“The Importance of Good Camo”
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
August 27, 2017
Matthew 16:13-20New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Peter’s Declaration about Jesus
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?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah,[a] the Son of the living God.” 17 And 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. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter,[b] and on this rock[c] I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 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 heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was[d] the Messiah.
I like to hunt! Now 25 years ago I don’t think I would have said this from the pulpit, maybe I shouldn’t today but the more I thought about this passage, the more evident it became to me that what Jesus instructs of his disciple is a lot like the parts of a hunting trip.
You see, this text this morning is about secrecy. It’s about have the knowledge and skill to allow those you want near you, in, and those who need to be kept at bay, at bay.
Most of my hunting involves birds, ducks, or turkeys. Anything that weighs more than me needs to be left alone. But in duck hunting, my first hunting love, there has to be some thought and planning that goes into the hunt. For you see, ducks and geese (even in their slow meandering speed) are geniuses! They have keen eyesight and observation skills. Therefore, in order to hunt them successfully, you have to be “smarter than the average duck!” You have to conceal yourself in for them NOT to see you and identify you. How might that be accomplished? By wearing camouflage!! You see, you want to be invisible (or somewhat) from the view of the incoming waterfowl. Now, there are many ways to camo yourself; face paint, hats, jackets, blinds, and so forth. Then, you must talk them in in a way that conceals who your are, yet attracts them to your decoys. The idea is to lure them in for the shot without revealing your true identity! You hide, you call, you either watch or shoot. But the key is, wear good camo so you blend in with your surroundings.
Our text from Matthew this morning is a camouflage text! It is a story about Jesus really covering himself up in order to be revealed at the proper time. You see, prior to this 16th Chapter, Jesus spent much of his time addressing the crowds, working miracles, and verbally jousting with the Scribes and the Pharisees. In Chapters 16-18, he spends time instructing his disciples but then goes away, almost into hiding in order to get away from the Jewish and Pharisee’s rhetoric and escape Galilee.
In this text, we have one of the greatest Christological affirmations of the Bible! The charge following the great affirmation is just as it is in the Gospel of Mark, “Not to tell anyone who he is!” “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you!! It is a gift from my father in heaven.”
This is Jesus’ first layer of camo! He instructs the disciples near the end of the text not to tell anyone who he is! But the way in which he leads them to this point is what is critical!
Jesus begins with a set up, primarily like a duck blind. Fully covered and camoed in order to conceal the hunter from the incoming ducks. He starts by concealing his mission and identity which later becomes the church’s mission and identity! He achieves this with what I call the best camo statements in the biblical text, “Who do you say that I am?” Rather than uttering a bold proclamation and affirmation, he turns the question to his disciples, more especially to Peter. It is here that the true mission and destination of the church changes. For Peter responds to the question, “Who do you say that I am” with “The Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” As the conversation continues, that upon “this rock”, i.e. Peter, I shall build my church! The Greek here is ekklesia’, literally translated, “a community called out while still within.” This is found only twice in the gospels. For it is here that Jesus proclaims that a new community is to be formed, one that will stand the strength and endurance of all forces, even the greatest, death itself.
In a world such as ours today, pulled and yanked by so many forces that are set out to defeat us as the church, Jesus proclaims that upon Peter’s bold confession the church will prevail and remain strong! We know this deep within our souls, but it has come now to a time when this proclamation must resound loudly!!
We wrestle with the (one) identity and authority of the church often times when we are “camo’d” into our surroundings.
One of the most peaceful feelings while duck hunting is to be in the quiet serenity of the duck blind right before the sunrise and the ducks begin to fly. I’m secured in my camo, warm, and quiet, with nothing bothering me–just a peaceful environment.
Sometimes, we as the church spend too much time in the duck blind! Sometimes, we need to be the church that rises out of the camouflage existence and makes some noise when the world begins to fly around us. Jesus camoed in order to challenge the disciples! But he did it with the purpose of starting and missioning the church. We, as the body of Christ, the Church, have been given the daunting task to interpret the will of God to the world!
Just as Jesus has brought the Torah (throughout the gospels) to new and insightful ways, so must we as the church bring the Gospel in new and exciting ways to our world! Therefore, let us know when to be in our camo! and when to come out of the blind and make the bold proclamation!! We are the church!!
AMEN & AMEN.