When Presbyterians are the butts of jokes I often hear about the “frozen chosen” or how we are always doing things “decently and in order.” We get stereotyped as rules-people, people of the Book, stiff, orderly, dry, etc. etc. Some of these may have a grain of truth to them, but most are silly. One thing that is true, and may lead to these kinds of stereotypes, is that we do have a whole Book of Confessions, a Book of Order, and other guiding handbooks, all on top of Scripture as our authority. We have lots of “rules” if you want to perceive them that way.
Some of my friends from other traditions boast that they come from a tradition that has no confessions. But that is when I have to laugh.
Being Christian, by nature, means being confessional. Today’s passage in Matthew contains one of the first and most powerful confessions in the Christian tradition. “‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’”
And in many ways, this is at the heart of each one of our confessions in the Book of Confession. They boldly speak of who we are, what we believe, and what we declare to do. One of the most powerful ingredients about that is a confession of Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
What does it mean to declare Jesus as the Messiah? For me it centers on trust. We are not going to invest our trust in a political system. Historically, through our confessions we have in essence been saying, “No, the Queen of England is not going to tell us how to follow Christ” (Scots Confession), and “No, Hitler isn’t going to define our beliefs” (Barmen Declaration). Christ is going to do that!
We believe that Jesus is in charge of our lives. We believe that if this world is going to be saved from itself, the answer is not ourselves, or any social, political, or cultural solution. No, the answer is to look to Christ for our direction.
We are not going to invest our time and energy into building up the systems of this world, but God’s system. This is a major shift from American culture. I often chuckle when people refer to the US as a “Christian nation”. How is that now? Granted this country was founded on many Christian principles, but that does not mean it is a theocracy or that we, as a nation, subscribe to Christianity. On the contrary, the US, like any political entity, is made up of humans in their brokenness.
We as Christians must constantly struggle to see beyond culture to the kingdom of Christ, where the poor are the rich, and the meek shall inherit the earth. God’s ways are not our ways, and the Bible is sprinkled with regular reminders of that, Old and New Testaments.
And so we confess. We strive to put our trust and our support in that which is above and beyond this world. We confess into the beyond. And Jesus says to us, “‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’”