Last week may have been a struggle, text-wise anyway. But this week, ideas just fly off the page. We have two texts that leap into our heads and hearts from which we can bring the community of faith to a resounding shout of joy. First, there is the encounter along the way between Jesus and the disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” Confession time! Statement of faith time! Any new members to celebrate? Any baptisms to perform? This is a perfect day for such “claiming the name” rituals in the life of the church. Did you delay confirmation until some later date? Today would be a great day for that.
True, it is summer and whether we are face to face as yet, or still streaming our services, or both, it might be hard to gather the enthusiasm for new member classes. If that’s the case, then celebrate membership, celebrate those who have made that commitment, who have claimed the name of Jesus. We all have been asked and have answered at various times in our lives, “Who do you say that Jesus is?” Let’s make that claim again.
Our second text is also a favorite of many, Romans 12, which begins like this: I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-- what is good and acceptable and perfect. Another statement of being all-in in our faith, present your bodies (see Preaching Notes)
Our songs should be lifting up the name of Jesus. Our prayers and litanies should be about our faith in that name. We should recite ancient or modern creeds of the faith. Did your confirmation class write a creed this year or in a previous year? Dig it out and use it again. This is our opportunity to reclaim our faith as a vital and vibrant part of our lives.
It might be an interesting exercise to seek out an array of pictures of Jesus from a variety of cultures to have more images than we are used to seeing. It is revealing to see how Jesus has been depicted among different people groups. A slideshow with a familiar Jesus hymn or song playing underneath, and the words “Who do you say that I am?” interspersed with the images would be an effective way to challenge our presuppositions and prejudices.
End with an altar call. Maybe it isn’t something you are used to doing. But it is a part of the standard Sunday service in the front of The United Methodist Hymnal. “Invitation to Christian Discipleship” is how it is named there. But it is an altar call. Maybe you move forward, or maybe you stay in place. Issue the invitation to respond to Jesus’ question again. Provide space for the congregation to present their bodies as living sacrifices. Sometimes it is the act of moving that gets our brains and our hearts engaged. Sometimes it is the invitation to do something we thought we did a long time ago that renews our faith and brings us into a living relationship with the one who still calls us to follow. This is who we are; this is what we do Because God.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.