Sunday 23rd August – 11th Sunday after Trinity
The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page.
O God, you declare your almighty power
most chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace,
that we, running the way of your commandments,
may receive your gracious promises,
and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many. For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples. I will bring near my deliverance swiftly, my salvation has gone out and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and those who live on it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be for ever, and my deliverance will never be ended.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And 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.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Post Communion Prayer
Lord of all mercy,
we your faithful people have celebrated that one true sacrifice
which takes away our sins and brings pardon and peace:
by our communion
keep us firm on the foundation of the gospel
and preserve us from all sin;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Reflection – Trinity 11
Albert Schweitzer in his quest for the ‘true’ historical Jesus once said: “Each successive epoch found its own thought in Jesus, which was, indeed, the only way in which it could make him live”. For, through the centuries, each age of history has “created him in accordance with one’s own character”. The generations tend to project onto Jesus its ideas and ideals. I suppose in short we could say that there is a danger of making Jesus in our own image and that’s dangerous. And it might seem that Jesus today invites us to create a subjective image of him according to the needs and fashions of our times. For he says: “Who do you say I am?”
However, Simon Peter’s response makes it clear that this question requires an answer founded in objective truth, in the reality of who Jesus is – an answer founded on the certitude of revelation. Hence Jesus says: ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.
Thus, Peter does not rely on a subjective feeling, or a psychological projection, or a desired ideal to give substance to who Jesus is. Rather, he stands on the rock of God’s word, and thus his faith is firmly established on a revelation of divine truth from the Father that is confirmed by Jesus. This revelation concerning Jesus’ identity is not subject to the vicissitudes of history, nor does it suffer fluidity according to our human feelings and desires. For truth is eternal.
Hence, the question concerning who we say Jesus is invites each of us to discover this revealed truth, to deepen our faith in the Jesus disclosed by Scripture and Tradition and Reason… the bedrock of Anglican theology.
In today’s Gospel, then, two certain truths about the person of Christ are revealed to St Peter. Firstly, Jesus is the Christ, and secondly, he is the Son of the Living God. To say that Jesus is the Christ is to say that he is the long-expected one foretold by the prophets. But what was predicted and expected of him, the Christ? Both Jews and Gentiles longed for a deliverer or redeemer. Peter thus acclaims that this is the One. But since Truth is universal, Christ is not just deliverer of a particular people, nor the redeemer restricted to a limited time. Rather, he is the universal Saviour, the answer to the deepest questions and longings of the human heart. Hence to you and me today, wherever we may be, he asks the same question of us: “Who do you say I am?”
From what does Jesus deliver humanity? This question is answered by the second part of Peter’s revelation. Jesus is Son of the Living God, that is, the God of the Resurrection. So, he delivers humanity from their mortality and decay, from the eternal death that human nature, being perishable and changeable, is naturally subject. Hence Jesus says later on in the Gospel, “God is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Mt 22:32b). So, Peter learns that Jesus is the Son, who shares in the nature of the living God, and who thus has the power to raise us from the dead (cf Jn 11:25) so as to share his resurrection glory. This revelation leads to Christ’s declaration that “the gates of the underworld” would not prevail against the Church. For all who are baptised into Christ, and who are united to him as members of his mystical Body, would ultimately not succumb to the assaults of death. Rather, the final Word belongs to Christ, the Son of the Living God, who lives and reigns. Thus, each successive age and every human person who loves life must seek the true person of Jesus Christ. For it is not we who make him live through our thoughts, but it is the truth of who Jesus is revealed to be that makes us live.
Consequently, no matter what happens to us now in this life; no matter what terrors and uncertainties assail us in our lifetime; no matter what mortal pains and illnesses we might suffer and endure in the transience of this present world, the eternal truth of who Jesus is stands firm. We stand on the bedrock of that which is revealed to Peter and vindicated by the Resurrection: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. When asked by anyone “Who do you say that he is?”, let this be our answer both in word and in action.