and Jesus is the builder of the church. Also, Jesus says, ‘It is my Father in heaven,’ who made Peter believe. It is because of the work of the Holy Spirit that Peter had this faith and confession of faith. Through human knowledge, effort, or learning, we can see that Jesus is the Son of God or the Savior, but in fact, it was not easy for Peter to confess this faith. Jesus seems to have been waiting for Peter, as the first calling disciple, to confess his faith in this way. When he heard this confession from Peter, Jesus said, “I tell you that you are Peter. And I’ll build my church on this rock. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it.”
Jesus said to build his church on those people who have faith and confessions like rocks. Every church, including our Kilohana UMC, is a church of Jesus. This church is not my personal church. On the other hand, this church is my church and the church of all of us. Peter is neither a lawyer nor a Pharisee, neither a Sadducee nor a scribe. Peter was a fisherman. It declared that Jesus would build a church on the confession of faith. That’s right. Nothing is a constraint to the church. Nothing, such as racial background, academic history, gender, degree of wealth, occupation, age, or differences in ability can or should affect the sense of mission of the Lord to build the church and to serve missions and ministries. One thing you must remember: Jesus’ announcement that he will build a church on the faith of those who have faith, such as the confession of faith of Peter, who confessed that he is the Christ and the Son of the living God. It is only this faith that we must have in order to become a member of Kilohana church. Nothing else is required. The membership class and membership acceptance ceremony, which we offer once or twice a year at our church, is only a formal process for accepting the believers as members of the church. In a nutshell, UMC’s bylaws, The Book of Discipline, urges all members to become full members and freely join missions and ministries. (2)
It is through the church that Jesus is the Messiah who has saved us from our sins and through which we can have faith that we are the sons and daughters of the living God. Does God exist or not?
We are not non-believers who struggle with this question but believers who have faith in the God who lives and works through Jesus, who build a church on the belief that s/he is the sons and daughters of the living God. The church cannot be built on the faith of those who remember Jesus as the carpenter’s son who grew up in the corner of the Galilee Nazarene village.
As to the question, “Who is Jesus,” through the Sadducees, Pharisees, scribes, and elders, Jesus could not establish a church and could not entrust His ministry. Jesus says that the church must be initiated, maintained, and operated by those who profess faith, like Peter.
I would like to ask this question: whether you and I have faith in believing that Jesus is saving us from our sins. We come to church because we believe in the Son of the living God / Christ who saved us. Jesus is saying in Matthew 18:20, “Where there are two or three in my name, I am among them.” That is why we pray, ‘Thy will done on earth as it is in heaven.’(Mattew 6:9) Early Christianity spread from city to city throughout the Hellenized Roman Empire and beyond into East Africa and South Asia. Jesus had finished his short, 33-year life, but in 55 A.D., there were people in Corinth who were sanctified by God’s church, the blood of Jesus Christ, and called saints, and there were many who followed the teachings of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1: 1-7) The apostle Paul who started the Corinthian church wished all those Christians in the city of Corinth, “Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The apostle Paul’s heart toward the Corinthian church was a heart that hoped for grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The early church does not mean a church with a bold church building.
Starting with a small group of Christians, the house church began and gradually began to build church buildings as the years passed. This Kilohana church building was also built in 1961. And, of course, there are still charter members among us. They formed a church before 1961 and began to serve God. I would like to give a lot of recognition to these charter members. Because of their hard work and dedication, this church has been able to live out its mission and ministry.
Looking at the 2nd Epistle Lesson, we see the relationship between the church and the saints likened to that between a husband and wife.
1) Christ is the Head of the Church.
2) The church must obey Christ’s command.
3) Christ loves the church and gives himself for the church.
4) To be a glorious church – to wash with water (baptism), to cleanse with the Word, to be holy and without blame, without spots or wrinkled things or these things.
5) To love the church is to love oneself.
6) Christ has raised, protected, and sanctified the Church.
7) We are members of the body (church).
8) The church and its members are one.
The apostle Paul explains in detail the relationship between Christ and the Church. The church is the agency that supports the mission and ministry that Jesus asked of us. Mission is all activities for outside of church, Ministry refers to all activities for inner circle of church. I earnestly hope that, following the command of Jesus, who is the head of this church, we will be able to take on the missions and ministries assigned to us. Amen.