Monday, June 30, 2014

June 29, 2014 Sunday Sermon, Peter and Paul

...  in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.  Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.  Amen.  Glory to You, our God, Glory to You.

O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, You are everywhere and fill all things, Treasury of blessings, and Giver of life: come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us (three times).

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it is now, was in the beginning, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

All-holy Trinity, have mercy on us.  Lord, cleanse us from our sins.  Master, pardon our iniquities.  Holy One, visit us and heal our infirmities for Your Name’s sake.  Lord have mercy (three times).

June 29, 2014 Sunday Sermon, Peter and Paul

Introductory Scripture

Exodus 20:2, 12

I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long on the land which the Lord your God gives you.

Psalm 119:12, 18

Blessed are You, O Lord: teach me Your Statutes.

Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of Your Law.

The Epistle

2 Corinthians 11:21-33; 12:1-9

I speak concerning reproach, as though we were weak.  If anyone is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.  Are they Hebrews?  So am I.  Are they Israelites?  So am I.  Are they the seed of Abraham?  So am I.  Are they ministers of Christ?  (I speak as a fool) I am more.

I am in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths often.  From the Jews I received five times, forty stripes save one.  Thrice I was beaten with rods.  Once I was stoned.  Thrice I suffered shipwreck.  A night and a day, I spent in the deep.  I was on many journeys: in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils from my own countrymen, in perils from the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brothers, in weariness and painfulness, on watch often, in hunger and thirst, in fasts often, in cold and nakedness.  Beside those things that are external, that which comes on me daily, the care for all the churches.  Who is weak, and I am not weak?  Who is offended, and I do not burn?

If I must glory, I will glory of the things which concern my infirmities.  The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knows that I do not lie.

In Damascus the governor under king Aretas guarded the city of the damascenes with a garrison, seeking to arrest me.  I was let down outside the wall through a window in a basket, and escaped his hands.

It is not expedient for me to glory about myself.  I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.  I knew a man in Christ more than fourteen years ago, (Whether in the body, I cannot tell; or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows.).  This man was caught up to the third heaven.  I do not know how this man (Whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows.) was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to speak.[1]

I will glory over such a person: yet, I will not glory about myself, except in my infirmities: for though I might desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; because I must tell the truth.  So now I must show restraint, lest anybody should think of me above what he sees me to be, or above what he hears from me.

Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.[2]  I begged the Lord three times to take this affliction away from me.  He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”  Most gladly, therefore, I will prefer to glory in my infirmities, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The Gospel

Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”  They replied, “Some say that you are John the Baptist; some, Elijah; others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.

He asked them, “Who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter answered, “You art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus responded to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Jonah’s son: for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.  I say to you as well, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church.  The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.  Whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The Homily

This is a busy week.  The Matins Gospel honors Mary Magdalen, about whom we sing, in the beautiful hymn, “I Come to the Garden Alone.”

It is also the third Sunday after Pentecost, as we continue to remember the great work of the Holy Ghost among us as He leads us into all truth.

It is the Sunday of Peter and Paul, about which we will have more to say, very soon.

Monday introduces the Apostles Fast.  Then Friday, Independence Day is upon us.

The common theme of all of these events is freedom: for Christ lived and died, then prayed that the Father would send the Holy Ghost, thereby setting us free indeed.

Peter will be the first to receive “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”  We hide behind theological constructs with little success.  The pronouns are singular.  It is Peter who is named, and Peter who is delegated.  Peter will receive (and does) receive the keys first.  The text does not say that the keys will be delegated to a plurality.  Nor does the text say that no one else will ever receive the keys.  The text also says that the keys are for binding and loosing.  Nowadays, we would say locking and unlocking.  In general such locking and unlocking would apply to prison chains, and to doors or gates.  Nowhere, does the text say that the keys are about rule, and the only hint of leadership is that Peter will receive the keys first.  So we must look elsewhere to increase our understanding.

We soon learn that Peter unlocks the doors of the Jewish Church with the baptism of around three thousand people in one day: obviously, Peter had a lot of help after his sermon (Acts 2).  Shortly after that Peter unlocks the doors of the Gentile Church (Acts 10 and 11).

In Acts 7 we learn that Stephen has received a delegation of the keys, but it appears that he is casting the wicked into prison, rather than unlocking their chains.  The principal difference is that Stephen’s audience refused to listen, except for one man.

Even before Peter unlocks the doors of the Gentile Church, the keys are delegated to Philip who unlocks the doors of the Ethiopic Church (Acts 8).  We remember that Ethiopia has been a Jewish kingdom since the days of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10).

The last part of Acts is devoted to the work of Paul.  Paul is delegated the keys for the purpose of leading three evangelism tours, during which he unlocks the doors of new churches in several Greek cities, in Rome, and most likely in Spain and in Great Britain.  However, when he seeks to go north, farther into Asia, he is forbidden to go (Acts 16:6).

Because of this historic development, Peter is remembered as the Apostle to the Jews; while Paul is remembered as the Apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13).

Elsewhere we learn that Andrew unlocks the doors of the churches of northern Asia; while Thomas unlocks the doors of the churches of India.  It is not necessary that we multiply examples.[3]

Even so, when we view the very first ecumenical council, the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, it is James who presides rather than Peter.

We conclude that the Holy Ghost rules over The Church.  Any number of men can be called to preside in His honor.  The delegation of the keys applies primarily to gifts of evangelism, which may be held by wide numbers of people at the same time.  The Apostles and the bishops that succeeded them enjoy a wide range of collegiality: indeed they are commanded to wash each other’s feet (Matthew 20:24-28; John 13:12-17).  Even so, from the record of Acts, we freely concede that the bishop of the See of Peter and Paul, should have the first place of honor in presiding over the bishops as first among equals.  What is the duty of the presidential honor?  The president announces the conclusion of the will of the bishops, usually expressed by voting, and first proclaims it to the world officially.

Christ has set us free.  The Holy Ghost makes us free.[4]

[1] This is a perfect description of John’s Revelation, but that idea presents chronological problems for us.
[2] Since Paul was struck blind because he murdered Christians, God reminded Paul of how and why he was saved, by afflicting him with weak eyesight.  This prevented Paul from becoming prideful over the magnificent ways God used him.
[4] If you have been blessed or helped by any of these meditations, please repost, share, or use any of them as you wish.  No rights are reserved.  They are designed and intended for your free participation.  They were freely received, and are freely given.  No other permission is required for their use.

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