Saint Peter, by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Upon This Rock…
The Sunday Closest to August 24
Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost
AUGUST 24, 2014
AUGUST 27, 2017
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #1
Exodus 1:8-2:10 (New Revised Standard Version):
Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”
Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.
The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”
Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 If the LORD had not been on our side,
let Israel now say,
2 If the LORD had not been on our side,
when enemies rose up against us;
3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive
in their fierce anger toward us;
4 Then would the waters have overwhelmed us
and the torrent gone over us;
5 Then would the raging waters
have gone right over us.
6 Blessed be the LORD!
he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;
the snare is broken, and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the Name of the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #2
Isaiah 51:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):
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 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 earth will wear out like a garment,
and those who live on it will die like gnats;
but my salvation will be forever,
and my deliverance will never be ended.
Psalm 138 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I will sing your praise.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple
and praise your Name,
because of your love and faithfulness;
3 For you have glorified your Name
and your word above all things.
4 When I called, you answered me;
you increased my strength within me.
5 All the kings of the earth will praise you, O LORD,
when they have heard the words of your mouth.
6 They will sing of the ways of the LORD,
that great is the glory of the LORD.
7 Though the LORD be high, he cares for the lowly;
he perceives the haughty from afar.
8 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe;
you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;
your right hand shall save me.
9 The LORD will make good his purpose for me;
O LORD, your love endures for ever;
do not abandon the works of your hands.
Romans 12:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Matthew 16:13-20 (New Revised Standard Version):
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.
Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.Amen.
What is the rock upon which Jesus built his Church? I have read various analyses, and the one that makes the most sense to me is God. Simon Peter was the first pebble upon this rock, and each subsequent believer and follower is another pebble. The pebbles are the Church. So God is the foundation of the Church.
God is also the rock from Isaiah 51. God is the rock from which we are hewn, the quarry from which we are cut. So our lives and identities derive from God. We Christians stand in a long tradition that stretches back to Abraham and Sarah; the Jews are, as Pope John Paul II said, our elder brothers and sisters in faith. God, the rock, was the strength of the Hebrews when they were slaves in Egypt. God, the rock, provided the means of their political liberation. And God, the rock, provides the means of our spiritual liberation. As Paul reminds us in Romans, this liberation will be evident in our attitudes and relationships.
Next Sunday’s Gospel Reading will pick up where this one leaves off. In it Jesus predicts his capture, torture, death, and resurrection. Then Peter, horrified, protests. But Jesus says to the Apostle he just praised highly a few breaths previously, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Peter did not understand yet. Maybe only Jesus did. So let us take comfort in the fact that one does not need to achieve spiritual mountainhood to be an effective and important pebble in the rock mass that is the Christian Church. We have to begin somewhere, so why not where we are? But let us move on from there to where Jesus wants us to go.
Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on February 26, 2011