Proper 16A (OT 21)
234: August 27, 2017
Voice in the Wilderness: Melissa Myers
PSALMIST RICHARD BRUXVOORT COLLIGAN
Featured Musician: Christian McIvor,
“Show Me the Way”
Peter makes the confession that Jesus is the Messiah, but next week he will reveal how much he understands about what the Messiah is meant to do. Don’t preach next week’s sermon today, but know that next Sunday is the direct continuation of this conversation.
Literary context is important.
Jesus feeds four thousand
Pharisees and Sadducees demand a sign, he tells them they will get no sign, but the “sign of Jonah,” (who was sent to a Gentile, unclean land).
Disciples again worried about lack of bread. Jesus warns against the “yeast of the Pharisees,” and the disciples actually get the analogy
THEN he asks the disciples, “What are people saying about me?”
NEXT comes next week, when Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!”
THEN comes the Transfiguration.
Differences between Gospels
Comes in similar literary context
Feeding the Four Thousand
Demand for a Sign
Warning against the yeast of the Pharisees.
INSERT - Jesus heals blind man at Bethsaida
No name change. Nothing about keys.
Disciples name Jesus as the Messiah at their first encounter.
Jesus names Simon Cephas in 1:42.
Matthew puts much emphasis on the confession of Peter.
Matthew 14:33 “Those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.”
Still though, there is something special about Peter’s pronouncement as “The Messiah.”
This the first time that one of Jesus’ followers calls him “The Messiah,” and the first time he acknowledges it.
Discussion on the road - not a one-time ask, but part of a discussion
“ I am suggesting that this is not a pop quiz. It is Jesus asking the disciples what they are saying, what they are contributing to the buzz about him. If they are aware of what others are saying, they are obviously in the mix of the conversation. So, “who are they saying him to be” in that conversation? In that sense, Jesus is asking for an account of what they’ve said, not an instant answer to a pop quiz.” (Mark Davis, Left Behind and Loving It)
Jesus is gauging what they are hearing, what is the buzz? More importantly, he wants to know: “What are you saying about me?”
Blessed are you, for no one told you this.
You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church
Some argue that this could not have been authentic Jesus, because he could not have anticipated the institution of followers that came after him, but it does not seem too strange to think he would have anticipated that some followers who would have wanted to preserve his teaching.
A common Matthew tool has been to use Peter as the representative of all the disciples. “It is clear that in the hands of Matthew the Gospel writer, Peter is not portrayed as just an individual, but as a stand-in for the entire Christian community. He represents the Hebrew concept of a “corporate identity” in which the leader was identified with the corporate body (e.g., the king or high priest representing the nation before God). This is still in keeping with the Catholic notion of the Pope representing the entire body of Christ, the biblical concept is more equalized” (If you lived here you would be home)
The gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
Notice this is not the classic understanding of Hell, but more of the Jewish understanding of the realm of death.
Jesus’ Kingdom stands over and conquers death.
No mention of a duality between heaven=paradise and hell=torment.
Whatever you bind and loose…
Peter’s authority is underlined, especially important to the Matthean community who used his words to allow gentiles into the community.
Don’t tell anyone.
Why is it a secret? Good question.
Jesus wants others to come to their own conclusion. Show them the love, mercy, forgiveness, and let the “Messiah-ness” come on its own.
Turning point - “No going back now.”
Many commentators point to this story as a turning point in the story.
Before this claim are many parables and miracles all pointing toward the identity of Jesus. Remember, in the water walking story the mistaken identity was the source of the fear.
As Jesus’ identity is finally deciphered, Peter is given a new identity as well.
From here we get to the predictions of suffering, death, and resurrection. But these cannot come until his identity is revealed. And once identity is revealed, there is no way we can stop following - even to and through the cross.
We so often think of Peter, sitting at the gates, deciding who’s in and who’s out. What if, instead, he was there to celebrate with you on your entrance. Instead of Heavenly Bouncer, he is the Celestial Greeter. Emphasize Peter’s power to include those who were previously excluded - which takes on greater significance after his dream in Acts.
