By Porter C. Taylor
Written for Church of the Apostles, KC.

Collect: Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The evangelist and physician, Luke, has provided the church with a wealth of detail, historical context, and beautifully articulated depictions of God’s love for His people and His world. The feast commemorating St. Luke is a wonderful opportunity to explore and celebrate his writings and the collect for the day captures two central themes worthy of deeper examination: “the love and healing power” of Jesus. Year C of the Lectionary, the liturgical year which ends next month, has included a lengthy trek through Luke’s Gospel which will culminate on Christ the King Sunday with the scene of Jesus proclaiming forgiveness from the cross (“Father, forgive them”) and the promise of life after death to the repentant thief. Surely, there can be no better depiction of healing and love than this.

The images of Jesus’ parables in Luke 15 are particularly poignant when considering these twin themes because through the stories we see a God who seeks after the least, the last, and the lost. We find a father running to meet his wayward and rebellious son while he was still a long way off and then throw a party for him, complete with fatted calf and signet ring. Love personified in such a way is overwhelming, it is scandalous; it restores, redeems, and heals.

It would be easy to relegate references of healing in Luke’s gospel to stories of physical being ailments reversed, overturned, and wiped away. However, the deeper layer of truth to Luke’s telling of Jesus’ story is the power of God’s love to heal His people, their land, and His world. Early on in the gospel, we encounter Jesus in the synagogue where He stands up to read a scroll from the prophet Isaiah. The passage depicts the year of the LORD’s favor (jubilee) and Jesus read aloud to those gathered:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The steadfast, unrelenting, covenant love of YHWH for His people can be tangibly and palpably seen through the hope-filled promise of jubilee. Luke’s gospel shows what this healing love looks like in action: friends lowering their lame companion through a roof; a shepherd searching for the one sheep; a woman looking for a lost coin; a Father restoring his son; Jesus dying on the cross and yet forgiving those who were killing him.

The love of Jesus heals more than just the body; it affects the heart, mind, and soul. Our call, as Christians, is to then love God with all our heart, mind, body, soul, and strength and to love our neighbors as well. Through this type of love, we praise God in the fullest and purest sense. Luke’s Gospel invites us into such a loving relationship, it beckons us to die to self, to hear Jesus’ absolution from the cross, and to receive His promise of new life. Luke’s story continues in Acts as we discover the gospel bursting forth into the world through the power of the Holy Spirit and the faithful witness of the disciples, apostles, martyrs (Wednesday was the lesser feast commemorating Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer who were martyred for their faith in the 16th century), and the early church. This heritage is what should inform us and urge us on toward sharing the love of God with neighbor and stranger alike, just as God has done, is doing, and will continue to do for us.

Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name.

(Note: The Eastern Orthodox Church recognizes St. Luke as the original iconographer. Here’s an interesting article attributing several icons of Mary to him.)

By Porter C. Taylor

The liturgical year presents the Church with many opportunities to reflect upon Christ’s work on the cross. On Good Friday we are invited to meditate upon the agony and pain, the love and obedience, the silence and awe of His crucifixion. One typically leaves the Good Friday liturgy full of sorrow and torment mixed with thanksgiving for God’s unrelenting love. We then return to the cross, in a way, on Easter as we come to flower the cross with our own blooms and blossoms, celebrating that what was intended for evil by man was ultimately used for good by God for the life of the whole world.

The cross is everywhere around us, and yet I wonder if we, both culturally and as a church, have become blind to its meaning and power. Is it possible that we have simultaneously become both desensitized to the brutality of Jesus’s execution and overly personalized/privatized the crucifixion (i.e. saying “Christ died for me”) that we have neglected the redeeming work accomplished on Calvary? We throw around the idea of “taking up our cross” and following Jesus as though we have forgotten what that meant for Him, and for His disciples, and ultimately for us. As with many things in our faith, the cross presents us with a paradox, for it is at once both a symbol of death and life, of agony and glory, of defeat and victory. The Feast of the Holy Cross is therefore an opportunity to think, reflect, and celebrate this paradox.

