Who is Jesus to you?

By Rev Elizabeth Raine

To assist you in this worship, you may wish to light a candle, and gather some symbols that might help you to worship, reflect and pray. A green cloth for the current church season, a cross and a set of keys may be useful to help you reflect on today’s theme.

Opening Prayer

(adapted from Spill the Beans Iss.35)

Creator God,
we gather today in hope and expectation,
we come to you as we are, overwhelmed by your actions,
and in awe of your mercy.
Our needs are filled in your love,
and we lay at your feet our whole being,
everything we are and everything we have.
We worship you here and all over the world,
to declare you are Christ the Messiah,
our Saviour, our Guide, our Way, our Life, our Truth.
Though our walls may crumble,
we remember that we, your church,
are built on a solid foundation of rock,
and through your love we will never fall.
We gather, enveloped by your Holy Spirit,
drawn close to you and to each other,
in praise and thanksgiving,
spurred into action by your life-giving presence,
emboldened to love our neighbours as ourselves,
and to preach your holy Word to the world.
We gather as one body of broken bones,
seeking to do your work, praying for forgiveness when we fail
to do what we can to live as you have told us,
asking for support when we falter from the path of love for all.
We ask for boldness to live in your example,
to eschew the trappings of this world,
to give ourselves wholly to your mission,
and work tirelessly to praise you and love your people.
Amen.

Matthew 16:13-20 (NRSV)

16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Reflecting on the Word

In this passage, Jesus asks, “Who do you say I am?”

Peter does not hesitate in giving his answer, despite what has happened previously leading up to this point. He proclaims, “You are the Messiah, Son of the Living God.”

It is quite a big thing for Peter to say, to pronounce another to be the Messiah. Everything up to now in Matthew’s story has been sporadic, with it being rather hit and miss as to whether the disciples have actually grasped who Jesus is yet.

Indeed, just a few short verses before this scene Jesus is saying exasperatedly, “O you of little faith!” to his disciples. But now, quite dramatically we have this pronouncement by Peter, that Jesus is different, that he is indeed the long-awaited One.

Where are we in this story? Are we confident, like Peter, to proclaim Jesus as Messiah, and take up our crosses to follow him? Or are we more like the disciples, who at times lack faith and fail to always ‘get it’, and yet who still do their best to follow the way of Jesus?

Maybe we have both experiences. Whilst we may muddle along from day to day, many of us will have moments where things come into sharp focus, and we know, and we get it, despite the brokenness and muck of the world, despite the confusion of different voices and powers in the busy marketplaces of religion and faith, we just recognise God as who God is: the saving one, the one among us, the one who comes in love for all of us.

In these moments we can see clearly, and again reimagine our relationship with the God we follow, knowing that we are his and that he is with, always.

Reflecting on the passage

Take a set of keys into your hands and reflect upon what they unlock, open, or start.

These keys release you into a space you perhaps call home; into a place of comfort, activity or work that leads to accomplishment and fulfilment; or maybe grant the freedom to travel, get something done or experience the world.

The ‘Keys of the Kingdom’ are given to Peter because he gets it. He recognises Jesus for who he is. Such an understanding of Jesus (God), unlocks so much for Peter and the rest is history.

• Do we get God?

• Do we have the understanding of God, Jesus and the Spirit that allows us to go faithfully and confident into the world?

• Is there more we could be doing by way of growing our knowledge and faith?

• Who has Jesus been to me these last few weeks? And if Jesus has been important in different ways to me, how can I be like that to others

Reflective Prayer

Who is he?
A man from long ago? A story in a book? An idea of better times to come?
A way to live our lives? A guide through a troubled world? A philosophy to teach us?
Who is he?
How do we describe the Son of Man?
Not rich, not warlike, not angry or loud,
not a ruler, or a tyrant.
Who is he?
What can we say about the Son of Man?
Who comes among us, lives with us,
hurts with us, feels with us,
dies with us, loves with us.
Who is he?
He is Christ! The messiah, God incarnate.
Our saviour, our guide, our light, our life.
Our everything!
Amen.

Prayer for ourselves and others

(adapted from Spill the Beans, Iss.35)

God of the sea, land, air, and space,
we pray for your continuing blessing on our troubled planet.
Just as Peter saw Jesus for who he is,
we can see our world for what it is,
your glorious creation, the gift of life, through knowing you,
we ask for the boldness to do everything
we possibly can to renew and rebuild our planet,
to protect it for all who come after us.
As one body in Christ
the eternal community of your church,
we pray for guidance and support
as we continue to bear witness to you,
in a world where indifference far outweighs passion,
we ask for ingenuity, confidence, and hopefulness,
in order to bring your message to our communities and our world.
Living God, we pray for ourselves,
for this community of your beloved children,
that we may continue to be the lamp stand that
allows your light to shine into the world.
That we will use all the gifts you have given us to proclaim your message of love,
to live the way you have told us, and never shy away from the difficulties that
come with being a Christian in a time of individualism, fear, and persecution.
Help this community of the faithful
to remain true to your teaching
and bring the light of Christ to each person we meet.
We pray for all your children, young and old.
For those isolated from school,
for those without work, for those who are sick,
for those who make sure we have food on our tables,
and for those who labour tirelessly to keep us safe and healthy,
we ask for your love and support,
that whatever this new season will bring,
they will find peace and surety in you.
God of all, we pray for your blessing on all that we are, and all that we do,
that we may help build your kingdom today and every day.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

Blessing

(adapted from Spill the Beans, Iss.35)

Jesus, you ask us—
‘who do you say I am?’
Help us know you.
Grow our understanding of who you are,
what you stand for, and what you require of us.
Let the door to such knowledge
and relationship be unlocked.
Let your Kingdom be born in us;
and through us be born into our world.
Amen.

Photo of Rev Elizabeth Raine

Written by Rev Elizabeth Raine

Elizabeth was minister at Tuggeranong Uniting, between 2018 and 2023. Elizabeth retired in December 2023 and has moved to Dungog in the Hunter valley, with her husband Rev Dr John Squires.

Over the years, Elizabeth has had a number of diverse and interesting placements, such as a school chaplaincy, a tenancy worker with UnitingCare, a congregational minister, a lecturer at UTC, a Presbytery minister, and as an Intentional Interim minister. 

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