Year A Proper 16 Matthew 16 2011
Who Do You Say I Am?
Matthew 16: 13-20

Jesus and his disciples ventured into the District of Caesarea Philippi, an area about 25 miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee. The region had tremendous religious implications. The place was littered with the temples of the Syrian gods. Here also was the elaborate marble temple that had been erected by Herod the Great, father of the then ruling Herod Antipas. Here also was the influence of the Greek gods. Here also the worship of Caesar as a God himself. You might say that the world religions were on display in this town. It was with this scene in the background that Jesus chose to ask the most crucial questions of his ministry.

He looked at his disciples and in a moment of reflection said: "Who do men say that I am?" The disciples begin sharing with Jesus what they have heard from the people who have been following Jesus: Some say that you are Elijah; others say John the Baptist, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. It's always been this way, Jesus as seen by the masses is seen in so many different ways.

You can speak of Jesus as prophet, holy man, teacher, or spiritual leader, and few will object. But speak of Him as Son of God, divine, of the same nature as the Father, and people will line up to express their disapproval.

Who do people say he is? Who do you say he is? And what are we called to do? Let's take a look at the answers to these three questions:

  1. Who Do People Say He Is?
  2. Who Do You Say He Is?
  3. What Are We Called to Do?

The Miegakure Messiah
Matthew 16:13-20

These are the high holy days of gardening season. Everything is at its peak — beans, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers. If you planted zucchini you are probably carrying a sack full of those green torpedoes around in your back seat, trying desperately to give them away to friends and neighbors. [If you have some to give away to those present, all the better.]

In North America gardens are usually straightforward and straight-rowed. Planted for ease of watering and weeding, for maximum efficient use of the land, for taking best advantage of required sunlight and shade, our gardens don't offer too many surprises. We want uniformity and unanimity among our canvas of crops.

Japanese "gardens" are much different. For centuries creating gardens — large strolling gardens or tiny tea gardens — has been a deliberate art form. One of the guiding principles behind these garden creations is a technique called "mie-gakure." Can you say that word? Mie-gakure.

"Mie-gakure" means "to hide and reveal." It is the goal of the gardener to alternatively "hide" and then "reveal" new images, textures, smells, vistas, and views, as one walks within the garden. Pathways intentionally meander. Walking moves from light to dark. You go up hill and down, on paths scattered with stones. And the purpose of all this nonlinearity? To reveal only a portion of the garden or a particular view of the landscape at any one time. A mie-gakure garden would never have one of our favorites — the "scenic overlook" — that one-stop-shop where you pull your car over and see everything there is to see from a single vantage point. After 30 seconds you can then pull out and be on your way.

In a Japanese garden, or a mie-gakure garden, instead of a big picture overview of everything, the garden invites visitors to look at one part of the garden from many different angels, in many different lights, over many different times. For instance, instead of building an "observation point" right in front of a waterfall, in a mie-gakure garden the waterfall would be encountered first as just a sound, then as a glimpse of water through trees, then as splashing water on boulders. The waterfall would be fully experienced, but constantly in a state of being partially hidden and partially revealed.

In today's gospel text Jesus is a mie-gakure Messiah... presents Leonard Sweet