“Don’t tell anyone.” This wouldn’t necessarily be a great evangelism technique. Or would it? What if we followed the model of the gospel of Matthew, and didn’t go around proclaiming “Jesus is the Messiah.” But instead offered the signs of Jesus - the kindness, mercy, healing, forgiveness, abundance, justice, just come. Instead of approaching someone with Jesus first, you approach someone with Jesus’ way first. Instead of the hard sell, act now response; we go with the slow roll, build relationships, and go deeper.
All about power
vs. 1-7 - transition verses
Israelites have finally done what God wanted, but are in the wrong place
“Be fruitful and multiply” - Gen 1:22, 28; 8:17; 9:1,7; 35:11
Exodus 1:7 “The Israelites were fruitful and prolific”
Macro: Pharaoh and the Hebrew Midwives
What is blessing to Israel is a threat to the status quo and power
Guided by fear (unjustified)
Does not know Joseph -
Terence Fretheim, Exodus, Interpretation p. 27. “The king of Egypt does not know; God knows. This difference in knowing has a profound effect on doing (see Jer. 22:16). Not-knowing leads to oppression; knowing leads to salvation. Who knows and who does not (yet) know will be a recurrent theme in Exodus.”
Setting up Pharaoh vs God/the faithful
Pharaoh directly talks to the midwives (there is no intermediary)
Pharaoh demands power over life and death
Pharaoh's power is circumvented by the most unlikely: Hebrew, women, servants
The midwives are shown to have more power than Pharaoh
They are smarter than Pharaoh
Humorous irony that the weakest is smarter and more powerful than the strongest
H. James Hopkins- Note that the midwives are named but Pharaoh is not
Brueggemann, Exodus NIB p.695 - vv.15-22, Pharaoh moves from oppression to genocide and the text shifts away from the Israelites and toward the “Hebrews”
Hebrews or ‘apiru - “This term, with its cognates known all over the ancient Near East, refers to any group of marginal people who have no social standing, own no land, and who endlessly disrupt ordered society.... They are the 'low-class folks' who are feared, excluded, and despised”
Moses mother and sister (Hebrew women) again trick Pharaoh by conspiring to have Moses live
Ironically to be adopted into Pharaoh’s household
Thoughts on Moses
Story explains how Moses became part of Pharaoh’s household
Mother obeys Pharaoh - but God subverts Pharaoh's plan
Moses is literally placed in an “Ark” of bulrushes, places in water where he is rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter
Genesis 6-9: Noah and the Ark - recalls God’s promise not to abandon God people
Foretells the one who will lead God’s people into a new life
There are twin themes of power and fear. Fear leads to a desire for more power which often leads to losing that power.
Ex: One could argue that the US is more fearful since 9-11, but two wars, countless lives lost, injuries suffered, countries torn apart, people wrongly imprisoned, privacy violations and on and on- is the US more powerful? Does anyone feel safer or better than they did before 9-11?
For consideration: If the church falls into a culture of fear - what is the consequence? Is the concern over church decline a concern over not sharing the good news or a concern that we are losing our “power” or the illusion of our influence?
This is a clear story of civil disobedience - how might we as individuals and churches follow in the footsteps of Shiphrah and Puah to stand by oppressors even when it violates the laws of the land?
H. James Hopkins - Puah and Shiphrah are not religious or community leaders and yet God is working through them- how are we lifting up ways in which God is working in others? God needs midwives as much as God needs prophets and pastors
New section of Romans- chapter 12 is on living in the Way of Jesus:
vv.1-8 Loving God
vv. 9-21 Loving Others
Therefore, i.e. Because…
You have sinned, (Romans 1-3)
Jesus Christ revealed you are not defined by that sin (Romans 3:20-31)
You have done nothing to earn God’s grace (Romans 4)
You are given grace, forgiveness and reconciliation by God, (Romans 5)
You are called to joyfully respond to God’s grace through a sanctified life of love, (Romans 6)
Nothing you or anyone or anything can separate you from God (Romans 8)
God’s promises are forever and for all people, (Romans 9-11)
THEREFORE- chapter 12
Living - Be engaged in the world, interacting with the world (see. vv.9-21)
Sacrifice- a gift to God - all is done in relationship to God
A traditional dead sacrifice cannot interact with the world - cannot love, serve, rejoice, hope, be patient, etc., but a living sacrifice can do all of these and more.
