Sermon for the 11th Sunday after Trinity
The 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A – 2017
‘Look to the Rock’
Jesus and The Church
Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Jesus Christ and his body the Church is the joining place of heaven and Earth. It is the link between the life of God the Creator and His Creation. It is the Sacrament of Sacraments, it is the Door of the Water of Life flowing into the Creation, and it is Obscure. It does not readily yield itself to human gaze or enquiry. Frankly if we are looking for a likely people on whom to rest our hopes, then the people of God down through the ages do not leap off the pages of history as likely candidates – and if we are looking for a likely Saviour, then Jesus of Nazareth – an obscure Jewish Rabbi of sorts, although he hardly fits the bill even within the Jewish Rabbinic tradition, who lived two thousand years ago in a remote corner of the then ‘global’ Roman empire, whom we are told died on a cross and some crazies assert rose from the dead – well put like that He seems the unlikeliest of Saviours.
No wonder that Paul speaks of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified as ‘foolishness to the Greeks’. Looking for a sophisticated message about the true meaning of your life? Nothing to see here . . . at least for the Sophists . . .
What is more, given all that, it is perhaps no surprise that the church speaks less and less of Jesus Christ, Son of God. It is easier and more in the keeping with the vague spiritual notions of an age which has lost its way to go on at length about ‘The Mystery of God’ – not that the chrsitian Tradition has ever been in denial about the mystery of God, but has insisted to the embarrassment even of those called to proclaim this faith, on Jesus of Nazareth as the only entry point into the Mystery of the existence of God – and the Door for the Life of God to be manifested in the world . . . albeit in obscurity. For facing the Crucifed One all our images of God as we would wish Him to be lie shattered and in ruins.
The notion of God as the one made in our image, shoring up our insecurities by triumphantly improving the world, in tune with the spirit of our age finds no referent in Christ and him crucified. It is easier by far to posit Jesus as a teacher of Wisdom, as yet another guru of The Human Potential Movement, telling us how fabulous we are if we only knew it – if only he had associated with the right people . . . If only God picked his representatives better it would be plain and obvious . . . if only God didn’t join himself to an obscure people as the vehicle of his Redemption . . .
Of course flesh and blood cannot reveal to Peter the truth about Jesus – who would have guessed?
And as her God is obscure and hidden so too are the people of God, although rather like the Wizard of Oz we like to puff ourselves up
Have Important Meetings
Build mighty cathedrals
But God in his mercy brings us low once more – directs our attention to the Rock
Look to the Rock! The prophet cries out ‘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’
Look to the rock from which you were hewn!! Abraham??
Abraham and Sarah? We remember that Sarah laughed at God’s promise. God makes promises which we laugh at, and we join Sarah in her laughter – We forget that Abraham laughed first. Abraham couldn’t see the Salvation of God, it took many years journeying before he began to learn to believe
Isaac, Son of laughter is the fruit of a man and woman who laughed at God’s promises. The first fruit of that promise – which grew into the people of God . . . who continued not to get it. Who are far from a picture of steadfast maturity in faith
Look to the rock from which you were hewn . . .
We do our children no good when we feed their imaginations with stories of ‘the heroes of faith’; airbrushed characters who subtly suggest to us that our salvation lies within ourselves, and that if we only pulled our socks up and generally tidied ourselves up, we could save the world
And Peter . . . The Rock . . . and now it is we who are laughing. Peter, the Rock???
Of course those revisionists of the history of the people of God get round Peter’s failings – his betrayal. His speech at Pentecost is the straw at which we clutch – suggesting to us that being a spiritual superhero is on the cards . . .
Again we airbrush the history
We conveniently forget if we ever knew, that years down the road, in Galatia, Peter is at it again, saving his own skin. Siding with those who think this whole Christianity business is a matter of what we do, of correct religious observances – not to do with God
‘Guilty by association’ we say – the God who associates himself with such as these, He cannot be The God . . . so we remodel. We move the Jew, Jesus away from the Centre and thus His Body The Church also. Lord knows we have more than enough reasons to do that . . . I mean, what can you say about a supposed Saviour who would hang around in such company??
Look to the Rock . . . Look To Abraham, and Sarah in their unbelief, Look to Peter in his cowardice, Abraham in his deception, Peter in his Arrogant presumption, Peter in his deceit, Abraham in his trying to do God’s work for Him, and what about the Church, do we not all have many reasons to reject the centrality of this body in the purposes of God . . .
The point is this – simply put the people of God down through the ages are, well they are sinners . . . because God in Jesus Christ doesn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners in need of repentance. Given that we believe in One who hung out with those at whom the world looked in askance, why do we suggest he has now changed? That he would now disassociate himself from those the world mocks?
Flight from the God who makes himself know to us in the obscurity of God’s sinful failing, lying and deceiving people – people who occasionally have flashes of brilliance, whom hear the word of God and speak it, but often are asleep to this Great Salvation – Flight from such a God who makes himself known in the obscurity of Jesus – is a flight from the reality of our human condition making us prey to ‘other gospels’ – disembodied gospels out there – if we don’t have to deal with the supremely messy people of God and their obscure Saviour hanging dead on a Roman Cross . . .
Trying to speak of God apart from the messy and often shameful history of God’s people, and apart from the scandalous particularity of our faith – that God was in Christ Jesus, Reconciling the World to himself in a tortured twisted and broken body upon a Roman Cross, for the sake of a bunch of sinners – is to disconnect God from our Life – it is to break the Sacramental connection by which God takes hold of us – it is in and through this mess and obscurity that God takes hold of us and loves us and blesses us, and finally heals us from our Sin. It is the Way of the blessing of God
Look to the Rock! 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
Look to Peter and how in the presence of Jesus the Truth flows from the Father into the World You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God! Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.
Finally look to Jesus, the Christ, this broken Messiah, the Rock which Moses in his anger struck in the Wilderness, and that Rock was Christ – we look to Jesus the Rock for He associates with us – we sinners
The Rock on whom we feed in a sip of wine and a scrap of bread
Nothing to look at – obscure. Like his people once more in this age, nothing about Him that we might desire him – our Life – His Life in our hands at this table he has set for us
The one in whom our Father in heaven has made known to us – the Christ, The Son of the living God. The One in Whom heaven and Earth are joined in and through his body – His Church. And therein is not only our hope but the Hope of the whole world, foolish as it may well seem