The Collect provides us with the guidance we need to read our lessons and understand the meaning of the Feast: “whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow Him.” Here we find both the universal and the particular co-mingling in the same sentence; Jesus is drawing the whole world to Himself, and we are called to take up our cross and follow Him. There is a connection here between the once and for all nature of Jesus’ passion and our invitation to live as a cross-shaped people.

Lifted High

The Bible is teeming with references to the Son of Man being lifted high for all to see. Our lessons for this Feast include Isaiah 45 and John 12 as examples of this, but we might also remember Moses raising the bronze snake in the Exodus story and then Jesus echoing this story when he said that he must be lifted up in the same manner. Jesus said, “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” John’s gospel is richly imbibed with a theme we might summarize as “God is glorified in Christ crucified” and these passages point to the power Jesus’ crucifixion holds for all who believe.

As Paul reminds us in his epistle to the church in Philippi, Jesus went to the cross willingly, obediently, and faithfully. He did not end up on the cross as some sort of accident or coincidence; He was neither outsmarted by the religious leaders of the day nor caught while trying to escape. Jesus set His gaze like flint toward Jerusalem and then journeyed directly to the cross for the sins and life of the whole world. The cross is both the reminder of humanity’s wayward desire to life apart from God and the fullest expression of God’s self-emptying love for His creation. In order to view the cross as a symbol of discipleship, we must first see the cross as the place where our Savior willingly died that all might know God; that is, we cannot have an empty and clean cross without first embracing the cross with Jesus dying upon it.

Taking Up Your Cross

The invitation to take up your cross is not cheap. Culturally we have become so flippant with our references that it is common to equate a personal disagreement or verbal attack with the crucifixion. And yet, the apostles carried their crosses unto death; the martyrs and saints of the last 2000 years have done the same. To take up our cross is to similarly set our gaze like flint toward whatever your horizon the Lord is calling us and to journey there intentionally and with God’s love, compassion, mercy, grace, and mission overflowing from our hearts. As they say in AA meetings, “It’s simple, but it isn’t easy.”

A Christian who has been shaped by the cross is a person ready to lift that cross even higher that others might see Jesus and turn to him, as well. The cross we are called to bear is not an inconvenience or annoyance to which we can say, “We all have our crosses to bear…” as though putting a theological bow on it will somehow make it more palatable. The cross we are called to bear is the cross of Christ, nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. Think about Simon the Cyrene who carried the cross for Jesus when He could no longer do so himself: Simon had to follow Jesus all the way to Golgotha with the cross on his back…how far are we willing to carry the cross?

Challenge

Here at COTA we have been blessed by the beautiful processional cross created for us by our own Tom McDonald. We bow when the cross processes past us as the verger carries it into the nave and again out into the world. If you are intentionally attentive, then you will notice the handle on the cross changes based on the liturgical season, a visible symbol of the tenor and theme at hand: penance, glory, ordinary time, etc. Allow yourself to be drawn in by the colors as you meditate upon Christ’s work. Allow yourself to be arrested by the image of Christ upon the cross, forcing yourself to gaze upon Him a second longer than you would normally do. Let the Feast of the Holy Cross be both a reminder of Jesus’ passion and of your invitation to take up the cross and follow Jesus daily, wherever He might lead you.

This was originally written for and published by our parish blog – Church of the Apostles, Kansas City – where I serve as Assisting Priest and Theologian in Residence. You can read it here.

I wrote this blog post for our parish blog (Church of the Apostles, Kansas City). You can find it here; you should also read the fabulous contributions from far more talented writers in your community, too.

The Feast of the Transfiguration (celebrated August 6) is one of my favorite feasts in the entire church calendar. While other holy days merely commemorate a person or an event, this one is powerful because it is very easy to imagine the palpable glory and majesty which the disciples saw displayed atop Mount Tabor. The Feast of the Transfiguration is a high and holy day (pardon the liturgical pun) because we are invited to ascend the mountain with Jesus and the disciples and there “behold the King in His beauty.”

As with any passage of Scripture, we are invited to dig a little bit deeper and remember other mountain-top and glory-filled encounters. Our minds ought to wander to two scenes in Exodus: first, when YHWH descended upon Mt. Sinai with cloud and smoke before consecrating His people and giving them the law; second, when Moses ascended Sinai and met with YHWH and beheld His glory so much that Moses himself radiated it and had to veil his face from Israel. Moses’ appearance was transfigured because he had been in the presence of the Holy and yet journeyed back down to the people each and every time in order to live out his calling. The awe-some power of God inspired both “the fear of the LORD” and a sense of reverence and worship.

We might also think of Elijah atop Mount Carmel battling the prophets of Baal in the name of YHWH and calling down fire from heaven. Elijah had feared for his life, running from Jezebel, yet ended up proclaiming YHWH’s victory and power against 800 prophets. Elijah did not stay at the summit once he was done, though. He moved on and poured himself into his disciple, Elisha, before being caught up to heaven in a chariot of fire. He encountered God both in the silence and the terrifying display of fire, and his life was devoted to calling Israel back to her God. One does not find God and keep the experience private…

Moses and Elijah: prophets and leaders; mountaintop experiences with power and glory; YHWH victorious over all things, reigning over all people. Do you see why our minds wander here? Jesus takes His closest disciples – Peter, James, and John – up to the top of a mountain, and there He appears transfigured, radiant in white, between Moses and Elijah. These holy three discussed Jesus’ impending death and the voice from heaven affirms and validates Jesus’ identity, charging the witnesses to listen and obey. Jesus then sets His face like flint toward Jerusalem and begins His intentional trek toward the cross.

As we read the assigned lesson from Peter’s second epistle, the document he wrote decades after this experience, you can almost feel the emotion pouring forth from Peter’s memory; you can almost see the scene he is recalling. The Transfiguration shaped and transformed Peter in a mighty way. Peter may have descended the mountain with Jesus only to betray Him three times before the crucifixion, but Jesus reinstated Peter and his ministry was faithful unto death. You cannot remain unchanged, unphased, unaffected when you encounter the glory and majesty of the Living God.

The invitation before you today as we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration is an invitation to behold the King in His beauty, to taste and see the Lord’s majesty and glory, and to move forward from that holy place into a more faithful expression of obedience. When we focus exclusively on the glorious majesty of God, we are freed from the disquieting distractions of this world; when we look to Christ, we are no longer consumed with external pressures, influences, and burdens which tell us that we need to accomplish/achieve more. I pray that we can all find God in the silence and the awe-some vision of Jesus’ transfiguration and let that encounter spur us on from one degree of glory to the next.

I wrote this post for our parish blog (Church of the Apostles, KC). You can read it here…and all is the other fabulous posts and sermons!

One of my favorite words to describe my theological work with the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer is “juxtaposition.” Perhaps it is the influence of Alexander Schmemann and Gordon Lathrop—both liturgical theologians and both of whom highly value this concept—but the concept for juxtaposition is very simple: what happens when you put x next to y? An example or two might be helpful here. For liturgy, what does it mean when the Confession is prayed within the Prayers of the People as opposed to the opening liturgy during penitential seasons? Or, for Bible reading, why did the lectionary writers include that Gospel passage alongside this story from the Old Testament? The individual items have their own meaning, but their significance is altered and enhanced when placed nearer something else.

This week is no exception as we have not one, but two, feast days to celebrate: Monday was the Feast of Mary Magdalene and today (Thursday) is the Feast of St. James. Rather than trying to write two separate posts within the same blog entry, I think it is beneficial to look at both feast days simultaneously, in juxtaposed harmony, you might say. So, allow me to ask the question which we will seek to answer below: “What happens when you put James next to Mary?”

In Context

In Mary and James, we have two apostles with intimate firsthand experiential knowledge of Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. According to John 20, Mary Magdalene was the first witness of the resurrection. In a time and place where the account of a woman was always inferior to the testimony of a man, Jesus appeared first to Mary in the Garden. She had trekked to the tomb only to find it empty and while understandably upset, she is comforted by two angels before turning to see Jesus…only she thinks he is the gardener!  

Side note: We could get off on a serious tangent here, but how amazing is it that the resurrection took place in a garden and that Jesus, the new/second Adam, was first mistaken as a gardener…because He is! He is the Divine Gardener, the one with whom we are invited to walk in the cool of the day while He tends creation and invites us to participate with Him…but that is another post for another time.

Upon recognizing Jesus and embracing Him joyfully, Mary runs to the disciples to announce the resurrection. The first proclamation of resurrection, the first encounter with the risen Lord, is from Mary, an apostle.

Similarly, James, the brother of John, was with Jesus during some of the most pivotal moments of His earthly ministry. Apart from being “one of the twelve,” James was also part of the smaller trio with Peter and John. Too often, it feels, James is the forgotten member of the three, even the lesser “son of thunder” because Peter is such a huge presence in the gospels and John was the beloved disciple. We almost skip over the fact that James was the first disciple martyred for his faith.

James was there, atop Mount Tabor, as Jesus was transfigured and appeared alongside Moses and Elijah. He heard Jesus talking about His impending death; he heard Peter suggest that they build tents atop the mountain and stay there; he heard Jesus respond and tell them that they must go back down…and then he watched as Jesus set His face like flint toward Jerusalem and began the arduous journey toward the cross. James was a witness to all of these things, including the arrival of Mary with the proclamation of the resurrection, and he gave his life in defense of Jesus.

Mary and James Juxtaposed

So, what happens when we read Mary and James next to each other? At first glance it may seem like there is no connection: One was a disciple, and the other was a woman; one was part of the intimate inner circle of three while the other was at one point possessed by demons; one gave his life for Jesus while the other encountered new life bursting forth into the world in the Garden.

However, if we are really diligent and honest, the similarities between the two are overwhelmingly obvious. Mary Magdalene and James are tied together by one common thread: apostolic witness. Both James and Mary were transformed by Jesus, both of them were changed forever by their interactions with Him both before and after His death and rising. James encountered the overwhelming and awesome glory of Christ while atop Mount Tabor, and Mary experienced the same glory when she found out that she was talking to Jesus and not the gardener.

They were both sent out from those high, holy places as apostles and witnesses. We might celebrate Mary’s restoration of body and mind on her feast day, remembering how she was once afflicted and is no more, but her feast day is really a moment to cherish and remember her as the one who ran forth to declare the good news of resurrection. She did not stay in the Garden with Jesus…she went, and she announced, and she lived a life transformed based on this gospel joy.

The Feast of St James may be a time to commemorate his martyrdom, but it is the events which led to His death upon which we ought to reflect. James was not killed in a vacuum; we have to move backward from Herod’s decision to kill James in Acts 11 all the way until we get to a seaside scene when Jesus calls out to two brothers while fishing, and they drop their nets to come and follow Him. James followed Jesus from that seaside, through the Transfiguration, unto Jesus’ death and resurrection, and ultimately his own.

Mary and James provide for us two tangible, living pictures as to what it means to be disciples of Jesus and citizens of the Kingdom. Neither stayed put when they had the chance; both opted to go forth and proclaim the Good News; and both devoted their lives (and deaths) to the proclamation of the Risen Lord.

 

A Sonnet for Pentecost

Let your Spirit fall on your people once again,
Enable and exalt the praise of our corporate, “Amen.”
Fill our hearts and minds with your unending power,
That with adoration and thanksgiving you we shower.
Fulfilling the promises of prophetic days gone by,
Sent from the Godhead seated in the throne on high,
Ever active, ever moving, ever giving life
Guiding the Church as comforter and midwife.
Our hearts burn with a good and holy desire,
To see your flame and be kindled by your fire.
Anoint and sanctify us that we might know your will
Your presence is sufficient, then and still.
You are welcome here, you are welcome in this place;
Come, O Holy Spirit, bless us with thy gift of grace
 

I like the rich theology of the appointed Collect and Proper Preface for the Feast of Pentecost found in the Book of Common Prayer. However, I felt inspired to offer up a slight variation to be used in either one of those places. As with any Preface/Collect I compose, you could also use this prayer—should you so desire—as an opening preface or closing collect for the Prayers of the People.

Come Holy Spirit!

We praise you O God, who on this day did sent your Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost giving birth to the church. You opened up the gates of eternal life to all people: slave and free, male and female, young and old, Jew and Gentile. Empower us to share your Gospel to peoples of all nations, tribes, and tongues. Grant that we may be anointed afresh by your Spirit, equipped for your ministry, led into all truth, and consecrated for service in your Kingdom, and all for your glory.

