Dear IPC folks,
While it’s almost impossible to view the world apart from the “pandemic" these days, I want to share something about this Sunday's sermon that I find hopeful. In Matthew 16:13-23, Jesus takes his disciples to Caesarea Philippi, named to honor the supposed Roman "god" Caesar by King Herod around 04 A.D.. For several hundred years before that, it was called “Panias” named to honor the Greek mythological god Pan who was the god of nature and sexuality with the lower body of a goat and the upper body of a human with horns sticking out of his head like the devil. From Pan comes the term “panic," which was the fear response of all the animals and people when Pan screamed when provoked. Also comes “pandemonium" and of course “pandemic" meaning literally “all.” So, yes, Pan still has plenty of influence these days.
So, why did Jesus take his disciples there? To ask them, “Who do you say that I am?” He wanted them to see who he was against the two cultures of power and influence, the Greek and Roman rule that governed the land.
While Peter gets the answer right, “You are the Messiah, the Christ, the son of the living God,” he misses the point. When Jesus defined for them what that meant, that he was a Messiah, NOT of power and strength but instead, a "suffering servant” savior who would be crucified then resurrected, Peter objected vehemently.
The point is that while Jesus the Christ is indeed our Messiah, our Savior, greater than anything Caesar or Pan could do, what he saves us from is not from being contaminated by germs, by politics, or by anything else in this world as some preachers would have you believe. Good Christians get sick and suffer like anyone else. If Christ suffered, why do we think we are immune from it?
What he saves us from ultimately is a life of hopelessness, despair, alienation, deceit, self-loathing, and ego. He saves us from ourselves and from the shame and guilt we feel for not living up to the “image of God” we all share.
As theological as this sounds, it is also pandemically practical. Wash yourselves in the baptismal truth that Jesus the Christ is God’s in the flesh Word to us that we are saved ultimately from the fear and panic that we do not matter or that we will be abandoned by our creator God.
Remember what St. Paul said in Romans 8, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God,” -not even pandemics.
When I remind myself of this promise during the day, I find that my own panic and fear subsides and my comfort and gratitude increases. Let Jesus be for you in this way “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”