Sunday, August 17, 2008

The key to the problem

This Sunday 24th August we use the readings for the 21st Sunday which can be taken from Exodus 1:8-2:10 (or Isaiah 51:1-6); Psalm 124 (or Psalm 138); Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20 [it is also St Bartholomew's Day so there are alternative readingn for that day too]

One of the points I made last week was that we always bring a lot of baggage to the Scriptures when we seek to interpret their meaning
One of the biggest pieces of baggage is our understanding of 'authority'.
If, after all, Scripture is divinely inspired [however we interpret that]
then what it has to say about authority is important.
The Gospel passage we read this week is one of those portrions
where the issue of authority is very much to the fore:
We read

16:18 I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

The Roman Catholic Church has taken this passage to speak about the particular authority that was given to St Peter
and then by extension to Peter's successors as Bishop of Rome
This Papal claim may be interesting but, in the end, to me it is difficult to sustain.
More than this, it obscures the insight that is being offered here to all Christians.
It is part of th baggage!
The dynamic that is going on here
is that in relationship with Jesus
we come to an understanding of who we are.
So Peter, though he might be tempted to think otherwise,
comes to understand that he can and will be
a foundation that God can use to build
[By way of a side issue in John 1 :43-52 we see another man, Bartholomew,
(who is called here Nathanael)
who has a simple encounter of recognition with Jesus
and who is blown away by the fact that he seems to be known at depth]

Much of what is said about Peter in this encounter
would wait to be realised
It is often only in looking back that we see God's hand evident.
As we reflect on the Moses story, for example,
which we begin this morning also
we are able to frame a fairly hair-raising story of murder and cruelty
and see how God was able to take that and make something bold out of it.
This is not moralising or fable telling
with a view to getting an object lesson
but rather exploring a foundational principle of the faith-journey
that God takes the stuff of our life
and gives it meaning.
For Peter and Nathanael
(and indeed for us)
it is encounter with Jesus
which will give meaning to our lives.

This is what we are trying to 'explain' about Christianity
It is what happens to people when they are 'saved'
it is the 'grace' which God gives us
bringing meaning and purpose.

Our prayers, thoughts and reflections
might be well spent
listening to what Jesus is speaking into our lives

This is not an exercise in fantasy.
It is about getting in touch with the reality
of what God is saying to me today.

This week

  • Sit quietly and ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit
  • Lord show show me who and what you want me to be this week
  • Use one of the following scripture passages
  • Lord speak to me today
  • Romans 13:12
    12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let
    us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light;
  • 1 Cor 4:13
    13when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become
    like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.
  • Matthew 14:23
    23And after Jesus had dismissed the
    crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was
    there alone,
  • Judges 13:13
    13The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, ‘Let
    the woman give heed to all that I said to her.
  • Hosea 6:6
    6For I desire steadfast love and not
    sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than
    • What might God be saying to me ?
    • What does this invite me to do tomorrow and in the week to come?

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