This post was first published on January 23, 2019 for Church of the Apostles Anglican, Kansas City. 

On January 25th, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The readings for the day are Psalm 67, Acts 26:9-21, Galatians 1:11-24, and Matthew 10:16-22. Below is a blog post written by The Rev. Porter Taylor about the feast day.

The Collect: O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


In the list of prominent New Testament figures, Paul surely occupies one of the top spots after Jesus and Mary, the mother God. He is known for his conversion on the road to Damascus, for his missionary travels, for his time spent in prison, and for his prolific writing. He is referred to as “the Apostle Paul,” “St. Paul,” or “Paul, Apostle of the Crucified Lord,” but what does this all really mean?

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. The lessons understandably center on Saul’s conversion while traveling to Damascus as part of his ongoing efforts to persecute Christians but they do so from the perspective of Paul at the end of his ministry. Saul, as you’ll recall, was a Pharisee, a Pharisee of Pharisees (Acts 23) and a Jew of Jews. We first encounter him in Acts 7 as he stands watch over the stoning of Stephen. Next, we hear of Saul’s persecution of the church: he was ruthless and intense, even to the point of going to the High Priest and requesting letters (i.e. authority) stating that he could imprison all members of The Way and bring them to Jerusalem.

And so it happened, one day, as Saul was traveling to Damascus…

Saul meets Jesus on the road. In a blinding light—but truly an eye-opening encounter—Saul hears the voice of the Crucified and Risen Lord asking him, “Why do you persecute me?” This is the moment that changes Saul’s life forever. Years later, before King Agrippa, Paul recounts this event and outlines how everything he has done since that encounter with Jesus was in obedience to the Gospel. He preached in Damascus, Jerusalem, Judea, and then to all Gentiles. The Gospel spread like wildfire because the Holy Spirit anointed and empowered men and women like Paul to take their stories public and draw others to Jesus.

Conversion is always a two-part movement: you must be converted from something and you must be converted to something. Saul is converted from his persecution of Jesus and his followers, and Saul is converted to the Gospel of Jesus, the Good News of YHWH in Christ. Saul is blind for three days but is healed, anointed, baptized, and then begins preaching to the ends of the earth.

Paul begins his letter to the Galatians by establishing his authority to preach: this authority is grounded first and foremost in a revelation of Jesus (read: road to Damascus) and second in his time spent in Jerusalem with Peter and the other apostles. Paul is telling the Galatians, “You can trust me and what I say!” Remember, Paul was formerly Saul, and his reputation was well-known and well-earned. Many in the early centuries of the church were preaching their own gospel rather than Christ crucified; Paul points to his encounter with Jesus and his time with the apostles to help the Galatians know that he was preaching the true gospel. Perhaps we should point to Jesus rather than ourselves in our own lives…

Paul is tangible proof that God’s faithfulness to this covenant promises with Israel extends fully to the Gentiles as well. Put another way, in Paul we see that through Israel the whole world will be blessed just as YHWH promised Abraham way back in Genesis. God’s faithfulness has always been to a specific people but also through a specific people unto all of creation. This is what Psalm 67 is trying to show us: all the peoples of the world will know of God’s goodness because that has always been the plan. The people of God are a people of blessing through whom the world is blessed and brought into the family.

We are sent out ones as well, friends. Our own stories of conversion may not be recorded in Scripture with such specificity and wonder as Saul-now-Paul, but I promise you that your story can be found within The Story. We have been called from our old lives and called to Jesus. Our faith is grounded in our encounter with God, our reception of apostolic faith from those who have gone before us, and it is worked out most concretely in service to and on behalf of the world. Giving our faith away to others is at the same time both an act of pure generosity and a profound way of strengthening what we believe.

The celebration of Paul’s conversion today is an invitation to remember our personal conversion to God and His kingdom and an urgent call to do as Paul did: remain obedient to the Gospel and proclaim it to the ends of the earth. Freely have we been given, and so freely should we give to the world God created and for whom He is in the business of restoration, reconciliation, and redemption.

