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[Sermon] Praise the Mount

Updated: Mar 4

Pastor Hector Garfias-Toledo + March 4, 2024




Reflecting on Peter's journey of faith, Pastor Hector explores the depth of relationship and understanding between Peter and Jesus. Drawing parallels to personal experiences, he highlights the gradual revelation of identity and purpose in faith. Through anecdotes and questions, he encourages listeners to contemplate their own convictions and the intimate connection between knowing Jesus and declaring their faith.


Transcript

From automatically generated captions via YouTube, with punctuation and paragraphs added by ChatGPT.


When David asked me earlier, 'What would you do if I give you the keys?' I said, 'Don't, don't even make start get me started because I see myself what I can do with your car right now.' He didn't even come close to me to give me the keys, so I'm here.


Grace to you and peace from God our creator and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Our Savior and Lord.


We said I was thinking that maybe we should change the name of Asher to Luther because he's always asking, 'What does it mean?' And that's the whole thing of the catechism, right? What does it mean? And it's a good way to start this morning. What does it mean for us, this story that we just read a minute ago? What does it mean, all this journey that we are walking together with Peter? What does it mean that you and I, in our daily lives, are still trying to figure out Faith even though when we have been Lutherans or Christians or members of a congregation or religious people or spiritual people for a long time? What does it mean?


For the past two weeks we have been again walking this journey. And you may remember, we recap a little bit the first Sunday of Lent. We were talking about Peter and Peter's call by Jesus when Jesus comes and says, 'Peter, I see in you what you cannot see in yourself. And even though you see yourself in that way, you know what? Follow me because I need you and I'm going to make you into somebody new for a new role in God's Reign.' And then last Sunday, we were talking about Peter and the disciples in the boat and this storm and then Jesus appearing and calling Peter to live courageously and trusting the call of the Lord Jesus in the midst of the choppy waters, in the midst of the storm. And he feels the hand of the Lord picking him up and bringing him to the boat to life and to be what Jesus called him to be and to become.


And today we have Jesus and Peter again in this journey talking and we have this moment when they are deepening their relationship, growing in understanding who they are and their role in this journey together. But before that, I want to say that by the end of Lent, I hope that you will be speaking Spanish because I had started with some Spanish words a few Sundays ago and I have been throwing some Spanish, it's not without expectation. My hope is that by the end of Lent you will be speaking Spanish. So here we go again.


In the Spanish culture in Spain, Mexico especially, I wouldn't speak in the Latin American world, but at least in Mexico there is a saying that says something something like 'Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres.' For those of you who know Spanish, you probably caught what this means, but a rough translation is: 'Tell me who you hang out with, and I will tell you who you are.' There is some wisdom there, right? There is some wisdom in those words.


The disciples had been witnessing what Jesus has been doing every day as they follow him. Peter specifically experienced Jesus' power when he tried to walk on the water and was rescued. But the question is, did they really know who they were hanging out with? Do we know who we are hanging out with? And what did hanging out with him make them into?


When I'm walking with couples, especially, I would say, but in general, I believe when I walk with members of the congregation and when you are walking with loved ones in relationship, whether are your significant ones, your children, etc., I know that we have come to this belief that we have known the person for 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 50 years. We get to know the person, right? So, how many of you really know your significant one or your loved one? I mean, that you can say, 'I know.' For how many years have you been in that relationship? Say, again, 45? 45. So, you know. Let me ask Deb when I see her, but anyway. But let me see.


I had to learn in the hard way. I have shared with you some parts of the story on how Pastor Jade and I met and we were not pastors at that time. We met in Texas. So when we were in Texas as students, English as a second language students, we were these two foreigner students who were vulnerable, who couldn't really know what was going on around us. I met her. I knew her as a Taiwanese young woman student that I used to help, and she helped me in some ways also. We helped each other in the ways that we could. So we learned that and especially I learned to try to take care of her. You know that some of you have heard the story that her father had an accident then in Taiwan she had to go to Taiwan before me. I stayed in the Chicago area at that time. She went to take care of him and because it was almost one year that she was by herself in Taiwan while I was here with my daughter Sophia.


Jade had to basically restart her life in Taiwan to be able to support her father when circumstances changed to a point that she and we thought that I should go to Taiwan. I went to Taiwan. We lived in Taiwan, but this was my experience. Of course, we got married because we fell in love because we knew each other, right? So, we got married, and now, of course, we are married and she's in Taiwan. I'm going to see her in Taiwan. I knew the person where I always helped. And Peter here is the point. And then when I got to Taiwan, she was already she had established a tea shop in Taiwan. She was taking care of her father. She was well established in Taiwan. And I'm going to Taiwan thinking of this young woman who I met who I used to help. When I get to Taiwan and then I she we had to go somewhere, I don't remember exactly the circumstances but we had to go somewhere. I come with her, we come downstairs from the house and then where all the scooters in Taiwan are and she grabs a helmet said, 'Put it on, okay?' And then she said, 'Well, she will allow me to ride the scooter because I always take care of her. Get in the back.' And there was me, I thought I knew this fragile young Taiwanese woman who I was helping, knowing now and telling me what I had to be, what I should be doing.


