27th August 2023 10.30am – Twelfth Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

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The Readings

Isaiah 51.1-6

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;
for he was but one when I called him,
but I blessed him and made him many.
For the Lord will comfort Zion;
he will comfort all her waste places,
and will make her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song.

Listen to me, my people,
and give heed to me, my nation;
for a teaching will go out from me,
and my justice for a light to the peoples.
I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,
my salvation has gone out
and my arms will rule the peoples;
the coastlands wait for me,
and for my arm they hope.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
and look at the earth beneath;
for the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment,
and those who live on it will die like gnats;
but my salvation will be for ever,
and my deliverance will never be ended.

Matthew 16.13-20

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 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 whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.


Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Joe, Reader at St Marys.

May I speak in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit –
Amen. Please be seated.

As is often the case with readings from the Gospels, it’s worth taking
a little time to place today’s reading from Matthew in context, to
allow us to get the wider picture.

Chapter 16 in Matthew is often seen as revealing who Jesus is and
what He came to do. I actually came across the teachings in this
Chapter long before I became a practising Christian – they’re actually
used in a short story by the brilliant (if slightly oddball) American
science fiction writer Phillip Dick. What you read when you’re 15
tends to stick with you…..

In this Chapter the disciples are warned that they shouldn’t expect a
multiplicity of signs of the coming of the Messiah, and that they need
to be aware of false teachings and resist them. As we see in today’s
reading, the future of the Church is placed in Simon (now Peter’s)
hands. Jesus explains to his followers what is going to happen to
him, and he utters the famous words ‘Get behind me, Satan’ to Peter
when Peter says that they won’t let Jesus die. And the disciples are
told to deny themselves and take up their crosses should they wish
to follow him, even though it means death. They learn that they will
gain life by losing their lives, and they would see the coming of the
Kingdom of God. Chapter 16 is rich – go and take a look!

Jesus is speaking with the disciples in a place called Caesar Phillipi.
This was a city built by Caesar – it even contained a temple to him -
about 25 miles north east of the Sea of Galilee, and had a mainly
Gentile population. It was also near to a number of old ruined places
of worship to Baal, and a nearby cave was said to be the birthplace of
the Greek god Pan. It’s a place steeped in paganism, and it’s pretty
safe to say that whilst teaching the disciples there Jesus is not going
to be bothered to much by Jewish people wishing to be taught by

At the start of today’s reading, Jesus asks the disciples who the
people think He is, referring to himself as ‘The Son of Man’.:
He asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and
still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

So – some folks think that Jesus and John are one and the same. This
may seem strange to us – after all Jesus and John are preaching at
the same time and in the same general region - but don’t forget that
there’s no social media, regular news or media. It’s all word of
mouth; and people could easily conflate the two itinerant teachers
who had no time for human authority in to one man. Others say
Jesus is one of the prophets returned; and some say he is Elijah. It’s
worth bearing in mind that these were all men who’d preached the
word of God whilst standing up to the political authorities of their
day. The people were longing for an ‘old school’ political Messiah to
lead them out of the grip of Rome.

Despite the importance of these men, by comparing Jesus to them
the people had totally under-estimated the nature and identity of
Jesus. They did get some of it right; they appreciated the
relationship between Jesus and God, but they still regarded Him as a

Jesus continues with the disciples:

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
He’s expecting more from his disciples, his pupils, his followers. He
wants to know what they think after their experiences with him.
They originally were attracted to Jesus as a teacher, but their
experiences with him gave them the insight that He was much more
than that. Jesus was expecting His disciples to go somewhat further
than the general public. And he was not to be disappointed.
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the
living God.”

He acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah, but also refers to Him as the
son of the living God – accepting the divinity of Christ. It’s been
suggested that the phrase ‘living God’ was deliberately spoken by an
inspired Simon Peter to reflect the place in which this discussion was
taking place. Remember that the area around Caesarea Phillipi was
rich in relics of old religions – deserted altars to Baal, the alleged
birth place of Pan – and new attempts at religion – temples to
Caesar. By specifying the ‘living God’ Peter is reinforcing that Jesus is
the son of the true, eternal, living God.

Jesus is delighted with the response, and blesses Simon Peter, telling
him that he didn’t come to this conclusion about Jesus by himself,
but that it was inspired within him by God. He goes on to add:
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build
my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

Simon Peter becomes Peter, a name that means ‘rock’ – but it’s not
totally certain that when Jesus refers to building His church upon this
rock, he’s referring to Peter or Himself. At this stage of his live, Peter
isn’t exactly a rock-like character – he’s hot-headed, and will
eventually betray Jesus after his arrest. But Peter will become a
much more stable, solid and reliable disciple with time, and will be
instrumental in building the early church. It’s worth adding that this
is the first time the Greek word for ‘church’ turns up in the Bible; it
appears only three times in the Gospels, all in Matthew, and then
appears frequently after that in the rest of the New Testament.
Church was not then a necessarily religious place; Jesus is referring
to a community that He is building of his disciples.
And that community will be eternal; not even death – Hades, the
land of the dead – will be able to overcome it.

Jesus continues:

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever
you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you
loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”

Jesus is here telling the disciples that they’re going to be creating the
new church – setting up the rules, so to say. They’ll be responsible
for determining which aspects of the Jewish faith are to be binding
on the people of Christ, and which aren’t. The keys refer to opening
up the new church to people. Peter is a sort of ‘first amongst equals’
within the disciples, but all the disciples are to be involved.
What can we gain from today’s reading?

First, we can take a more active look at our faith. Jesus says “Who
do you say I am?” This is a question that is asked of all of us who
follow Jesus Christ – who is Jesus to us? Who do WE say Jesus is to
us? How often do we ask ourselves this question? Perhaps we
should ask it more often than we do, and be prepared for the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit to enlighten us about our beliefs, as it
did Peter.

Secondly, we might ask about what we can contribute to the church?
Peter was possibly that last person that you might regard as a ‘rock’
at this time. But Jesus still placed great faith within him. There is a
saying ‘Jesus qualifies the called; he doesn’t call the qualified’ – the
disciples – perhaps especially Peter – would not appear on paper to
be the best qualified for the job of building Jesus’s church. But they
did a good job.

What is the Holy Spirit inviting us to contribute to?


The Prayers
Prepared by David.

For the unity of the Church in witness and proclamation of the Gospel.
let us pray to the Lord:
Hear us, Lord of life:
heal us, and give us rest.

For the peace and stability of all peoples
and for the leaders of the nations. We pray for ongoing conflicts in the world, that peace may overcome violence and swords be beaten into ploughshears.
let us pray to the Lord:
Hear us, Lord of life:
heal us, and give us rest.

For places of work, education and leisure. For our community of Walkley and all those enjoying a period of rest of over the summer.
let us pray to the Lord:
Hear us, Lord of life:
heal us, and give us rest.

For a blessing on our homes;
for our relations and friends and all whom we love.
let us pray to the Lord:
Hear us, Lord of life:
heal us, and give us rest.

For the sick and suffering and all who minister to their needs. We pray for Kath and for all those known to us.
let us pray to the Lord:
Hear us, Lord of life:
heal us, and give us rest.

Let us commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God.

Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.