Finding the Lessons

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Proper 16A/Ordinary 21A/Pentecost +11 August 24, 2014

Quotes That Make Me Think
The road to Caesarea Philippi


"From fisher of fish to fisher of people to keeper of the keys to shepherd. It was the Rock's final promotion, and from that day forward he never let the head office down again."
"Peter," Frederick Buechner, Buechner Blog.

"La predicación de la confesión de Pedro (Mateo 16.13-20) es una oportunidad de retornar al principio de la fe cristiana vis a vis la opinión post moderna sobre el cristianismo en general y quien Jesús es en particular."
Comentario del Evangelio por Alvin Padilla, San Mateo 16:13-20, Working Preacher, 2011.

"For Matthew the location is also Caesarea Philippi and perhaps the same shadows of imperial power or power through its local Jewish proteges of Herod's family are in mind. But in Matthew the passage is not such a turning point as it is in Mark."
"First Thoughts on Year A Gospel Passages in the Lectionary," Pentecost 10, William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from Textweek.com

Prayer

God, well-spring of all wisdom and font of every insight, you inspired Simon Peter to confess Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God, and on the rock of this faith you built your church.  Pour out your Spirit in abundance, that all may join in this profession, and so become living stones built up into your church, standing firm upon the one foundation, which is our Lord Jesus Christ. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.


Some Thoughts on Matthew 16:13-20

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

The passage for this Sunday's Gospel is the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Messiah and Son of the Living God. It is Peter's proclamation on the road to Caesarea Philippi.  It is an important theological passage for Christianity and is an important passage within the Gospel of Matthew.

We begin the passage with Jesus' question to his disciples. This then reveals that Jesus is a great prophet. It isn't simply that he is compared to the great heroes of the Jewish faith.  He is on par with, he is equal to, Jeremiah, Elijah, and John the Baptist.  He is not simply a great prophet he is the greatest of prophets.  He is the Christ, Son of the Living God.  The message of Jesus is the continuation of the ancient faith of Israel.  He is the fulfillment of all the hope of Israel.  He is the omega of salvation-history. At the same time he is doing something radically new - he is birthing (through word and spirit) the Church.

Jesus in Matthew's Gospel is the one who is laying the foundation of a living Word that will withstand the powers and principalities of both this world and the world to come.  He is building up living stones and a kingdom of priests to expand the reign of the kingdom of God - this "eschatalogical temple." (Allison/Davies, Matthew, 642)

There is a great debate among scholars as to Matthew's own Christology. Did he think of Jesus as God in the same way as John and his Gospel? In point of fact no direct statement is made.  Yet, in my opinion the author of this Gospel indeed understands Jesus as God.  For in my reading of Matthew Jesus not only is the continuum of messianic hope he is the culmination as well.  He is here on this road proclaimed as the Son of the Living God.  Matthew's Gospel is clear about its revelation - Jesus is one with God and therefore transcends the simple relationship of follower or prophet of the most high God.

Furthermore, this Jesus is the one who has been given the power and authority to call forth the new community of faithful followers into the kingdom.  In this section of the narrative of Jesus, in this moment, on the road to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus is seen as Lord of this new kingdom. He is in the miracle of loaves and fishes, in the stilling of the storm, he is bringing together a new people of God. This new people of God is made up of those who unlike many of the religious powers of his day have not rejected him and those who are on the fringes of religious society - to include Gentiles.  This is the God made man who in sitting and eating with sinners and tax collectors is binding together a new family of God.

Jesus in his ministry, and from this point on in Matthew's Gospel, is passing along the inheritance of the kingdom of God. Jesus is gathering in and multiplying the numbers of Abraham's descendants. He is through the power of the Holy Spirit taking the spirit that has been under the custodial leadership of the religious authorities of his day and is placing that spirit upon a new people, a growing people, a diverse people - the ecclesia - The People of God.

The image of this new people of God is not the perfected disciple but the disciple Peter, the one whose faith led him to step out of the boat, the one whose faith has revealed the true nature of Jesus, the one who also will struggle with his faith and deny him during the passion tide.  This imperfect human is the one upon whom the church, the new ecclesia, is built.

