Calvary Episcopal ChurchGeorge Yandell
Memphis, Tennessee
August 25, 2002
The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Timing is Everything
The Rev.George S. Yandell

Matthew 16:13-20
(This sermon is also available in audio.)

Timing: The essential element of good comedy. Good timing in buying and selling assets means the difference between profit and loss. "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold." A sense of timing is also critical in relating to God.

I believe the current master of good timing is the comedian Robin Williams. I found out recently he's an Episcopalian. I won't be able to approximate his manic delivery--but imagine him now if you can. On a recent HBO special he nails Episcopalians' approach to faith in these times of change:

Robin Williams' Top 10 Reasons to Be an Episcopalian:

10. No snake handling.
9. You can believe in dinosaurs.
8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.
7. You don't have to check your brains at the door.
6. Pew aerobics.
5. Church year is color-coded.
4. Free wine on Sunday.
3. All of the pageantry--none of the guilt.
2. You don't have to know how to swim to get baptized.

and the Number One to be an Episcopalian:
No matter what you believe, there's bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you!!!

When Jesus led his disciples into the district of Caesarea Philippi, timing meant everything. He was at a crucial turning point in his public life. He was about to tell his disciples he had to go to Jerusalem and confront the authorities of Judaism. His timing was critical in asking his closest friends what they believed about him and their mission with him.

Pursued by the Pharisees who wanted to catch him in heresy, he retreated to the remote desert regions way away from Galilee, where he'd been teaching, healing and preaching the coming of God's domain. In Galilee Jesus and his disciples were always under the severe gaze of the religious authorities. I hear in this passage Jesus preparing for community organizing on a bigger scale. The stakes had risen as the crowds had grown. He asked the question first, "What are people saying about the Son of Adam?" Then after hearing what the disciples heard rumored about him--associating him with the great dead prophets before him--he asked the big question. He asked it to confront, to agitate, to seek accountability from his closest colleagues," What about you, who do you say I am?"

Have you ever been asked by a stranger, "Are you saved?" Or, "Do you know Jesus?" Has it ever been a pleasant engagement? Only when the timing is perfect, in intimate, caring relationships do questions like these allow us to express our experiences with God. So a high level of trust is a prerequisite--a relationship with the questioner that tells us the confrontation may be OK. And yet answering these faith questions always takes courage, and makes us accountable to the questioner.

"Who is the Son of Man?" Jesus asked. Tom Erhich, in his daily comments about the upcoming Gospel readings, offers this take on Jesus' question:

It's not, what did the prophets say he would be? Not, what will he make happen tomorrow? But, what is he today? Who is he for you? When you look him in the eye, what do you see?

Living in the present with God leads inexorably to self-examination and to a deeper awareness of one's need for God. This is the desert of remorse, not chagrin over yesterday's mistake, but gasping agony over today's consequences. This is the land of doubt, where one is tempted to store manna for tomorrow. This is the land of decision, where the wounded traveler begs for help. This is the land of confession and denial.
(from "ON A JOURNEY" email messages by Tom Ehrich, August 2002,

And yet, it is the time and place of salvation.

After Jesus had heard Peter answer for the whole team, "You are the anointed, the son of the living God," he told them about the next steps in their community organizing. They would be the ones to carry on his mission of binding God's children back with God. But his closing words were a stern, strong warning: "Tell no one else that I am the Messiah!"

Why such a stern warning? Timing. The whole of Jesus' ministry was engaging people where they were. No preconditions, no barriers, no exclusions. The temptation, he knew, would be for the disciples to break out, telling their amazing secret about Jesus, and their poor timing would wreck it all. Take the time, as he demonstrated, to know people--to know their pains and joys, to live with them. To eat with them, walk in their shoes. Then, at a prime moment, you may just get a chance to lead them deeper. That was the caution, that was the invitation. Good timing makes good organizing.

So it is for us today. As a community, we are to recall that everyone has distinct needs for God. All folks are on their own paths in faith. We really have two challenges: to listen to our own souls' yearnings for God, and to be companions to others listening to God's whispers in them. Approach them where they are, know them as they are, patiently wait for the connecting moments, and we honor Jesus as his disciples today. Then the potential for our work together as Christ for the world is limitless. Timing is everything.

Copyright 2002 Calvary Episcopal Church

Gospel: Matthew 16:13-20
16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea
Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the
Son of Man is?" 16:14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 16:15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16:16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." 16:17 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. 16:18 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. 16:19 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." 16:20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

(Return to Top)

Explore God's Love| Explore Your Faith| Explore the Church
Who We Are
| Lifelines | Stepping Stones | Bulletin Board | Search |Contact Us



Copyright ©1999-2006