Monday 22 August 2011

August 21st 2011, Pentecost 10, Matthew 16:13-20, Ordinary 21

My grandfather has always been a man of shadows, a mystery man. A while ago I decided to Google his name and came up with a real person, who went to Westminster School, studied theology at London University through The Jews College in London, and became a principal of a college in Ramsgate. His name was Samuel. He was my grandfather who I never met.

Who do people say you are? I heard about a black woman who applied for a job. She didnt get it and rang up to ask why not. They left the phone on speaker phone and she heard them say "What shall I say to that black woman who applied for the job?" She was a black woman. I also met a man who had a daughter with schizophrenia. He told me a harrowing story of how he had struggled with this. He was a father with a daughter with schizophrenia. The story in Matthew is set in Banais on the Israel Lebanese border or Caesarea Philippi as it was called then, rebuilt by Herod Philip and renamed as Caesarea. It is beautiful spot with fallen statues to Greek gods. As they were walking Jesus was reversing the normal practice of disciples asking rabbis questions."Who do people say that I am?" The gossip was that Jesus was John the Baptist come back to life, or a raised-up Elijah (the greatest of all prophets), or possibly just another prophet, but not the Jewish messiah. It was a devalued assessment of Jesus' person. "But who do you say I am?" "You're the Christ" said Peter,the anointed one, the messiah because he had caught a glimpse of this reality. But Jesus wants this secret kept and keeps, a low profile with regard his messianic credentials to dampen popular political messianic aspirations, for those "with eyes to see". He warned them that they should not mention this to anyone.

Peter is blessed/fortunate", in the terms of a spiritual blessing, Bariwna "son of Jonah" - bar-Jona. Matthew gives Peter's family name in the form of a transliteration of the Aramaic "son of Jonah". The name is from the Akkadian word which means "terrorist", so Matthew is alluding to Peter's Zealot background. You are Peter as opposed to Simon, petra/ (a) fem. dat. "rock" - a large stone, a large hewn stone. Jesus gives this name to Simon son of John/Jonah as a nickname.  Peter is the rock and Jesus is the builder. 

In the Old Testament the phrase "the gates of Hades" refers to death/evil, Job.17:16, Isa.38:10 etc. When assaulted by the gates of Hades - the fortress of evil, the evil empire, Jesus is promising that the church will stand against the powers of darkness. Hades is the underworld or death. It will not overcome the church. (North Africa)
keys– Peter is given the keys to the kingdom as a servant is given the keys to the house. The servant is the managers of God's house, having authority over his house; The giving of keys means the bestowing of authority, of power and  control.

Binding and Losing-
1.A Jewish rabbinical sense where "bind" = forbid, hinder, restrict, and "loose" = permit, The church on earth carries out heaven's (God's) decisions.
2. A legal technical sense where "bind" = put in fetters, and "loose" = acquit. Peter, and by implication all who confess the faith, have authority, to exercise divine judgment through the gospel.
3.A theological sense describing the binding of Satan / demonic powers and of losing / releasing people from the bondage of evil.
4. An ecclesiastical sense, of retaining and forgiving sins. The authority spoken of, then, is in effect that of being able to declare whether a person becomes fully a part of the community or not.

Sometime ago I met a black woman who was a Pentecostal bishop working mentoring young men out of gun crime and a Baptist minister called by God to work with Muslims because of riots. Most appropriate I think this week!

So what are you called to be to make a change in our world, a world of social division and riots? What is your special place in Gods kingdom however humble?



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