hs3rd

my miscellany

Pentecost 12, 2017 — 27 Aug 17

Pentecost 12, 2017

RCL A Proper 16
Isaiah 51:1-6, Psalm 138, Romans 12:1-8, Saint Matthew 16:13-20

Saint Matthew’s account of the Confession of Saint Peter sets forth a triangle, a divine and saving triangle, in which each of us lives every moment of our lives.

The triangle is this. There is Jesus, who asks his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”[1] Secondly, there is Peter, who stands for all the disciples both in Cæsarea Philippi and in every Christian community throughout time and throughout the world. The confession Peter makes for all of these is that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”[2] To this confession Jesus replies and reveals the third person in the triangle. He exclaims, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”[3] And so, the triangle is this. There is Jesus. There is Peter. And finally there is God the Father who reveals some things about Jesus to Peter.

I said that Peter represents us, you and me, in this triangle, for you and I are in the same triangle every day of our lives. We see Jesus in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, and in the people whom he has redeemed and in the people whom he sends to us as we work out our salvation. And, as we work out our salvation, we learn more and experience more of Jesus in the revelation sent to us about him by God.

In every situation in which we find ourselves, particularly those situations that seem hopeless or seem to be beyond saving, we have all that we know about Jesus, and we have what may be revealed to us in the eleventh hour. And my experience, over and over again, is that when I imagine that God will act to redeem a hopeless situation, God does act in some way. Often God reveals something that was previously unknown. And this new revelation changes everything. New revelation changes things for the better.

It is an act of great faith, I believe, simply to wait and not to act thoughtlessly or reactively. I have called this in homily after homily letting God be God. When we believe that God will act, God usually does act and redeems the time and the situation from our worst fears.

Those difficult situations in our lives are our Cæsarea Philippi. They afford us the opportunity to make our own confession, just as Peter did. We can say that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” or we can recognize a new revelation about God. For in the world that Jesus made, hope is just around the corner. Hope is there to be embraced. God’s presence guarantees it. Only we can compromise or constrain the hope God intends us to have.

[1] Saint Matthew 16:13.

[2] Saint Matthew 16:16.

[3] Saint Matthew 16:17.

 

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Pentecost 14, 2016 — 21 Aug 16

Pentecost 14, 2016

RCL C Proper 16 Complementary
Isaiah 58:9b-14, Psalm 103:1-8, Hebrews 12:18-29, Saint Luke13:10-17

From time to time, the Scriptures reveal to us what I like to call God’s economy. I mean by that the revelation of what God regards as valuable. The lesson from Isaiah and the Gospel proclaim what God regards as valuable. And if God regards something as valuable, we should regard it as valuable also. We should go and do likewise[1], as Jesus says to the lawyer who stupidly asked him who his neighbor is.

I shall go even further and say this. If it is revealed to us that something is valuable to God, we should create an account book, a ledger with credits and debits, that identifies how often we have done what God regards as valuable and how often we have left undone what God regards as valuable. The idea of a ledger is simple, I know. But we who want to do what God would have us do will take it and use it in order to progress in learning how to live as God would have us to live.

And so, in the Lessons today, what do we learn that God regards as valuable? Let’s look at the reading from Isaiah. “If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.”[2] Or hear the prophecy from the New American Bible: “If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.”[3] The rest of the reading is a catalog of the blessings, the good things, that will befall us in God’s economy if we do these things. God will feed us with the heritage of Jacob.[4]

And in the Gospel, we see Jesus removing the yoke of a spirit that had crippled a woman for eighteen years.[5] Jesus performs this removal of a yoke on a sabbath, giving rise to the question of when it is appropriate to do what God regards as valuable. Jesus’ reply settles the question, and the entire crowd rejoices at the wonderful things he was doing.

Removing a yoke, a burden; removing pointing a finger, finding fault; removing speaking evil; feeding the hungry; and satisfying the needs of the afflicted—these are the things that God values. These are the coins of exchange in the kingdom of God. They are the valuables that we are to share with anyone who wants them.

A ledger giving an account of instances we have done them, or left them undone, would reveal something important about us. It would reveal whether we have done God’s will or, alternatively, whether we just couldn’t be bothered. We are free to do either one. What will go into our ledger today?

[1] Saint Luke 10:37. Quotations from Scripture are the New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible except as noted.

[2] Isaiah 58:9b-10.

[3] Isaiah 58:9b-10, from the New American Bible.

[4] Isaiah 58:14.

[5] Saint Luke 13:11.

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