Twenty-First Sunday of the Year Isaiah 22: 19-23; Romans 11: 33-36; Matthew 16: 13-20
“How rich are the depths of God, how deep his wisdom and knowledge, and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods. Who could ever know the mind of the Lord?”
At first sight, these verses of St Paul appear to isolate humanity from any communion with a God who lies so far beyond our limited understanding. When we set these verses against the whole of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, we enter into the wonder of this hidden God calling us into communion through his Son Jesus Christ.
“Glory to him who is able to give you the strength to live according to the Good News I preach, and in which I proclaim Jesus Christ, the revelation of a mystery kept secret for endless ages, but now so clear that it must be proclaimed everywhere.” (Romans 13: 25ff)
Throughout the scriptures, salvation is understood as an ongoing dialogue in which a gracious God calls a sinful world into communion with himself. Jesus understood himself as called and sent by the Father. In a similar way, all the baptised are called and sent by the Father. The way in which we respond, however, differs. This is reflected in Isaiah’s account of the dismissal of Shebna, the steward of Jerusalem’s royal household.
“I dismiss you from your office, I remove you from your post.”
As the chief steward, Shebna had controlled all access to the royal household. He was dismissed by the Lord because he had used his office for his own benefit, rather than that of the people he served.
The calling of Eliakim to replace Shebna described what is demanded of all who would become servants of the Kingdom of God.
“I call on my servant Eliakim. I invest him with your robe, entrust him with your authority; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the house of Judah.”
St Matthew’s account of the calling of Peter reflects the same pattern. A calling to serve God becomes a calling to serve his people. Peter had been called to proclaim his faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. Through that faith he had been enabled to become the pastor of all God’s people, unlocking for them the joys of God’s kingdom.
“You are Peter and on this rock I shall build my church. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”
May we so live our lives as to become those who unlock for others the joy of God’s presence.