Allison and Davies write this beautiful passage about the revelation of Jesus as Son of the Living God and spiritual architect of the new people of God:

Jesus is the Son promised in 2 Sam 7.4-16, the king who builds the eschatological temple. This temple is the church.  Like the old temple, it is founded on a rock.  But unlike the old temple, it has no geographical location.  It is not in Jerusalem.  The new, eschatological temple is a spiritual temple.  It stands under the rule: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (18:20; cf. Jn 4:21).  Mathew is thus at one with the rest of the NT in substituting for the Holiness of place the holiness of a person: holy space has been Christified. (Allison/Davies, Matthew, 642)
Allison and Davies contend, and I think it is a great image, that just as Jesus is himself the New Covenant so Peter is then the New Abraham.  They write:

The parallels between 16:13-20 and Genesis 17:1-8 indicate that Peter functions as a new Abraham.  He is the first of his kind, and he stands at the head of a new people. Peter is, like Abraham, a rock (cf. Isa 51:1-2), and the change in his name denotes his function.  What follows?  Peter is not just a representative disciple, as so many Protestant exegetes have been anxious to maintain.  Nor is he obviously the first holder of an office others will someday hold, as Roman Catholic tradition has so steadfastly maintained.  Rather, he is a man with a unique role in salvation history.  The eschatological revelation vouchsafed to him opens a new era.  His person marks a change in the times.  His significance is the significance of Abraham, which is to say: his faith is the means by which God brings a new people into being. (Allison/Davies, Matthew, 642ff)
This week's Gospel lesson is as much about Jesus as it is about Peter.  We need leaders in each Episcopal congregation (clergy and lay) who are ready to give voice to the proclamation of Jesus as Son of the Living God and Lord of all; and to incarnate their faith in living a living Word that is Gospel. We need leadership who will also see themselves not simply as disciples of a particular kind but in the tradition of Peter and Abraham; ready to take steps out into the world. We need leadership who are ready to be the stones upon which new churches are designed and built.  We need leaders who are through their ministry ushering in a new era of Gospel proclamation and mission.  We need leaders who by means of their faith God is bringing a new people, a new ecclesia, into being.


" To be enslaved to sin is to have one's body commandeered every bit as much as one's soul."Commentary, Romans 12:1-8, Mary Hinkle Shore,, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2011.

"Paul's main point about spiritual gifts, mentioned in verse 6, is that God has given us these as members of the body of Christ. So we are to use the particular gift God has given us to help the body function, not to promote ourselves or show how we as one body part are better than others who are another body part."
Commentary, Romans 12:1-8, Mark Reasoner, Preaching This Week,WorkingPreacher.org, 2008.

Romans is about God's unconditional one way love that in the end will conquer all powers and principalities and make us heirs and family members with God. 

Paul invites the members of the community at Rome then to make an offering in response to God's action on our behalf.  We are invited to present ourselves and our very life as a sacrifice. Not like those sacrifices made in the Temple on our behalf but to be the sacrifice and offering to God - because in so doing we will experience transformation.  

Our grateful response to God is to discern our life and its patterns as a reflection of the God who loves us.  We can easily go back to the way of the world. We can try to live by the law. We can try and purchase or buy our sacrifice but nothing will lead to the same life that God is freely offering to each of us.  So we have to begin again. We must realize that we must daily start anew. We respond to God's never failing love for us by each day committing ourselves to a grateful response.

Our bodies, our gifts, our very life is given to us as a part of the whole life of God on earth. We are members of a great cloud of witnesses, a great body of Christ. Each of us is given part of the work of carrying out God's mercy in the world. The Holy Spirit which makes us part of the one body of  Christ also enlivens us to be an active member in our community and out in the world.  We are all given unique qualities which reflect the God we believe in and the God who animates all creation.  Yet we are not independent but interdependent members. We depend upon one another and are part of one another's life and livelihood.

This interdependence is for the building up of the kingdom of God and the manifestation of grace in the world around us.  Our uniqueness and our unique gifts are part of the wider community and its overall functioning. Gifts are each dependent upon the others.  So Paul continues...As one body in Christ the gift of prophecy (inspired preaching) is dependent upon the gift of ministry - the administration of aid and distribution of alms.  Teaching is dependent upon exhortation (the urging of others to have faith).[see Chris Haslaam's site on the breakdown]  All of these are gifts that work together in harmony and unity.
4For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
As one body there are many members and we are all in need of the other.  

I think the challenge here is that we don't truly engage in this notion that all have gifts. We don't really have time to figure this out with people. We are typically only interested in the gifts that help run the church. Any gift that might take more time or cause a disruption in the gentle order of things is a gift discarded.  We have decided that the only gifts of preaching, teaching, church planting, and leadership belong to those with advanced training and three years of masters study.  

Paul points out the truth of Jesus and his call to those first fishermen. Paul points out the truth of the call to the first apostles appointed by the Holy Spirit - none of them had an MDiv.  They were all kinds and sorts of people. They were poor and wealthy. They were wise and simple. Yet all received their gifts from the Holy Spirit. They gave their lives to the health and vitality of the kingdom of God.  

So I wonder...do we dare preach the truth this Sunday? Even though it will cause a fair bit of trouble for those in power and enmeshed in the hierarchy... courage is probably the right tactic here. 

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