Summary: What sort of Church are we? What sort of church can we be, and become?
March 29, 1992
Mark 8:27-38 [The Relationship of Faith to Faithfulness]  Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets."
"BUT WHAT ABOUT YOU?" he asked. "WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?"
Peter answered, "You are the Christ."
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Out of my sight, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "IF ANYONE WOULD COME AFTER ME, HE MUST DENY HIMSELF AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS AND FOLLOW ME. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes into his Father's glory with the holy angels."
I. WHAT SORT OF CHURCH ARE WE?
What sort of church can we be and become?
Our options seem to have been: Shall we be liberal or conservative? Shall we be MORE activist? or shall we be MORE conversionist? Is there any other way?
Increasingly it occurs to me that apart from the Spirit of God, there is not much difference between the fundamentalist and the liberal: both of them demand control of the Scriptures; both of them want to tell you all about what God is and is NOT!
Shall we be activist or shall we be conversionist? Is there any other way?
ACTIVISM DEMANDS THAT WE SEEK AFTER "PEACE" AND "JUSTICE." BUT HOW DO WE DEFINE THOSE TERMS?
Our activity in the world must never get ahead of or fall behind our loyalty to the Christ. Some quotes from Hauerwas and Willimon:
Most of our social activism is formed on the presumption that God is superfluous to the formation of a world of peace with justice.
American Christians, in the name of justice, (often) try to create a society in which faith in a living God is rendered irrelevant or private.
We argue that the political task of Christians is to be the church rather than to transform the world.
"Peace" and "justice" ... are words awaiting content. The church really does not know what these words mean apart from the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth.
[Abstract love is no love at all. "Tell me the story of Jesus!"] STORY is the fundamental means of talking about and listening to God, the only human means available to us that is complex and engaging enough to make comprehensible what it means to be with God.
SO, SHALL WE BE ACTIVIST, OR CONVERSIONIST?
Perhaps what is necessary is that we be (what Hauerwas and Willimon call a "confessional" church. That we relate everything to our statement that "Jesus is LORD!" That we ask Jesus to help us see the world and the scriptures and our own lives and (indeed) REALITY—as God declares that it is! [In the terms of our morning sermon: LET GOD BE GOD! GOD OF HEAVEN AND EARTH! THE GREAT "I AM THAT I AM"!]
Hauerwas and Willimon make a great deal of the Sermon on the Mount. They make the point that (1) The Beatitudes are a statement of the fact. And they also lift up (2) The recurring theme, "Ye have heard it said, but I say unto you..."
The Beatitudes are in the indicative, and not the imperative; more a way of stating what the facts are than implying :"This is how you have to be! Get with it if you want to be happy! 'The "Be-Happy Attitudes"'"
If this is true, then we have the indication of a different world than the one described by our culture.
GOD IS IN CHARGE! The growing sense of joy that God IS at work! God IS! He is working out His will.
This IS God's world; we should not give it over to evil by default. There is great power in the story of Jesus!