Sermon, Pentecost 14A, Sunday August 27th, 2017
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’
14 They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’
15 ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
16 Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’
17 Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.’ 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
As parents of four young children, we knew there would eventually come a time when we would move from that “married with small children” stage to “married with older children/teenagers” stage of life. This is a good thought when you are constantly having to bring half your house with you when you go anywhere with little children!
A good friend of ours, reminded us of this bright future. We were at a wedding reception with our then younger children. When we were embroiled in doing the usual packing up the kids and all with the pram and the cot and the toy bag and the nappy bag…..(probably for the fourth time that day!) our friend, who had four now older kids at that stage, caught my attention from across the room, and with a grin as wide as the Sydney harbour bridge just held up one single key……. That is all he now needed to get home or go anywhere! A key never looked so good!
Keys: we hear about some keys from Jesus this morning: keys to the kingdom: keys that unlock the door to forgiveness by God or close that door: Pretty special keys that come with faith in Jesus.
But keys have their issues.
Keys can be easily misplaced. This is bad because without a key, you can’t get in the door or let others in the door. You become immobile, stuck, or just not as much use that you can be with keys.
Keys can also be a burden to carry. Some of us have heaps of keys to carry around. Farmers or teachers might have it worse. Security people probably have it the worst.
But there is another ‘weight’ to keys – responsibility. Keys are a burden because carrying them means carrying responsibility. If you have a key to a building, you are responsible for its security. I know more than a few people who avoid getting keys to open things. I can see why. If yiu don’t have the keys, you avoid the responsibility of using them.
But, in the end, everyone knows that keys are important and very necessary in life.
Jesus didn’t seem to think keys were too bad. He gave some to Peter on one particular day.
Up North in Caesarea Philippi, right in front of the huge temple to the Roman god, Pan, where there was this large bottomless cave that were believed to be the very gates to the underworld called “Hades”, Jesus pops the question that every human being has to come to terms with at some stage of life. “Who do you say I am?”. Who do YOU say I am, not your parents, your grandparents, your friends, your teachers, your media and movie heroes….You.
Peter responds with words that have never been said by anyone in history up this day. “Jesus, you are the Messiah, the son of the living God”.
“Messiah”? Peter is confessing for the first time that Jesus is the promised one of God. Previously they all had declared Jesus to be “the Son of God” in that calm boat at dawn a couple of weeks ago. But now more detail, deeper…From “God” to more specific, “Messiah”, “Christ”.
Jesus is the new king David, who is bringing in the new era of forgiveness and peace. Jesus is “Emmanuel”, “God with us”. Jesus is the bright light that people walking in darkness have seen. He is the new hope, the Saviour, the hope of all humanity for which the whole Old Testament waits.
“This confession is right on, Peter. This confession of faith is actually supernatural! These words of faith from the heart are a spiritual gift”, declares Jesus. Words of faith in Jesus don’t come from a person. They come from God to the person. Faith in a gracious God in human flesh and blood is a gift – a divine gift given in grace and joy.
And then the keys……Keys come with faith like keys come with the new car. Faith keys open the heart of Jesus for other people like the keys to the car open the car to a friend.
The keys are words and actions you actually speak and do. And yet, they are not from you. The faith and the keys come from the enlightening Spirit of God.
Faith is given to you for a purpose beyond you. The keys (of words and actions) that come with faith in Jesus are given to you to be a key for others – keys that close or open the grace of Father, Son and Spirit for others.
This is a heavy burden and a high responsibility we all have as Christians. We can’t just say whatever we want, stay focussed on our own vision and values and desires for life. We can’t just walk around free of responsibility as if the keys are not really ours to use. It is a package deal. The keys come with faith like the church comes with a mission and tax with income! Faith and the keys are like peas and carrots. They go together.
But the keys are a real joy too. It is truly inspiring and full of meaning and purpose and hope to open the door of Jesus love and hope for someone.
And there is joy in these keys. There is huge joy in knowing that the Saviour himself actually trusts you with his keys. We feel like a 17 year old young man to whom Dad gifts the keys to the Ferrari!
What a trust the Lord gives us and a high place he gives us. Without our words and actions ‘speaking’ of Jesus’ love and hope, the door remains closed to others who need him.
And the best thing….. Any burden of carrying and using these faith keys is actually light. Did you notice who actually builds the kingdom? It is not the one who carries the keys (you and I) but the one who gives the faith and the keys (Jesus).
18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church
“I will build” this church, says the Saviour. He did it on that cross, in that grave in that journey after Pentecost Day and in real time where he is present now.
Faith comes with keys: keys to the kingdom of grace.
The keys are a confession of faith we speak and do.
We speak of and do life in the Father, Son and Spirit with all those whom the Spirit has called into the kingdom.
Jesus lays down his life for sinners, chases the lost sheep, guides the flock home. He calls us to live in this mission using these keys with all care and compassion….and words of his story.
Friend, you have been given your place in this church, this life, this calling. You have been gifted everything, including the keys to open up God’s grace to others.
What you have been given is never just for you. You are given the gifts to unlock the grace of God for others.
Yes, the keys also lock heaven’s gates. There are times to speak the truth of a situation – but never to overstep our authority by condemning someone to never being able to ever gain access to Jesus’ love. It is his church and they are his keys. We may say no for a time but only ever to help them find the door again and enter in; “speaking the truth in love”, says, Paul.
Friends, Jesus is building this church and the church will always be. It will never decent to the lostness of a bottomless dark cave called Hades. It will remain as long the Christians breath the gospel where they are in words people can hear and see.
Faith in Jesus, with all of its hope and love, comes with keys and you have a key. In fact, you are the key through whom the Lord of the Church opens his church to your friends and strangers.
Don’t pretend you have misplaced them. Don’t leave them home. Don’t leave them in church. Be the church. Make the good confession in word and action.
Pray for the deep joy of seeing a sinner enter the gates of grace and know Jesus.
‘Blessed are you, woman and man of God, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven’