Sermon by His Eminence Dr. David Smith, DD on Holy Synod

Homily The Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul 29 June, 2019

  • In Nomine.
    Today, celebrating the teachings, witness and heavenly birthday of the
    foundational apostles Peter and Paul, the church calls her children, urging
    them t o ‘ s tand firm ‘ on the one rock that is Jesus her Lord, to be led into all
    truth by the guiding Spirit and with Peter to know with surety that we as an
    Easter people are delivered from the bonds that hold us back and are placed
    on the firm ground of the catholic upbuilding within the one body of Christ
    erected on the platform of the apostles. It is truly fortuitous that our liturgical
    celebrations during this Holy Synod reach tomorrow a meaningful climax as
    we remember the saving blood of our Lord that makes us a people of peace
    Colossians 1 . 20 and today as we contemplate the firm foundational rock of the
    Petrine ministry. In the church, we are blessed with a dual witness – the
    apostolic ministry with the traditions flowing out from it and with the Spirit
    guiding us into all truth. Yet, in her tattered history, the Church has, as it
    were, slept imprisoned, bound by the chains of world weariness, guarded by
    the zeitgeist favouring the tinsel charms of nominal worldly success. How
    different is her authentic call! It is always a counter-cultural manifesto that
    must witness to the suffering of God that alone saves his people, that
    demands that we share in this salvific suffering, that points us toward the
    road less travelled, toward the burgeoning light of the glory yet to be
    revealed, towards the unfolding yet unrecognized kingdom of the Father.
    Holy Church is called to nourish, to build up, to exercise oversight in ways
    that know no constraint but per contra enable the grace-driven upbuilding of
    the body of her Lord in love, in hope, in joy, in peace. She knows not
    lordship for she serves the one and only Lord and Master. As an example to
    her flock and in union with them she awaits in hope the appearing of her
    chief Shepherd. She does this by coming face to face with her Lord, by being
    transported as it were to Caesarea Philippi there to answer his probing
    question ‘ Who do you say that I am? ‘ This is no mere academic inquiry
    requiring chapter and verse proof! It is rather a demand to immerse our
    ministry, proclamation and work in the vineyard within the depths of the
    waters of divine revelation, to authentically realize this in lives of loving selfoblation,
    in a willingness to be built-up by Christ the master builder. Only
    when we can begin to do this will the gifts of the keys, the right to bind and
    to loose, make any pastoral sense as loving acts of tending and feeding the 2
    Master’s lambs, of becoming true followers who like their Lord and Master
    have nowhere to lay their heads. Luke 9 . 58 Thus, we who have answered the
    royal call must weigh the cost of discipleship and be prepared to make an
    accounting of our stewardship before him. Do you love me? Feed my sheep!
    We stand today with Peter and Paul before the Lord allowing our work
    in his vineyard to be the answer to the probing divine question. We stand in
    union with Moses’ encounter with the LORD as he led his flock beyond the
    wilderness to Horeb to the mount of God. Exodus 3 We stand before the
    Burning Bush of the Lord’s call that is allied to his promise of worship-driven
    covenant relationship, a promise leading to blessing. We stand barefoot at a
    certain distance upon holy ground. We stand with one significant difference –
    for God does not identify Himself, rather we must in faith identify Him
    proclaiming that good news of salvation to all that we meet for our God is
    with us, He has brought us to worship at his holy mountain. This Exodus
    motif is surely one of the great master motifs of holy writ! Yet it is not an end
    in itself : rather it remains a mid-point of the salvific journey that is never a
    ‘ quick-fix ‘ solution to our problems. What did Abram hear but this
    ‘ Go from your country and your kindred and your Father’s house
    to the land that I will show you.

  • I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you,
    and make your name great, so that you may be a blessing. ‘ Genesis 12
    Brothers in Christ, we have left the Haran of our former religious affiliations,
    we have travelled in search of that land chosen by the Lord, in search of his
    blessing that we might in turn become a blessing for others. We know all too
    well that the process of conquering and settling our promised land is itself a
    great challenge. We now experience this faith journey as a face to face
    encounter with the living God, an immersion in the depths of the divine plan
    that reveals God as koinonia, as fellowship, as community. Here in the depths
    of the being of God expressing unity in trinity we find the model upon which
    we place our lesser hopes embodied in holy Church, ours especially in the
    specific mission of those called to Holy Orders as a sub-set of the greater
    mission expressed as the priesthood of all believers. What is this task but to
    continue the works that He did – the moving of the hearts and minds of
    believers, and of those coming to belief, towards the spiritual realities behind
    the ancient works of God and the great deeds of our Lord Jesus, towards the
    the saving sovereignty of God who wills not the death of a sinner but rather 3
    that he turn from his ways and live. Ezekiel 18 . 23 These wonders wrought
    from the deep and never-ending well that is God’s love for his creation were
    in time actualized in the person of our Lord Jesus, and now continue in the
    Spirit’s ministry. They are that unconditional love which should be for us a
    certainty, for as Paul wrote so magnificently to the Romans 8 .38, 39
    ‘ I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels,
    nor rulers nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
    nor height, nor depth,nor anything else in all creation, will be able to
    separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ‘

