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Saint Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church

An Episcopal Church in the Anglo-Catholic Tradition Where All Are Welcome

The Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle
18 January 2009

A Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Dr Andrew C. Blume

Almighty Father, who didst inspire Simon Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God: Keep thy 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 liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Acts 4:8-13
Psalm 23
1 Peter 5:1-10
Matthew 16:13-19

Last week Father Harding reminded the people of this parish church that baptism means something, that Jesus baptism means something, that our baptism means something. Each and every one of us who has passed through the waters of baptism has died and been reborn into a new and beautiful family. Each of us is changed from an individual, only child of God, into a sister or brother in Christ. Baptism changes us and makes us new, conforming us for a life of ministry—not as individuals, but as part of a family, part of a community.

This Sunday and next we mark two major feasts that always fall eight days apart. Today we celebrate the Confession of Saint Peter and next week we will observe the so- called Conversion of Saint Paul. The week bridging the two commemorations has for many years been known as the Octave of Christian Unity and, indeed, that is why we made (and will make again next Sunday) our procession to the rood to pray for reconciliation among our brothers and sisters in Christ, our brothers and sisters by baptism. Indeed we all are one as we share one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all. We remember not our differences, but our oneness as the body of him who came among us as the babe, was baptised in the Jordan by John, and who died and rose again so that death may not hold us captive. Rather, we all have become one in love because of all that Christ accomplished, we have become one in Christ.

Indeed, this is the important thing to remember about our unity, about what it means to be church. When Jesus died, he did not leave a book, or a creed, or a confession (yes we have all those things, but they are not what make us one). No, Jesus left a community of people whose lives were changed by him. We are that one body, we are that one family, we are that one community whose nature and purpose is the same as God’s purpose, which is the incarnation in this moment, here and now and to the end of ages, of the love of God at work in the world reconciling all things to our Creator.

This past week has been difficult—to say the least—for our common life. It has been one of great sorrow and unspeakable loss. All those emotions we have felt in the wake of Nicholas’ death have been real and profound and indicate that where there is so much love, there can be much pain in seeing it lost.

And yet, my brothers and sisters in Christ, my dear kinsfolk through baptism, I have seen the church at work doing what we can do at our best. This institution, built upon that rock, that Peter, has acted and been seen and heard in your action, in your outpouring of love, in your overwhelming expression of God’s presence. You, my dear friends, have shown God present in this place, in these hours and in these days. The church has been at work carrying out its mission of showing forth the Incarnation, Emmanuel, God with us.

All I can say is that Catholic Christians know how to do church (and not just liturgy!). We know how to be Christ’s body moving and acting in the world, know how to express and show forth the love that drew the unnamed woman to pour costly oil over Jesus’ head before his crucifixion (Mark 14:3-9). Like this woman from Mark’s Gospel who broke “an alabaster flask of ointment, of pure nard, very costly ... and poured it over his head,” you have shown forth God’s love abundantly and in a moment of great pain to help us all know and feel and believe that our work, our ministry, our lives, our faith are all real and not in vain. Jesus said that “wherever the Gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” And so of you, what you have done, your outpouring of love will be told in this community memory of you.

Jesus left the world, not a book, but rather he left you and me and the countless throngs of Christians before us. Jesus left a community, left a family and told us how to gather and share a meal in which he would always be present with us so we might go forth into the world, changed into his body and show forth his light, his love. I can not say how honoured and humbled I am to have been called into this community, this part of the body of Christ, this member so full of compassion and love. I hope and pray that in the days and weeks and months ahead we can continue to have a heart and voice and limbs and be a body worthy of Nicholas, Saint Peter, and all the saints who now stand “before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, ... crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9b). Amen.

Andrew C. Blume+
Aboard British Airways Flight 7001 from Orly to JFK
Feria, 15 January 2009

©2009 Andrew Charles Blume