Eleventh Sunday in Trinity
For our Sunday Said Eucharist today, we welcome Rev Jake Dejonge to lead us in worship. If you are worshipping from home, here is the written service including readings, sermon, prayers and music.
O God, you declare your almighty power most chiefly in showing mercy and pity: mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace, that we, running the way of your commandments, may receive your gracious promises, and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
SERMON: + Jesus said to them: But who do you say that I am?
For over two years now, the twelve disciples have been following Jesus. They have seen him perform miracle after miracle. They were there when he rebuked the Pharisees because they put traditions of man above following in the ways of God. The disciples had been around hearing what people thought of this teacher from Nazareth, who healed the sick and proclaimed the coming of the kingdom of God. So when Jesus stops them on the way to Caesarea Philippi and asks them: Who do people say that the Son of Man is; they have their answers ready: Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
Then Jesus asks his closest companions: But who do you say that I am?
They had been with him all the time; seen his mighty works; heard him teach about God’s kingdom, and about himself. Peter, the spokesman for the twelve, boldly confesses: ’You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ You are not one of those dead prophets. We know that you teach the same message as John the Baptist, but you are not him. We know you to be the Christ, the Anointed One of God. You are the one our people have been waiting for, from the time of Adam and Eve, of Abraham and of Moses; the entire Old Testament speaks to us about your coming. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Jesus, clearly pleased with his answer, replies: ’Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.’ Jesus says, “Simon you are a child of God. This truth which you speak, you didn’t figure it out by yourself; you did not come to this by your own understanding. It was my Father, who is in heaven, who revealed this truth to you. Simon son of Jonah, Peter, you are a rock, and what you have confessed about me is true, and upon this confession, this bedrock, I will build my Church, for I will be its foundation.
The prophet Isaiah speaks in similar terms about ’the rock from which you were hewn and the quarry from which you were dug.’ The gates of hell, all the powers of evil that Satan, his angels and his followers among men can muster, they shall not overcome my Church. My church will stand victorious to the end of time.
How Peter must have felt, hearing that he had spoken so correctly; yet we also know that Peter didn’t always do so well; he is also the one who denies Christ three times in one night, before the cock crows, remember. Most of us are probably a bit like Peter; we also have our moments; sometimes we stand up for what we believe; at other times we may be too embarrassed, in front of friends or people of a different faith or religion or none. We don’t want to rock the boat, as they say. Religion is, after all, one of the three topics you are not supposed to raise in polite conversation. The other two being politics and money.
Jesus is so confident that the Church will not fail that he has given to the Church the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and has told his Church: ’whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’
Now it is interesting that these keys were not given to Peter alone. Later on in Matthew’s gospel, in chapter 18 in fact, Christ says to all the twelve disciples the same thing: ”Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 18:18). And in John’s gospel, after his resurrection, Jesus breathes on His disciples and says to them: ’Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.’ (John 20:22, 23).
So it was not for Peter alone that the keys to the kingdom of heaven were given, but to the Church. And the Church is the people of God who put their trust in God for this life and for the life to come.
It is the Church, our Lord promises, which will prevail against the gates of hell. Even to the Last Day, when our Lord will return to judge the living and the dead, as we say in the Creed each Sunday. And, throughout the ages, especially in times of war and troubles and pandemics, like the present Covid 19 pandemic, there are many folk who think of and pray for and long for that day when time as we know it, may end. On the other hand, we, like Simon Peter, are called to confess in word and deed and way of life that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. We didn’t come to this conclusion by ourselves, but again, like Peter, our Father in heaven has revealed it to us. He then also gives us the tools to go out and proclaim this truth.
From the very mouth of our Lord comes this tremendous promise; that the gates of hell shall not prevail against us, his church. Even in the darkest times of war, human injustice, catastrophes, and pandemics of all sorts, we can stand firm on the foundation of Christ, knowing that the Church of God will never succumb to the powers of the devil and of evil.
In these challenging times, in these challenging generations, when the Church seems to be losing instead of winning, it may be difficult for us to see how the Church will survive. We may look at the Church and wonder if Jesus is really keeping His promise. Many folk believe they can hear the death rattle of Christianity; Christianity may be passed off as a dying religion, a passing phase. Yet we do also have this incredible promise, given by our living Lord that it will not be overcome, but shall prevail.
We won’t be singing it today, but the hymn comes to mind: The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord. She is his new creation, by water and the word. From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride; with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.
As Peter so boldly confessed that day on the road to Caesarea Philippi; Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He came into this world, incarnate of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. He is both true God and true man. He established His Church by going to the cross, he conquered death and earned heaven and eternal life for the entire human race. His Church still stands today.
Over 2000 years after he gave himself up to be crucified, His Church still stands. Through persecution, heresy, dissent, and apathy, His Church still stands. Fire, dungeon, calamity, and sword have not brought about the end for the Church, His Church still stands. There have been countless Christians who have gone to their death and yet the Church still stands.
When you and I and all believers in Christ, tell and live this good news, the Church of God will not die. Through us, God delivers His message of reconciliation. As St. Paul writes in the second lesson, all of us have been given gifts to enable us to do our bit and the Holy Spirit will make the seed of the gospel grow.
Yes, Christ’s Church still stands. For it is the one institution that will last unto eternity. Never doubt it for a moment; the Church will not fall. God has promised as much. AMEN.
Heavenly Father, we continue to pray for our world at this time of great changes and uncertainties;
We pray for the world faced as it is with the alarming consequences of global warming,
of over-population and all the consequences thereof;
We pray for the world still in the grip of Covid19, and for leaders and governments, faced with the dilemma of social restrictions and the economic consequences;
We pray for the many countries with oppressive regimes and dictators,
turn the hearts of all leaders O God to a real consciousness of You their Maker,
that they may understand the burden and responsibility of their office, that at the judgement day all will be accountable for the power they have taken.
Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for Your Church throughout the world, in its apparent helplessness in the face of so many challenges and enemies,
Fill its ministers with Your Holy Spirit to discern what You would have them do,
and strengthen them to witness for Your truth,
that in the light of their witness the world at large may turn to You;
Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for all in distress at this time, all sick and suffering,
all who have been touched by the Covid-19 virus,
all victims of war and violence;
those suffering oppression under the many inhumane and oppressive regimes;
and the millions of refugees world-wide;
We pray especially for our own congregation, for those on our Chaplaincy Prayer List;
and those for whom we personally wish to pray,
Comfort, O God, all in distress, relieve them from their suffering if it be Your will,
and lift them up in Your everlasting arms;
Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for the souls of the faithful departed this life in the faith of Christ,
may they rest in Your peace and awake to a joyful resurrection.
Heavenly Father, You have promised to provide light in the darkness for those who trust in You: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what You would have us do, the humility to listen to Your Holy Spirit, and Your light to guide our footsteps that we may not stumble;
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of Your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.