  • This is the love that sustains us even ‘ to the end ‘ until ‘ all is accomplished. ‘
    cf. John 13. 1 and 19 .30 This Christ the Son of the living God came to display in
    our flesh that we might therein find a fullness of life that reveals eternity in
    the knowledge of the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.
    John 17 . 3 This Peter confessed, this Paul taught, this we uphold presenting it
    to a world as a dynamic relationship with the Source of all life. This good
    news is our raison d’etre, our charter as a new body of believers within the

  • This act of confession stimulated by divine revelation that gave Peter
    and Paul their unique status and enduring place in holy Church led in them
    and must so lead in us to obedience to the truth and a purification of our souls
    that the author of 1 Peter describes as ‘ girding up the loins of the mind ‘1 . 13
    and a ‘ setting of hope on the grace which is being conveyed at the revelation
    of Jesus Christ. ‘ The result of this act of being born afresh in the waters of
    baptism points to the truth – God’s self revelation in the gospel, which we
    must reveal to the world as ‘ sincere love of our brothers, ‘ love for the
    brethren expressed ‘ strenuously from the heart. ‘ 1 . 22ff Will we in our
    ministry through faith be able to effect and maintain our witness as ‘ a people
    of God’s possession … a chosen race, a royal possession ‘ firmly established
    on Christ the cornerstone or will we become ‘ a stone to trip men up, a rock
    to stumble over ‘? 1 Peter 2 . 7 – 10 We Christians have indeed a surpassingly
    glorious vocation as our inheritance, a vocation that we must use for
    upbuilding, for growth unto salvation far more than a tool to work for
    institutional security, as important as this is and must be for us! This vocation
    the author of 1st Peter 2 . 2 describes as a ‘ craving ‘ for the milk of the word,
    thus a passion for souls nourished, for feeding of the Master’s flock. As
    leaders upon whom the Spirit rests, we are responsible to Christ, an awe- 4
    some responsibility for the up-building of this close-knit house, this spiritual
    temple fit for God the true Shepherd, served by us, his lesser shepherds, those
    who feed his people, strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the
    wounded, bring back those who stray and become lost. Ezekiel 34 We must be
    true shepherds responsible to the great Shepherd whose pasture the holy
    church is, of whose covenant of love and blessing we serve as those who
    have been pleased to empty themselves, to take the lowly form of a servant
    and to espouse obedience that we and those whom we serve may ‘ press on
    toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
    Philippians 3 . 14 All this must be nourished and sustained by an active prayer
    life, both liturgical and personal, a life that is open to the subtle motions of
    God deep within our being.

  • To know Jesus and to be known of Him dear brothers is to have
    confronted the world by turning from it towards the new Jerusalem
    descending from heaven, recognizing that we must witness to this weary
    world as at Caesarea Philippi – the kingdom of the rulers who oppose the
    reign of God and his Christ. This ancient city was sacred to the ancient
    Canaanites who there worshiped Baal. There the Romans located Philip’s
    capital, the cultic center of the god Pan, and the Gate of Hades deep within
    the Cave of Pan. Nearby was the highest mountain in Israel Hermon, adjacent
    was Tabor, both associated with the Transfiguration of Christ. There, in
    Peter’s revelation we find foreshadowed the great conflict between worldly
    power and the surpassing power and majesty present in Jesus’ incarnation, in
    his saving life that is the very Gate of Life for fallen humanity, as the visible
    presence of the God who created all, who redeemed all and will welcome all
    as their final end. In each of our lives, we must come here becoming open to
    revelation and the ministry of that revelation so that others through it may
    have life abundantly. Let us, like Peter, have confidence in the inner presence
    of God informing our lives and our ministries, setting them on fire with good
    news from God, filling them with missionary zeal for souls and enabling us
    to not count the cost of the evangelical life. However, as we work within this
    concept of Christ sharing within the Church his gifts of teaching authority,
    governance especially in the necessary process of making decisions, and in
    the ministry of forgiving sins in addition to providing moral instruction of
    which we must be living examples,we must always be conscious that these
    onerous gifts extend to the whole of his Church, the whole Church that 5
    Jesus will build on the rock of Peter. This is his Church, and we may only
    consider it to be our Church by delegation not by right. We are here to give
    stability, to work for unity, to be ministers of a love that transcends our
    meager abilities. Yet, all this flows out in the Church to the world only when
    we ‘ remain ‘ in him as a branch that needs the vine in order to bear fruit,
    when He abides in us for ‘ apart from Him we can do nothing. ‘ John 15 . 4, 5
    We minister only because He first ministered to us and has appointed us to
    this ministry, only because He enables us to share with the world his
    overwhelming compassionate love that exceeds all we can ask or imagine.
    We minister on his behalf only through the strengthening verifying Spirit
    unleashed in us. To remain in Him suggests the author of Ecclestiasticus 14.
    22 is to cultivate wisdom or perhaps to dwell in wisdom’s tent, that is, to seek
    that God may be continually born in us as the very ground of our existence,
    grunt Eckhart to enable his Image bilde to be formed in us in such a way that we
    are formed, informed and transformed from within that we may share this
    blessing without. May God in his mercy accomplish this us and keep us on
    the narrow path that leads to eternal life.
  • In Nomine.
    Based on : Acts 12 . 1 – 11
    1 Peter 5 . 1 – 4
    Matthew 16 . 13 – 19
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