Sermon Text: God makes Stumbling Blocks into Rocks of Faith, Mat 16;21-26

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Proper 17A: God makes Stumbling Blocks into Rocks of Faith, Mat 16:21-26

  1. Our Gospel lesson illustrates something particularly fitting for us in this election year as each party will do their best to expose the other in some glaring inconsistency as though they themselves were immune
    1. Human inconsistency seems to be the only consistent trait that we have.  As we hear so often in commercial disclaimers, “Past performance is no guarantee of future success.”
      1. Certainly, we have seen numerous folks in government do tremendous good only to be followed by woeful gaffes, like frequent comments we hear them make when they thought microphone turned off.  It makes you wonder if they truly believe what they say or is their performance an act?
      1. We have also seen corporate examples of someone who saves the company only to be found embezzling funds or misusing their position for personal benefit.
      1. I don’t need to remind you of the numerous moral lapses of all kinds of prominent people (clergy, business, government) that lead us to question if all the good that they do was just an accident.
      1. But that trait is not exclusive to our leaders.  We, too, seem to have a limitless ability to follow our brilliant successes with something that casts doubt on everything we’ve done.
    1. This morning we see Peter demonstrate monumental inconsistency in Gospel.
      1. But we can’t appreciate today’s Gospel without reference to last week’s.
      1. Last week we heard Peter make that GREAT confession of FAITH when Jesus asked, “Who do YOU say that I am?”  And he replied, “You are the CHRIST the SON of the LIVING GOD!” (Mt 16:16)
      1. This is a seminal moment in the Gospels, the Apostles confess Christ’s divinity. Jesus exclaims, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but my Father in Heaven.  You are Peter and on this rock (this confession) I will build my church.” (Mt 16:18)
    1. But as we see in today’s Gospel, Peter immediately goes from being a Rock of faith to a Stumbling Block in Christ’s way.
      1. And his failure is (oddly) a word of Promise and comfort for us
      1. Scripture paints completely unvarnished picture of Apostles, Prophets, Patriarchs – they fail – FREQUENLTY – yet God used them
      1. How often have we gone from a mountain top of faithful expression or experience right into something that calls into question everything we just did?
      1. Failures like this are written for our comfort – God calls and uses us EVEN when we get it wrong: God delights in making stumbling blocks into Rocks of Faith!
  2. Let’s look a little more closely at our Gospel lesson
    1. As we have said Peter has just revealed that he KNEW that Jesus was the Messiah
      1. And now that the disciples knew WHO He was, Christ goes on to explain WHAT it means to be Messiah
      1. Gospel reads, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
      1. Notice the “MUST” – it was not an accident that the Christ must go to Jerusalem and be rejected.  
      1. This was the Divine Plan for our redemption – it HAD to be!
    1. Peter, being the Rock who had just spoken for the other Apostles takes this opportunity to pull Christ aside as though he were the Master and rebukes Him, “This will NEVER happen to you!”
      1. But the Lord cut him off quickly with a very sharp reply, “Get behind me Satan!”
      1. What happened!? Just like that he’d gone from, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church?” to you are a “stumbling block…get behind me Satan!
    1. Peter recognized WHO Jesus was but he still couldn’t comprehend WHAT He had to do!
      1. Normally, you could be forgiven for having responded as Peter did, in fact he probably should be given credit for not laughing at Jesus.
      1. Again, what would your response be if someone said that to you? You’d be looking for the guys in the white suits who bring the jackets that buckle in the back!
      1. BUT…who did Peter just confess Jesus to be…the Christ Son of the living God!
      1. It doesn’t make sense to our minds that the CHOSEN ONE, the MESSIAH was born to die even though God had already said in Isaiah 53, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed…it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering…by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” (Is 53:5, 10-11)
  3. Like Peter we go from mountain top confessions of faith and intense spirituality to failure in blink of an eye – from being a Rock of faith to a Block in the road!
    1. It’s a struggle to remain faithful to God’s Word – to cling to it even when it seems to go against our sinful sensibilities and conventional wisdom
      1. Jeremiah recounts that struggle in our OT lesson: Jeremiah recalls joy with which he initially received Word, but now laments and wonders if God will be to him like a spring that fails because his zeal for Lord has caused him to be distanced from others and to be persecuted, etc – he feels isolated on all sides, maybe God’s Word failed, too.
      1. Clinging to our Lord’s Word isn’t the easy thing to do: whether it confronts our sensibilities like Pete,; or it causes us to suffer persecution like Jeremiah.
    1. Yet the Lord reminded Jeremiah that He will be faithful to him and strengthen him, I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you. (Jer 15:20)
      1. The story didn’t end for Peter after Christ called him Satan, either Christ had promised that He would build His church on Peter’s confession of faith and that the gates of Hell would not overcome it – that promise stood!
      1. This same Peter was the same Peter who stood boldly on Pentecost proclaiming Christ to the very people who had put Him to death
      1. The promise for us is that just as Peter and Jeremiah were NOT discarded for their inconsistency and NEITHER are we!
    1. God makes His Stumbling Blocks, past and present, into Rocks of Faith!
      1. Through BAPTISM we are made temples of Holy Spirit so that when Satan tries to use our guilty conscience against us we remember His promise to Jeremiah, “I will make you a wall…a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you.”
      1. Even though there are many crosses to bear in service for the Lord He helps us carry them – He is with us to rescue and save us!
      1. As we receive the very body and blood of our Lord this morning God shows that He is tangibly WITH US to RESCUE and SAVE US; REFRESHING OUR BATTERED CONFIDENCE WITH HIS RICH GRACE
      1. The reassurance we see throughout God’s Word is that He does NOT call perfect people; they are NOT larger than life; they are real flesh and blood yet the Lord called them and used them despite their weaknesses as He reminded the Apostle Paul when he struggled with his thorn in the flesh, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
      1. The LORD delights in making His chosen Stumbling Blocks into Rocks of faith who trust in His Word through Holy Spirit