Sermon Sunday August 27, 2023 Proper 16
Lessons: Exodus 1:8-2:10
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
“Who are you?” asked the nun that looked kind of like a
penguin to me, a very young girl. “Well, some people call
me Kate, and some people call me Katie, but my real name
is Catherine!” So, goes the story that my Mom used to tell
about me as I was going into the first grade. I was the last of
that generation that didn’t have to go to kindergarten, and I
was very young. I was still 5 years old for several months as
I entered into first grade, no experience with school
whatsoever. You could say that I was as irreverent, even in
those days, as I am now, from the sassiness of my answer to
the nun that was helping me to register for the first grade.
That was the vignette that immediately popped into my head
upon contemplation of today’s Scripture passages and
coming across that question that Jesus asks the disciples.
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Well, “some
call you John the Baptist (who had already been beheaded
and was dead by the way), but others Elijah, and still others
Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
Jesus pushes this further though by asking, “But who do you
say that I am?” Peter pipes up, in only the way that Peter
can, and he blurts out “you are the Messiah, the Son of the
living God.” Bingo! Great job Peter! Spoiler alert! What we
get next Sunday is Peter telling Jesus the Jesus shouldn’t
have to undergo suffering and death because, he is after all,
the Messiah! That’s when Jesus says that infamous line
rebuking Peter by saying, “Get behind me Satan!”
Soooo….that’s one of the things that is so great about Peter.
Does he really understand what is going on, what he is
saying? Peter gives great hope to all of us Christians in that
he open mouth and inserts his foot more times than we
probably know, yet Jesus entrusts him to be one of the most
important witnesses to Jesus, of preaching the Good News
and spreading the Kingdom of God. Peter is flawed, not
perfect, and he often seems to be stumbling about. Despite
this he spreads the Good News of Jesus. And that is good
news for us!
Despite our imperfections and our imperfect expression of
Jesus’ message, it still gets out into the world through the
power of the Holy Spirit!
But there is a sticking point as we read the rest of today’s
Gospel lesson. “And 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. I 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
There have been centuries of bitter fighting, wars, and death
between Christians over interpretation of these lines from
the Bible (and there are certainly others as well.) Could this
be what Jesus wanted from the interpretation of these lines?
Somehow, all of that violence seems more than a little bit
skewed when we take a moment to think about it.
Theologian Lance Paper says, “Political infighting among
Christians leads to misguided readings of biblical texts that
age poorly and tend to take the focus off Jesus in the
So, asking the question, “Who do you say that I am?” takes
the focus off of us and our suspicions of each other as
Christians, and puts it squarely back on Jesus. It also helps
us to realize what our specific biases might be as we read
Scripture. Whether we want to admit it or not, we each have
a bias or biases when we read Scripture.
Today’s O.T. lesson from Exodus is perhaps a familiar one
to us. It concerns the birth of Moses—the great prophet of
the O.T. There is a Pharaoh who does not remember Joseph,
and the entire Jewish nation is now enslaved in Egypt. They
are downtrodden and in anguish. However, Pharaoh was
fearful of their great numbers, and as any leader who lives in
fear does, he lashes out at those very same people who are
oppressed and makes bogeymen out of the Jewish nation.
“Kill all the newborn baby boys,” he says to the Jewish
midwives Shiphrah and Puah. (Sounds kind of like King
Herod and Jesus, doesn’t it?)
These two women are wily, and never say no to the Pharaoh.
(Kind of like I used to say to my parents when I was
growing up…yes—then do whatever I was going to do
anyhow—I was a pretty awful kid!) The two midwives make
up some absurdity to tell to Pharaoh when they don’t kill off
the male babies.
Perhaps Pharaoh cannot conceive of anyone defying him. He
is Pharaoh after all! He could not conceive of anyone doing
anything but they way he wanted things done. So, Moses
was born and survived thanks to the wily midwives. And
there is a triple whammy! Pharaoh’s own daughter finds
Moses and raises him as her own. AND THEN Moses birth
Mom was called into service as his wet nurse! Genius!
And this was all because the powerful could not conceive of
there being another point of view, another way of looking at
things. And the real irony is that wiliness of the midwives is
what saved the Jewish people from slavery in the end.
It can be very hard for us to pick out our own biases. For
example, how might we see our interpretation as convenient
for us rather than see what else might be there?
There is an old saying that I learned from my friends from
Spain. This is a rough paraphrase of the saying, “Put 10
Spaniards in the same room and ask them their opinion
about something, and you’ll come up with 11 different
answers.” While that is not quite the same thing as reading
the Bible, or checking our biases in our everyday lives, it
does prompt us to dig deeper into what we read in the Bible,
and to look at another’s point of view, someone who is not
So, let’s get back to two central themes that are in this
Scripture reading that are emphasized by all of the
imperfections in Peter, and us as human followers of Jesus,
and our perhaps biased interpretations. They are: Who do we
say that Jesus is, who is Jesus to you, “but who do you say
that I am?” and who do we say that we are in relation to
Some say he is a prophet like John the Baptist, or Elijah, or
Jeremiah, or Moses. Some say he is a good man who lived a
long time ago and taught us some nice things that we should
try and live by. Some say he is a figment of our imagination.
But Peter says, and we say, “You are the Messiah, the Son
of the living God!”
So, who do you say you are in relation to Jesus? Are we like
Peter, wanting to stay on the mountain of the
Transfiguration? Or opening our mouths and inserting feet?
Are we Pharisees and Sadducees? Are we disciples? Are we
apostles? Are we witnesses? We are all followers of Jesus!
So now what? Answering to ourselves who we are in
relation to Jesus can help us to understand where we are on
our journey of faith with him. It allows us to keep the focus
on Jesus and not interject our politics to take that focus off
of Jesus. It allows us to see others’ points of view and not
demonize them. We don’t have to agree with them, but it
takes us out of our comfort zone. It allows us to wonder,
where do we go from here with Jesus? “Who do you say that
I am?” Amen.