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  • Thank you, Pete and Gene.

Welcome to our church website.

We are glad you are here!

Each week we update this "Welcome" with news, prayers and spiritual quotes. We pray you will visit us and learn about our ministry. Throughout these pages you will find, pictures, people and events. Together we are the Body of Christ in this little corner of God's good world. We hope to see you in worship.

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A sermon:

Mark 8: 27-38 Who Is Jesus to Me? September 16, 2018

The passage we are about to hear today is a turning, not only for Peter, but for all the disciples. They begin to realize Jesus is not who they thought he was, he was something, Someone, much more.

27 And Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesare′a Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Eli′jah; and others one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he charged them to tell no one about him.

31 And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and, be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”

34 And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? 37 For what can a man give in return for his life? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

 

I heard about an elder who drove by a bar every day on her way home. Several times she noticed a truck which belonged to one of the other elders parked outside. She was upset. She called the pastor and insisted the elder be removed from Session. “It just isn’t right that he is at that bar so often.” The minister tried to explain. The elder is a singer and a member of the church choir. The minister said, “And, I know for a fact that he doesn’t even drink. He just loves the singing. I don’t see anything wrong with it.” “Well, it just isn’t right.” She said. “What will people think?!” At the next Session meeting the woman brought up her complaint: “It just doesn’t look right,” she said again. The elder didn’t say anything, but that evening he drove his truck to the woman’s house. He got out and parked it in her driveway and left it there all night. We can only guess at how THAT looked to the folks who drove by HER house every day.

In the passage today, Jesus wants to know how HE looked to the people who saw him. Jesus seems genuinely interested in how he appears to others.

Now, for Jesus to ask, “Who do people say that I am?” was not a casual question. In those days WHO a person was, was determined by their community – by those who looked on.

 

Most of us were raised with the belief that WE decide WHO we are. Growing up we were told WE are responsible for our identity. We learn that WE can chose for ourselves what we will do and what kind of person we will be. All of this is in our hands. BUT, that is US in OUR time.

Two thousand years ago, or even a hundred years ago, most people did not determine their own identity. It was handed to them by their family and by their circumstance. WHO you were was not a choice you made. It was not the result of aptitude tests or time spent taking college courses.

In the time of Jesus, few people had either the privilege or the burden of determining who they were. Their society TOLD them who they were. People were not the sum of their decisions. People were the product of influences beyond their control. If your father was a carpenter, then you would be a carpenter. If he was a baker, or a banker, or a barn maker, then that is what you were too.

In the 21st century, we might decide who we want to be, but in the 1st century, WHO you were was a choice OTHER people made for you.

So, when Jesus asked, “Who do people say that I am?” it was an important question. It’s interesting, they didn’t say, “You are a carpenter, just like your dad.” Instead, they saw him as a prophet. He wasn’t what they expected. He was something more.

But, Jesus wasn’t done with his questions.

See, what Jesus REALLY wanted to know was who THEY – his disciples - thought he was? How he appeared to others was important, but WHO he appears to be to his followers was critical. At first, we are happy for Peter. He seems to get it right: “You are the Christ!” says Peter. But, his insight is only temporary. When Jesus starts to talk about suffering, being rejected and killed, Peter is appalled. Mark says Peter rebukes Jesus. This doesn’t go over well with Jesus. Jesus turns on Peter and says, “Get behind me Satan!” Peter goes from getting it right, to getting it terribly wrong.

Yet, we can’t be too hard on Peter. Throughout the gospels, ALL the disciples seem to misunderstand Jesus. Peter is just the obvious one. They all made wrong assumptions about Jesus. They argued over who would sit next to this throne in Heaven. They tried to send away the children he wanted to welcome. They wanted to Jesus to enter Jerusalem on a war horse and he comes in on a donkey. Peter probably wasn’t worse than the other disciples, he simply represents the kind of thoughts the disciples had.

Of course, they wouldn’t understand him. Jesus is talking about betrayal, rejection and death. Who wants a dead Messiah? Israel had already been humiliated by the Romans. They had been broken by injustice and beaten by oppression. Say to them, “Oh, by the way, your Messiah – the one you have been looking for to save you from all this despair – well, that Messiah will be beaten, rejected, humiliated and finally killed.” It was adding insult to injury. No wonder Peter rebuked Jesus. It was the LAST thing they wanted to hear. They simply didn’t understand. They don’t really know him.

Do you remember that scene where Peter is outside the Temple? They have taken Jesus in to be interrogated by Caiphus and the Jewish Council. Peter is lurking around the camp fire outside the walls. While he is waiting, a woman looks at him and says, “Wait a minute, aren’t you one of his disciples?” Peter denies it: “I don’t know him,” he says. A few moments later, someone else says, “Yea, I saw you with the man.” Once again Peter denies it: “I don’t know the man.” Finally, another woman says, “I can hear your accent. You are one of his followers.” Peter shouts, “I tell you I don’t even know the man!”

As much as it was a lie, it was also the truth. In a real way, Peter was being honest. He really didn’t know Jesus. He may have thought he knew him, but the truth is, he didn’t know WHO Jesus was. It wasn’t until AFTER Jesus died and it wasn’t until AFTER his resurrection that they even began to understand who Jesus was. Before all that, they were following their IMAGE of Jesus the Messiah and not Jesus, the real Messiah.

And, if we are honest, we probably don’t know him either. We are all still learning who he is. Little by little, from our first Sunday School class, through church services, sermons and prayers, we learn. And, like the disciples in this way, it is no easier for US to accept all this talk of the suffering and the rejection and the death of Jesus than it was for them. In fact, it only gets harder because Jesus not only talks about how the Messiah will suffer, he also says if we want to be his disciples, we will suffer too: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” No more popular now than it was then.

