Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Sermon By The Right Reverend John Rabb

January 21, 2007
Acts 4:8-13 * Matthew 16:13-19

JANURY 21, 2007

The Right Rev. John L. Rabb
Bishop Suffragan, Diocese of Maryland

Peter is a wonderful saint. As a lifelong Episcopalian I have always understood his grumbling at the “Johnny come lately” such as Paul. I often hear all of these wonderful stories of conversion, and say to myself; “Hey I have been here all along and no one notices.” So I know how Peter felt. As one prone to imperfection I have always been relieved by the fact that he has more than his share of missteps. On a deeper level, I have often that Peter who is given such a role of leadership may not have been, in fact, the best. For example I suspect John may have been Jesus’ favorite. I suspect that Thomas was the brightest. In short what makes Peter so wonderful is that he is so human!

We do hear in the Gospel;

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 what ever you bind on earth will
be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed
in heaven. Matthew 16: 18-19

For all of Peter’s clear humanity, it is clear that Christ is counting on him. This is not just about Peter’s humanity, but the humanity of all of us. We finite, limited and sinful individuals are instruments of God’s salvation. It is clear from call after call in scripture, that God does not call the qualified. There is Gideon, the least member of the least family of the tribe of Manasseh. There is also Paul, an enemy of the church. Over and over the unlikely are called. So to that list we add Peter. Yet over and over we look for reasons to assume God is not calling us! “But, bishop, we just a small church!” Or we think someone is talking about the church down the road, the one with resources. Whether or not is about serving on vestries, taking risks, stepping out in faith or just doing what Christ asks, we cannot believe it is us! God does not call the qualified. God does qualify those called. It is through our humanity, our dreams, fears, longings and loves that God is at work. As we express our deepest yearnings, we learn of and symbolize the power of love, grace and mercy. Like Peter, God wants and needs us as human persons!
There is something else. Peter is called and even the name Jesus gives him is rock and upon this rock will the church be built. What is won on earth is won in heaven and what is lost on earth is lost in heaven. This is serious business! Christ is counting on us! Look at what Jesus said in last Sunday’s gospel (note this is from the propers for the Feast of Martin Luther King, Jr.) We are to love our enemies and we pray for those who curse us. We turn the other cheek. This is not behavior the world affirms! It is to be the church to which we are called. This is an unconditional call and what that is about transformation of the world and not confirmation by the world. We reach out, as Jesus, did to those most forgotten – the current equivalent of the publicans and the tax collectors. We show forgiveness and mercy.

Finally we must realize that what we do is essential, critical and of the utmost importance. What we bind on earth is bound on earth and what we lose on earth is loosed in heaven! This is serious stuff! So when I hear people say in regard to the work of the church, “…but in the real world,” I am shocked. Doing the will of the Lord is as real as it gets!

Peter reveals to us a lot about ourselves. Our humanity is being used by God and in and through it we are called. Peter reveals to us that Christ has called us and called us as the church to be an instrument of salvation. So let us be like Peter and say yes that we will be the church. Amen

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