My point with this story is that it takes time for us to get to know each other. It takes time for us to really get to know the depth of the identity of the person who we said that we love, and sometimes we learn in the hard ways because it takes more sometimes our entire life to get to know the person. People who have been married for 50, 60 or 70 years are telling me many times that even at the 70-year mark they are still learning for from the person that they love because there is never a time when we are able to fully understand the other person or to get to know the person.


The story that we have in the scripture today talks about Jesus and Peter talking to each other in the city of Cesarea Philippi. If you notice there are two names in the city, the names of Cesarea who is Caesar and Philippi who is the son of Herod. So, is these two Emperors or imperial power names that make the city very special and significant in the story that we read today because in this story, to make the story short, it is the story that was the resort for the Imperial Powers. It was like the resort like go to Puerto Vaya or something like that and at the same time was the city where the Romans celebrated the destruction of the temple. So look at the importance and the significance of Jesus asking Peter who Jesus was to Peter and to the disciples this declaration that Peter makes and maybe the disciples quietly because they didn't say anything at least it doesn't say in the Bible it's a declaration in a very inconvenient place that could create a very strong reaction from the powers of that time.


And I think that this is something that makes us think about this what we were reading what we were listening in the poem that was read today those ideas that we have that sometimes we are not supposed to talk or speak of our faith. And I know that in our current situation it has been that the church the church body the Christian bodies I have heard people in ways that many people carry wounds right and it's hard to talk about or to think about or to even explore in a deep way the spirituality or the meaning of the religion that we profess the belief that that we profess these wounds prevents us from thinking from talking and for exploring faith in a deeper level or in another way sometimes we may be afraid to talk about our faith because if things go differently from what we say that we believe that it's going to happen we may be proven wrong in front of other people.


So the question for us is why was important for Jesus to know what Peter said who Jesus was and what led Peter to confess or to proclaim who he believed Jesus was. I think that the bottom of this conversation the bottom line is the self-realization for both Peter and for Jesus an affirmation perhaps of the roles in the unfolding reign of God. By confessing who Jesus is, we are proclaiming who we are and whose we are. Tell me who you hang out with and I will tell you who you are. In a figuratively way we can say you are the company you keep. So who are you hanging out with as Christians? \


Peter's Journey of Faith it is one in which he realizes not only who Jesus is but who Jesus is in his and others life. Such revelation is transformative, Peter receives a new name and also a new promise. As David was reminding us earlier that the Jesus movement the church--I'm not talking the church as an institution--but as a movement of people that this Jesus movement will be sustained by people who are ordinary people like you, like me, like Peter, like the disciples, like the people who we cannot even imagine. You and I received the revelation by God of a reign that is still evolving and is growing.


Faith is dynamic my siblings in Christ faith is a Moment of clarity sometimes in our lives as it was for Peter, and you saw the the art that we have for today where you see this ray in the middle with colors that that represent those moments in our lives of clarity. But faith is not only one time. I believe that faith it is a serious of moments of clarity in our lives, because faith changes from the time when we were kids and the times when we are old. We don't see and we don't experience and maybe we can proclaim Jesus in the same way throughout our life, because the more that we get to know Jesus the more that Jesus knows us the more we can talk about the person.


Yeah I said yeah my my wife is this Taiwanese woman who needs help and I take care of her until the day she's telling me that I'm the one who knows to go to in the back and haul her because she's going to ride the scooter through the city and passing other cars and me I am shaking behind her.


David Brooks said says in his book How to Know a Person: "perhaps to really know other person you have to have a glimmer of how they experience the world to really know someone you have to know how they know you."


"But you, who do you say that I am" said the Lord Jesus. Peter's Mountain Top Mountain Top Faith speaks of the closeness of God to all of us. Peter proclaims who Jesus is, speaks with conviction, and claims the gift of faith that all of us have received. If we are going to speak to our faith in one sentence, or in one phrase, what would we say? When we have the courage to say it then I believe then that convention that that uh conviction will have ripple effects in the lives of others. The initial relationship that started as falling in love when the Peter left the boats, father, friends, and fish, grows into an intimate relationship, a deep connection that leads him to declare who Jesus is and the purpose of Jesus coming into this world for you, for me, and for all creation. Who are we--Trinity Lutheran Church and schools members friends--who are we hanging with, who are we, who is he to us?


To conclude I just will conclude with this uh quote from the book Captain Cornelius Mandoline,this is a father is speaking to the daughter, and I think that this summarizes in some ways what was happening that day on the mountain with Jesus and Peter. The father explains to the daughter and says, "love itself it's whatever is left over when being in love is burned away, and this is both an art and an and a fortunate accident your mother and I had it. We had roots that grew to that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms had fallen from our branches, we discover that we are one tree and not two."


"But you, who do you say that I am?" We are one with You Lord, and you are one with us, and for that we thank you. Amen.

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