Spiritual worship - worship is not an activity but a way of being, a way of living in full relationship to God and other through the way of Jesus Christ
What we do every week in church is a communal reminder, a re-orientation, and loving accountability which brings us back to the way of Jesus (or to use the confessional language - metanoia/turns/changes us back to being followers of Jesus’ Way
What Paul is NOT talking about
body vs. spirit neo-platonic dualism- Paul unites body and spirit as we present our bodies for spiritual worship- worship is an embodied experience
Institution vs. Inspiration, Not conformed to the world, but transformed by the Spirit
Institutions are driven by sustainability and survivability- neither of which should be a major focus of the church.
Churches should not be led by institutional viability but rather inspirational viability.
Inspiration- to be in-spirited, filled with the spirit
The spirit is always changing, moving, evolving and transforming (breath, wind, water, fire, birds, etc.)
Christians are also called to be transforming and renewing (v.2) constantly discerning what is good, acceptable and perfect.
“Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men [sic] willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.” - Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can't Wait p. 74.
“...critical presence's wall-busting work must take the shape of exposing and transgressing various expressions of religious narrowness as well as of exposing the deep roots of Christianity's crusading mentality. Put positively, Christian critical presence must take the shape of building bridges of mutual understanding, trust and respect....This critical presence is not an embodiment of that so-called lukewarm liberal niceness, but a presence that articulates a form of Christianity with a burning center and porous border--a Christianity that is passionate about its core convictions but open to the claims of other faiths; a Christianity that is not a crusader but an embodiment of the wisdom of the crucified One.” - Eleazar S. Fernandex, "Critical Presence" as Good News: Meeting God's People and Creation at the Point of Deepest Need.
Vv.3-8: Warning of the Body over the Individual
We tend to value some gifts over other gifts (just look at the discrepancies in pay scale from CEOs and finance brokers to healthcare workers, teachers and social workers)
Paul knows our inclination to value some over others (like the disciples tried to and the church has for a long time)- hence the warning of vv. 3-8
Each has their own gifts and own ways of serving God as a living sacrifice
Obvious connection to 1 Corinthians 12
Lists of spiritual gifts also appear in 1 Cor. 12 and Ephesians, but are not the same
This is not intended to be a complete and exhaustive list of spiritual gifts (nor, ironically, a ranking of spiritual gifts), but a list to illustrate the larger point
Ministry (diakonia) is an ambiguous word meaning: “The literal meaning is table service, referring to those who cook and serve (Luke 8:3; 10:40; 17:8; Acts 6:1) or who administer funds for food (Acts 6:2; 11:29; 12:25), including Paul's famine relief fund (Rom. 15:31). The root is also a metaphor for "service of the word" (Acts 6:4; cf. Acts 1:17, 25; 20:24; 21:19).” Christopher Hudson, Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 3.
“Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 2.1
World and Spirit
Not a separate neo-platonic dualism- neither Paul, nor Jesus are advocating a rejection of the physical world, but rather an invitation into a counter-cultural way of life.
World = cultural, empire, power-hungry, market-driven, individualistic, “manifest destiny”, violent, vengeful system
Way of Jesus = counter cultural, bottom-up, community-oriented, non-judgmental, power-sharing, sacrificial, surrender, forgiving, non-violent way
“The New Testament often uses the word world to speak of the corporate false self. “World” used in this way is not speaking of creation, the planet, or nature, but what we might call “the system.” Unfortunately, many Christians are enamored with the “filthy, rotten system,” showing little concern for earth care, animals, or global warming. What a strange and sad turnaround from the original intention.” - Richard Rohr, “Renouncing the World”
The western church has long enjoyed a privileged place as a cultural institution and now many mourn the loss of that privilege. Many christians grieve the loss of the church’s power and authority in western culture. However, the church was never meant to be a cultural institution but a counter-cultural community of forgiveness and love. This presents us with an opportunity for rejoicing! The church is not dying but being reborn into what is was always meant to be (but has corrupted by power, money, influence and the overwhelming desire of self-preservation since Constantine).
What each person’s “living sacrifice” is will be different depending on each person's gift- don’t judge, but ask God what gifts do you have to serve God and follow in the Way of Jesus: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, compassion?
THANK YOU FOR LISTENING AND GET IN TOUCH:
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).