This post was first published on January 16, 2019 for Church of the Apostles Anglican, Kansas City.

On January 18th, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter. The readings for the day are Psalm 23, Acts 4: 8-13, 1 Peter 5:1-4, and Matthew 16:13-19. Below is a blog post written by The Rev. Porter Taylor about the feast day.

The Collect: Almighty Father, who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


“But who do you say that I am?”

Jesus and his followers had traveled across the Sea of Galilee (again) and travelled some 30 miles north to a city that was home to both Roman and Greek places of worship. The first question Jesus asks regards who the people think He is. The answers are flattering, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets,” but they are wholly incomplete. This list represents significant figures in Israel’s history, but they are only those who pointed to YHWH and His coming kingdom.

Jesus presses in a little further by making it personal. Who do you say that I am? This question comes on the heels of miracles (feeding the 5,000 and the 4,000), divine healings, and the Sermon on the Mount. The disciples have witnessed firsthand that what Jesus is doing something significant, and Peter’s answer is proof that Jesus is far more than a prophet or forerunner. Jesus is the one who has been prophesied, He is the Kingdom come, He is the Messiah for whom Israel has long been waiting.

Within the context of Matthew’s Gospel then, this story represents a significant shift in the narrative: Jesus’ Galilean ministry seems to draw to a close and His movement toward Jerusalem—and ultimately the Cross—begins to move forward without pause. In fact, it is just a few verses later in the chapter that Jesus tells the disciples that He will be killed and raised again only to be rebuked by Peter! Matthew is giving us a hint, I believe, that Jesus’ identity as “Christ, Son of the Living God,” is directly and irrevocably tied to His crucifixion.

The poetic beauty, if we may call it that, in this whole story is that the revelation of Jesus as Christ, and His statement that the “Gates of Hades shall not prevail” against His Church, takes place in the city where the Romans and Greeks believed the gates of hell to be located. The Cave of Pan was situated in Caesarea Philippi, and within the cave was a bottomless water source believed to be the gates of Hades. Jesus’ statements take on whole new meaning when read in this light: outside of a temple of worship dedicated to a god of the underworld, outside of the cave believed to be the gates of hell, Jesus announces that the church built upon the rock of Peter’s confession shall never be prevailed against. This is not some vague or random spiritual abstraction by Jesus but is a pointed, intentional, and bold claim against all Roman and Greek theological beliefs.

Peter’s ministry is forever shaped by this interaction, as is the course of Church history. The lessons from Acts and 1 Peter assigned for the day demonstrate that Peter continued to boldly proclaim the Gospel of God in Christ and to build up the church. Peter’s example to us is certainly one of bold faith and Gospel proclamation, but even more than that, he shows us Jesus is the source and content of our faith and gospel. It may seem too simple an idea for such a significant day in the church, but the Confession of Saint Peter should point us first and foremost to Jesus. Before we can talk about unity or caring for the flock, we must first see Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Cornerstone, and the source of salvation for all.

The rock of our faith is not the Cave of Pan or the mountain at whose feet Caesarea Philippi is settled, nor is the person of Peter. The rock of our faith is the confession of Jesus as Messiah…everything else in our faith is built upon this one foundation. Peter’s exhortation to the church in the epistle makes sense as the outflow of this truth: tend the flock. Jesus’ reinstatement of Peter after his triplet of denials is full of sheep and shepherd imagery: feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep. Peter’s role within the church, his faith as lived out amongst Jews and Gentiles, flows from his understanding of Jesus as Messiah and shepherd. Our faith must do the same!

Peter urged the church to shepherd the flock, just as he was shepherding the flock, until the day when the True Shepherd of Israel returns. When Jesus is the Christ, we are but stewards of His people, caretakers of His church, and Gospel-messengers in His world. Our unity as Church of the Apostles and as part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church is nothing more or less than Jesus.

Who do you say that Jesus is? The question is posed to each of us, both individually and corporately, just as Jesus turned and asked His disciples while walking through Caesarea Philippi centuries ago.

How is your faith informed and energized by your answer to that question? These are things we are invited to ponder on this Feast Day as we strive to answer with the same boldness as Peter…