I recall a minister a minister telling me about a sign he saw outside a church. The sign said, “Peace, hope, love and joy for all who enter our doors.” The minister said it was a nice message. It reminded him of something Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said. Bonhoeffer was the German pastor who was executed for standing up against Hitler and Nazism during WWII. Except, Bonhoeffer said it much differently. He said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” “Come and die.” Not exactly a catchy bumper sticker or what we would put on the annual stewardship letter, but at least Bonhoeffer sounded more like Jesus.

Of course, we have conflicting feelings about the call to carry our cross. Even now. Even after all we know about Jesus, even knowing what Jesus went through and how much pain he experienced, and we still don’t care for all these talk about suffering and dying. Even if we know being a Christian involves some trials, like the disciples, we are not too sure about it either. What does this mean for to carry our cross in our everyday lives? We are trying to figure that out. Ask us if we would stand up for Christ and we will say, “Yes, of course.” Ask us if we are willing to endure criticism for Christ and we will say, “Absolutely, no question.” Ask us if we would be willing to sacrifice for Christ and once again we will say, “Gladly, for God would we welcome the pains of discipleship.” But, ask people if they are willing to spend 70 minutes in worship instead of 60 we say, “Heavens no, that is too much to ask!”

What does it mean to suffer for Christ? What does it mean to bear our cross for him? It will mean something differently for each of us, so I cannot say what it means for you. BUT, if we are bearing no burden or carrying no cross, than maybe we are following the wrong Messiah?

 

As I prepared this sermon, I kept reading Jesus’s question, “Who do YOU say that I am?” If Jesus had just said, “Who do people say that I am?” it would be easy to answer. But, Jesus is making it personal: “Who do you say that I am, Steve?”

For me, Jesus is more than the high wave in the ocean of humanity. He is gravity which causes the wave. Jesus is the Stillness in a world of storms. What Rembrandt was to art, and what Mozart was to music, Jesus is to life. I would want to hear how he accepted people no one else wanted to accept. I would want to hear about he inspired people to drop everything to follow him. I would want to hear how HE was so open to the Voice of God in his life, that people could hear God’s Voice in their lives. I would want to hear how Jesus comforted the afflicted and how Jesus afflicted the comfortable.

I believe the love of God we know in Christ is the only thing which will save us in the end. For me, to say Jesus is the Messiah, is to say, He is the one I choose to follow. Though I am like Peter and deny him more than I care to admit, he is still the one I would choose.

The question for us is not whether or not we are a Christian. 75% of Americans are Christians. Almost everyone believes in God. The question is who is our Christ? Who will we follow this week?

 

TO GOD BE THE GLORY FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN.

 

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Church: A model community of the imperfect

 

Eugene Peterson, from his Introduction to the book of James.

 

            When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does. Outsiders, on observing this, conclude that there is nothing to the religion business, except, perhaps, business – and dishonest business at that. Insiders see it differently. Just as a hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners. Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised. It’s similar with sinners outside the church.

            So Christian churches as not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior. They are, rather, places where human behavior is brought out in the open, faced and dealt with.

 

Together in Christ,

Stephen


“A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH”

The Presbyterian Church was an unexpected offspring of a religious movement called “The Reformation.”  Two of the leading Reformers of the time, Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564), had no intention of forming a new church, at least not initially.  Their desire was to reform the present day Catholic Church, to purge the Church of corruptions and set it more in line with the traditions and theology of Scripture and of the early church.  The Reformers became known as “Protestants” because their requests for change sounded more and more like protests.

The Presbyterian Church is one of several churches that can trace their origins to the Reformation.  Presbyterians get their name from the Greek word “presbuteros” which means “elder.”  The term refers to the system, in apostolic times, of choosing leaders from among the wisest members of the church.  A prominent doctrine of the Reformation was “the priesthood of all believers.”  Reformed churches designed themselves in ways that gave more power to the congregation.  The Presbyterians established a representative system where elders, presbyters and commissioners were elected.

The French organized the first congregation in 1555 and the French Huguenots were one of the first Presbyterians to reach America, followed closely by the English, Dutch, German, Irish and Scottish.  In 1706 the first American presbytery was formed in Philadelphia and soon after the Synod of Philadelphia in 1716.  1789 marked the First General Assembly in Philadelphia.

The Church grew and diversified as it headed westward.  By 1800 there were 20,000 members.  In another thirty-seven years, there were 220,000.  With the growth in numbers came an increase of conflict, separation and sometimes reunion.  “Old School” and “New School” divisions plagued Presbyterians for years.  The most infamous of issues was slavery.  The Civil War severely divided the Church.

The next 120 years saw movements toward reunification.  In 1958 the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) and the United Presbyterian Church of North America merged to form the Presbyterian Church in the United States of American (UPCUSA).  In 1983 the two largest Presbyterian Churches united at the Atlanta General Assembly (G.A.): the southern-based Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) and the northern-based (UPCUSA).  In 1985 the G.A. approved a seal for the new Church. There are some powerful images in the symbol which reveal what is important to us as Presbyterians. Today there are about 2,000,000 members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), the largest of the mainline Presbyterian denominations.

“Unexpected” may seem like a good way to describe the beginnings of the Presbyterian Church.  But for Presbyterians it has always been the “providence of God.”

Together in Christ,

Stephen

 
 
Contact Us  
Churchville Presbyterian Church

2844 Churchville Road
Churchville, Maryland 21028
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Phone 410-734-7344
Announcements
Winter Worship Schedule

8:30 a.m. Informal Service   

9:15 a.m. Adult Class

9:30 a.m. Youth & Children Sunday School

10:30 a.m. Traditional Service 

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