Sermon for August 23, 2020 Proper 12

Psalm 138, Isaiah 51:1-6; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20

I was reading the Scriptures for this week and was reminded that it paints a picture for us of Who Jesus is and His efforts to establish His kingdom as the Messiah (the Anointed One) and that His kingdom was a spiritual one, that would free the Jews in the fulfillment of them Messianic prophecy. Thus, His disciples were part of the foundation of the new church, and that their own sacrifice was in full belief of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Here is their sacrifice:

1) Matthew – suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, killed by a sword wound.

2) Mark died in Alexandria, Egypt, dying as a result of being dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.

3) Luke was hanged in Greece as a result of his preaching to the lost.

4) John faced martyrdom when he was boiled in boiling oil in Rome, but miraculously survived; sentenced to the mines on Patmos; he wrote his prophetic Book of Revelation; was freed served as Bishop of Edessa in modern Turkey; died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.

5) Peter was crucified upside down on a Saltire Cross, x-shaped cross, as he felt unworthy to die In the same way that Jesus Christ had died.

6) James the leader of the church in Jerusalem, was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a club.

* This was the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the Temptation.

7) James the Great, Son of Zebedee, was ultimately beheaded at Jerusalem. His Roman officer, overcome by his conviction declared his new faith to the judge and knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian.

8) Bartholomew (aka Nathaniel) was a missionary to Asia; was flayed to death by a whip.

9) Andrew was crucified on a Saltire Cross (x-shaped cross) in Patras, Greece.

10) Thomas was stabbed with a spear in India.

11) Jude was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.

12) Matthias, chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded.

The Apostle Paul was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero at Rome; he endured a lengthy imprisonment, which allowed him to write his many epistles to the churches he had formed throughout the Roman Empire. These letters, which taught many of the foundational Doctrines of Christianity.

Our Scripture reading from Isaiah this morning is concerned with Christian ethics and righteousness. It tells us to be God’s people we must worship Him and pursue right actions which give stability to society, and that if He has fulfilled past promises, it is appropriate to depend on Him fulfilling future promises.

God’s freedom can and often does extend to those who may be in the depths of despair or suffering, that His grace to those people, even though they be experiencing the result of their own sinful ways, may lead to God’s creation of new opportunities. He may deliver them in unique ways, but His ultimate goal for His world is eternal justice and righteousness for all people and nations, so He will act in righteousness to establish His salvation. God always has a plan, beloved.

In Romans we see the church forms the body of Christ. The body serves as a beautiful picture of the life of the church. As an individual’s body has many parts, so does the church consists of many people serving Christ in a multitude of ways, offering their gifts to His service, to accomplish His purposes of righteous living. As members of Christ’s church, we must love one another as we love ourselves. The unity of the church results not from everyone thinking alike but from Christ bringing the various parts together in service to Him.

From Matthew’s Gospel message, we see that Peter has received a revelation that Jesus is, the Son of God. Thus revealing God’s revelation of Himself in flesh for human understanding. Confession of faith in Christ comes not through human logic, but rather through divine revelation.

At a strategic turning point in Jesus’ teaching ministry, Peter declared that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) and the Son of he living God. Peter did not yet understand all that that means. He could not accept the suffering Jesus charted out for His ministry, a way that will result in His final appearance in His Father’s glory when Jesus Himself will act as Judge of all men. What Jesus did in His ministry of suffering and death and what Jesus did in establishing His church are not something separate and apart from the work of God. These are, however, very much the will of God, the work of His hand.

When Jesus’ ministry climaxes at His second coming, we will see His triumph as the full manifestation of God, not just of Jesus Himself. Jesus will then act as Judge, a prerogative of God Himself. Peter’s confession Jesus as “the Anointed One” (Greek christos; Hebrew meshiach). The title originally applied to the king as anointed by God, and was connected to the understanding that the king was God’s son. Jesus applauded Pete’s insight but did not want the news spread because of the possibility of being misunderstood as a political messiah rather than a Suffering Servant.

Thus, Jesus builds His church upon the foundation of confession that He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. The confession leads to willingness to die with Jesus rather than hold expectations of earthly power. Only personal experience with God leads to such confession. Thusentry to the kingdom are then bestowed upon those who make that confession. Peter made the confession and was given the name Peter or “Rock” (Petra – refers to a large ‘foundation stone”). With that, he was given the keys to the kingdom.

The reference of “binding and loosing” refer to the worked of the church. If forgiveness is preached and extended, forgiveness is possible. If the church shirks its responsibility,, forgiveness is less likely, if not impossible, for the vast multitudes of he people of the world. Forgiveness shall be known by other people in direct relation to the proclamation of the way to know forgiveness by the church. As God’s visible kingdom, the church uses its authority to represent His purity and holiness on earth. The church has responsibility to make known God’s offer of forgiveness, both in its proclamation to the world and its practice before the world.

At St. Joseph’s, we are well known throughout the community as “doers of the Word,” and not merely “sayers of the Word.” In short, we don’t just proclaim God’s Word, we perform God’s Word through out words and our actions. This is a recognition by our peers, that we don’t just “attend church,” but we take what we learn in church, out into the world around us, proclaiming the Word of God by our actions in the greater community. This is not just an “slap on the back,” it is a statement of the congregation as a whole and performed with humility. Amen

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