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Jesus left the synagogue at Capernaum, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." He answered, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do." And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
According to a 2002 study.. there are approximately 4,200 world religions… and of those… there are only 12 “major world religions”… Christianity being the largest of the majors with some 2 billion members and Zoroastrianism the smallest of the 12 with about 150,000 members…
With such a wide variety to choose from.. this still hasn’t stopped us from pumping out even more… in the past two centuries.. the most successful new groups have been Mormonism and Scientology… but on average… in
alone.. we generate 40 – to 50 new religions every year… America
A recent article tells of a professor of world religion at Boston College… it seems that each year he assigns his class the same project… create your own religion… at the end of term… each student or group presents their religion and the rest of the class votes on which one they like best…
There is the religion Dessertism – which preaches the stomach as the way to the soul… The Congregation of Wisdom – who has Ken Jennings.. the winner of $3M on Jeopardy as their hero…. Then there is Sertaism – which stresses the importance of a good night sleep… and Zen Boozim – described as a religion of togetherness in which alcohol lubricates the pathway to self-expression and self-discovery…. The one I believe is the most telling though was Exetazo – in it.. you can take the parts of all the religions you like and make your own
In the midst of all this silliness is a rather disturbing fact… you’ll notice that they are all concerned with the “now”… As one student put it… “God is an afterthought at best.. and the afterlife is on the backburner.” – I wonder if he actually understood what he was saying… “backBURNer”…. Another wrote… “This life is the one that counts.. this IS your eternal reward.”
The professor concludes that if the “ancient” religions want to survive.. then they must change to meet the new demand.. or risk extinction…
Now… consider if you will… in the context of this current religious setting and mood the following conversation… "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"…. "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."…. But who do you say that I am?"…. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."…. "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And 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."
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.….
In the current religious mood and setting… If you were Peter… how would you respond?.... Uh.. Lord.. do we really need another religion?.. seems these all have it taken care of…? ... How about we get into internet sales… that’s where the money is…? Lord.. this sounds like a good idea…but remember… too much talk about heaven and hell will really turn folks off… got to give them what they want… what makes ‘em feel good…. .. We look at our world today and say things are much different than when Jesus first spoke about building his Church… Peter and the gang had it much easier than we do… or did they?
The little dialogue I just read to you took place in a city known as Caesarea Philippi… on the edge of the city were cliffs.. and in the cliffs the inhabitants of the city built shrines to their god… Pan… In order to entice the return of their god, Pan, each year, the people of Caesarea Philippi engaged in horrible deeds, including prostitution and sexual interaction between humans and goats.
At the foot of those cliffs was a great spring that bubbled up out of the earth… for the people in the city… this spring was a gateway to the underworld.. to Hades
Now… given that information… consider again the words of Jesus… And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock… on this place surrounded by pagan gods… I will build My church, and the gates of Hades.. that are bubbling up right in front of you… shall not prevail against it.….
Honestly… Peter and the gang did not have it any easier than we do today… they were fighting the same societal norms that we face and they overcame them all… and instead of accepting defeat in the face of so many adversities… they took what Jesus said as a promise from God.. they moved forward in great faith… and they built the Church…
Of this church St. Ambrose writes… The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church's foundation is unshakable and firm against assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress.
That was true in the time of Jesus.. of Ambrose.. and yes.. for us today as well… It was the idol Pan in the time of Peter… heretics in the time of Ambrose… and Zen Boozim today… no real difference… therefore.. like Peter… with confidence.. we should move forward with the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth and the building of his
.. while demonstrating the same great faith as Peter and the apostles… remember.. Peter was the rock upon which the Church was built… but you and I are critical to its continued construction and maintenance… Holy Church
St. Peter.. he was a witness to the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord… he may have said some unfortunate things along the way… and he may have denied Christ on the night before the crucifixion… but in the end… he became the rock Christ said he would.. and he became for us an example of true faith and commitment to the
. Kingdom of God
So often we believe that the success of the Church is based on numbers.. statistics.. number of weekly events.. amount of offering.. or even the number of cars in the parking lot. Although these things are important to measuring the work of the Church, they are not necessarily a good indicator as to whether or not the Church is carrying out the work it was commissioned by God to complete.
Take for example our Gospel reading from today… Jesus goes to
. He heals Peter’s mother-in-law.. word of him spreads.. the people bring all their sick and possessed to him.. he heals even more.. the whole city was gathered at the door waiting to see this Jesus.. witness a miracle.. be fed.. but Jesus did not stay. It wasn’t about gathering a crowd and establishing centers of worship… Instead of staying.. Jesus got up early the next morning and left… When Peter and the gang discovered he was missing they went in search of him.. they found him and asked.. where have you been… The crowd is looking for you…. Jesus’ response, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do." Capernaum
Jesus’ mission was not about the crowds.. the miracles.. the fanfare… Jesus’ mission was about the message – the message of God’s love – therefore, Jesus sets an example for us.. and that is.. our mission is not about the crowds, the parking lots, or even the offering plate… Our mission.. the thing that is the most important that God’s Church is called to do.. is to proclaim the message. Therefore, we must always be asking ourselves.. are we doing that which is most important – proclaiming the message.. or have we been sidetracked?
Consider this.. for years Glenn Adsit.. ministered in
. While there.. he came under house arrest .. one day the soldiers came and said to him and his family, “you can return to China .”… They were celebrating, when the soldiers added, “you can take two hundred pounds.” America
Well, they’d been there for years… Two hundred pounds… They got out the scales and the family arguments started…. two children, wife, husband… Must have this vase… well, this is a new typewriter… What about my books? What about this?.. and they weighed everything and took it off… and they weighed this and took it off and so on… finally… right on the dot… two hundred pounds…
The soldiers returned and asked… “Are you ready to go?”…“Yes”…“Did you weigh everything?”…“Yes”.. To Glenn they asked - “Did you weigh the kids?”… “No.. we didn’t”… “Weigh the kids.”… and in an instant… typewriter… vase… books… all of it became baggage…
When you consider the mission of the church.. ask yourself, “Did I weigh the children?... Did I consider what is most important?... Is what I am doing proclaiming the message of God’s love, or is it just baggage?”
Let us pray…. Almighty Father, who did inspire 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, that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Saviour Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.