11th Sunday after Pentecost

11th Sunday after Pentecost

August 9, 2015

Matthew 16:13-20

“The House of Our Dreams”

Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon this morning is the Gospel lesson read earlier from Matthew 16.

My dear friends,

Well, Joanne and I have been in Sarasota almost a year now. Our rental lease should be up soon, so maybe it’s time to start looking at a house. I found a couple on-line. There is 1160 North Casey Key Road, Osprey/Nokomis. It is described as “Romantic and private, this gated and walled 2.5 acre estate on the exclusive north end of Casey Key, offers sandy walking beach and protected yachting lagoon on the bay.” This home is listed at almost 15 million dollars, which means monthly payment of more than $75,000 a month for 30 years. Next! Then there’s 3315 Bay Shore Road here in Sarasota. It is “A majestic bay front landmark accentuating Sarasota’s shoreline. This tropical oasis rests among legendary properties including the neighboring Ringling estates.” It’s listed at 9.7 million or around $50,000 a month for 30 years. Guess it’s time to renew that lease!

What would be a dream home for you? Would it be on the beach or off? Would it have water access? Do you want to be close to sand or shopping or both? How many bedrooms and baths? What custom features do you want? Marble in the mudroom? Walk-in linen closets lined with cedar? A 40” flat screen TV in every room tuned to the Golf Channel? Or is that just me?

Everybody has a “dream home” in mind, but unless you are independently wealthy, more than likely you compromised to make your current home your “dream home.” You bought what you could afford where you could afford it and that, for now, will be your dream home. And so whether your home overlooks the beach or Beneva Avenue, your home is for you a dream home – the house that your dreams can afford and not necessarily the other way around.

My question to you is…is your home still a dream home not in the sense of its design but in its deeds? I think that, if you’re honest, you will recognize that in reality your home is less a house of your dreams and more like a house of horrors. Behind closed designer 6-panel doors come the harshly spoken words and the lies. The custom made home electronics station witnesses the websites visited when no one else is looking. If the neighbors could see through the imported silk drapes they would see the shame and embarrassment and the anger and the anxiety and the pain. Sin turns the your dream house into the house of your dreams, that is, it only exists in your dreams because reality speaks a different truth.

And then there’s today’s Gospel lesson – that wonderful narrative from Matthew 16 that speaks into your fear and depression and loneliness. Jesus has brought the disciples up to Caesarea Philippi…a pagan city built by Roman King Phillip, son of Herod the Great. This is the most northern trip that Jesus and the disciples make; this is as far away from home as He will get (about 25 miles to the north). And in this pagan, filthy, detestable area, Jesus asks a question: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (16:13). The disciples provide the best-guesses floating around about Jesus: “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Good guesses…WRONG guesses, but good nonetheless. Then He said to them, “But who do YOU say that I am?” and then comes Peter’s response – “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:16). Scholars will debate whether Peter fully understood what that meant, but there is no doubt about Jesus’ response. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (16:18-19).

Are you still shopping for the house of your dreams? Are you finding that your current house resembles less of a dream house and more of a house of horrors because of sin? Don’t worry…you’re not alone. But also know this: there is NO SUCH THING as a dream home on the real estate market no matter what the listing said. If you want a dream house – a REAL house of your dreams – then look around because you’re sitting in it!

I am not saying that Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and School is the ultimate dream house or dream church/school. What I am saying is that the Church – the One, True Church – is the real house of your dreams. Why? Jesus says that He will build His “church” and in Greek that word means something like an assembly called from the world to be a community of fellowship of God’s people.

In our times of radical social changes, many once-beautiful church edifices are all but abandoned. This fact we regret, but we are consoled by the conviction that the true Church continues, and even thrives, in many places. The truth of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ stands firm, and so does the church based on it. You and I, as believers, are integral parts of that structure regardless of what building we meet in. Where you find the Means of Grace – God’s Word and the Sacraments – is where you will find sins forgiven, hope restored, and grace upon grace poured out on sinners who stand in need of that grace and that alone makes this the house of our dreams.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus was beaten, whipped, spit upon, and lied about. Then He was nailed to a cross where He died like a loathsome, common criminal. Things haven’t changed much over the centuries. Today the world laughs at Jesus, vilifies His plan of salvation, and ignores God’s Son, who gave His life to win forgiveness and salvation for a lost world, and mocks His Church. Yes, for many lost and unbelieving souls, Jesus and His Church are still unwanted and unappreciated, and His Name is only used as a throw-away word in our TV shows, movies, and text messages or when people hit their thumb with a hammer.

But nothing – NOTHING – will ever change the fact that this is our house of dreams. It is where our sins are forgiven. It is where our hope is revitalized. It is where we share our faith. It is where God speaks and we respond, and not even the gates of hell themselves will ever prevail against the house of our dreams. The down payment was placed in a wooden manger. The closing costs were provided at the cross of Calvary. The ultimate renovation took place on Easter morning. Welcome home, dear sinner, welcome home to the house of your dreams.

Amen.