Time moves on and changes us. We’ve reached a point in the last weeks of summer where we’re ready to move ahead. We’re getting ready to gear up for fall. Certainly, the weather these past few days reminds us that change is right around the corner.
This time of year for many of us is a turning point. We’re either excited or dreading the early weeks of September – going back to school or getting kids ready to go. Maybe packing up college aged kids…. Getting ready for all sorts of new beginnings… For some, maybe many of those kids, they’re not as excited as their parents, though.
Time gives us a perspective on life. Looking back, we have reminders of God’s help and God’s care in our lives. There’s the opportunity to be reminded of how blessed we are, despite challenges and setbacks; despite those difficult times. And what is special, is to be able to see how God is with us in those difficult days and weeks. Throughout all our difficult times. Throughout all life’s challenges.
We get through those days – one step at a time – looking back at all the ways God has been with us in the past…knowing God will be there when we need him. Talk to someone and ask how they get through their own challenging and difficult days, they’ll say – thank God I didn’t know what I was going to face. But, I knew that God would be there.
And it’s true for congregations. Making the decision to move the Church from Summit to New Providence wasn’t without its own set of challenges.
And three decades ago, as Faith sought to claim its servant identity it was not without struggle, not without conflict. And as difficult as those days were, we can look back now and say we see the hand of God in that time of transition in so many ways. And where we have been is shaping where we are headed. We would not have the wonderful worship life that we do without that struggle. We would not have the countless servant ministries that help us share Christ’s love without that struggle. We would not have partners in Newark, in Tennessee and in Tanzania without that struggle.
And that is the point of our lessons today. Our first reading is from Isaiah written to the Israelites when they are in bondage in Babylon – current day Iraq – written as a word of hope, a word of promise. The writer says, remember where you come from….where you have been. You have Abraham for your father and Sarah as your mother and God took care of them. And every one of their offspring, including you. God has been with you…God is with you…and God will bring you home again. Comfort, joy, hope and gladness are the gifts you will receive. And God’s justice, which is for all people.
In our letter to the Romans this morning, Paul shares this same message and calls on the people to use the rich gifts God has given them to build up their struggling community. He says, “Don’t act like the crazy world – Christ changed you. Live like it.”
And that’s where our Gospel picks up. It comes with a simple question for us. Who do you think Jesus is? If he’s a teacher, storyteller, and a prophet – well, that’s not enough. You’re out of luck…because they come and they go. But if you confess him as Lord, then we are forever changed by those dark hours on Good Friday and that moment on Easter morning.
And that 2,000-year-old question is new again this morning for each of us. Who do you think Jesus is? And so, we look back to see where we have been and what God has done with us and what God has done for us. And as we look forward – that history will forever shape and guide our lives and this Family of Faith.
For our confession of faith is simple… It tells us – Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. And for that, we give thanks. Amen.