Summary: People have different opinions as it relates to religion. That’s what makes faith real and authentic. People should not be coerced into believing something; they must come to their own faith.

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Dr. Wayne A. Lawson

Perfected Praise Worship Center, Oklahoma City, OK

Delivered on Sunday, February 3, 2008

Title: Are You Following The Polls?

Scripture: St. Matthew 16:13-17

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

It has been quite interesting following the polls as so many candidates feel they should be elected as our next President. In two days our great state of Oklahoma will go to the polls for what has been termed “Super Tuesday.” Currently there is no clear front runner as to who will receive the nomination for their particular political party. On Tuesday, our state will play a key role in helping to shape and solidify the front runners who will most likely go on to win their party’s nomination. There are various opinions as to who should become our nation’s next leader. Candidates have various opinions about one another – most not very kind in their assessments. In 21st Century America, we have a number of opinions about every issue. As we continue to watch the 2008 Primaries unfold, the candidates continue to offer different opinions on the various issues of our day. Their opinions usually sprinkled with the flavor of the day.

I believe that it is safe to say that people have different opinions about politics in general. I also believe that it is normal and some of these political opinions can become very heated. Yet, isn’t that the beauty of a democracy. I simply hope that people offer informed opinions on key issues that affect us for year to come, not just simply repeating what they hear. Most of what we hear from others tends to be inaccurate. Be careful what you embrace and repeat from:

• Radio talk shows

• Rush Limbaugh Show

• What you watched on Saturday Night Live

• What you watch on the Late Night Talk Shows

• Or the all too many 10-second sound bites

• Or the bombardment of the recent 30-second commercials offered by the candidates

If we take the time to look carefully at what the issues really are and how they affect us, we can tackle these issues in our country, then we can make more informed decisions. Who are the candidates? Does anybody really know them? It is important that we take the time to investigate them and what they stand for. It would not be fair to any of the candidates to presume to know them and their views on the issues based on insufficient information! I know what some of you must be thinking already, because I have heard it myself. Many say that there are two things that one should not speak of in polite company: politics and religion!

People also have different opinions as it relates to religion. That’s what makes faith real and authentic. People should not be coerced into believing something; they must come to their own faith. They must weigh the facts and decide what they will believe. We just pray that when people offer their opinion on things religious, that they offer informed opinions, not just simply repeating what they hear on radio talk shows or on Saturday Night Live or from a sound-bite on some network special or from some one-liner from a movie. If people take the time to look carefully at who Jesus really is, then they can make informed decisions. Who is Jesus Christ? Do you really know? It is important that we take the time to investigate. It would not be fair to Jesus to presume to know him based on insufficient information! Like Nicodemus, came to Jesus by night saying “RABBI, WE KNOW THAT YOU ARE A TEACHER COME FROM GOD.” Nicodemus had incomplete information, but thanks be to God he would eventually get it right.

• Must be more than Mom and Dad’s religion

• Must be more than Grandma’s religion

• Must be more than get me out of trouble religion

• Must be more than what I learned in seminary

• Every time super stars get in trouble with the law, they find religion – must be more than that

WHO DO MEN SAY THAT I THE SON OF MAN AM? Jesus poses this question to Peter and the others at Caesarea Philippi. It is important to understand why Jesus asked this question at this particular time – during this particular juncture. Caesarea Philippi was a Greco-Roman city about 20 kilometers north of Galilee, an international city, a center of trade and commerce, a crossroads of the Middle East. Its original name was “Paneus,” a city dedicated to the worship of Pan. Pan was usually depicted with the head, chest and arms of a man and with the legs, horns and ears of a goat, Pan prances through the fertile countryside playing his seven-reed pipe in wild abandon. His piping can be as soft and seductive as the breeze, but when he’s angered, his bellow and howl can be heard for miles. Through various occupations it changed names and now was named after Caesar, and located in the tetrarchy of Herod’s brother Phillip. It had also become a marketplace of religions, various gods and cults worshipping in the same city, all vying for the allegiance of this international city. Caesarea Philippi was much like the modern world we live in. There is no one religion or church that dominates and controls the religious life of our world. Rather it is a marketplace of ideas and faiths, each competing for believers. Who do you believe in? What is truth? What is right? Who is God? What is God like? And we, like the disciples, gathered in the marketplace of religious ideas, are more than willing to engage in this debate about the merits of one faith or the other, one idea of truth or the other. The newspapers regularly feature stories about the various churches, denominations and religions in our region and in the world. We don’t have to travel very far to see every type of Church – Temple – Shrine - you can imagine.

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