Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 16A

Track 1: Points of Historical Inflection

Exodus 1:8-2:10
Psalm 124
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

An inflection point is a point on a mathematical graph at which a change in the direction of curvature occurs. The graph is a representation of an underlying math function. The concept of inflection points is useful in other disciplines. History, for example, has points of inflection. Things were going one way, but then an expected course is altered. The inflection point might not be easily seen, but over time and with hindsight, one might see that at a certain moment in time the course of history was altered.

The birth of Moses was an inflection point. God intervened to restore the nation of Israel. We remember that Pharaoh had ordered that all male Hebrew babies should be killed. God gave the mother of Moses the wisdom to protect her child, even though she had to give up her child to a greater good. In Exodus we read:

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”   (Exodus 2:5-10)

We remember how Moses grew up in the house of Pharaoh, how he eventually escaped from Egypt, and how God used him to returned to Egypt to lead the Hebrews out of captivity. The psalmist looked back on these events and saw the hand of the Lord in history:

If the Lord had not been on our side,
let Israel now say;

If the Lord had not been on our side,
when enemies rose up against us;

Then would they have swallowed us up alive
in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us
and the torrent gone over us;

Then would the raging waters
have gone right over us.

Blessed be the Lord!
he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;
the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth.   (Psalm 124)

God has a hand in all that occurs. He can alter the course of history at any time he desires. As we look back on our lives  are we able to see points of inflection? Times when God was there to steer the ship when we were struggling just to ride out the storm with little or no direction?

We do not always understand what he is doing, or even observe that he has intervened in our lives  or in the life of our nation. Of course, like the children of Israel, when we do see what he has done, that does not always stop us from complaining about the direction things seemed to be going in.

Are our hearts open to the greater plans of God, plans that do not always conform to our preconceived notion and plans? Are we missing God’s points of inflection?

The greatest point of inflection in human history is when the Word of God came in the flesh, taking on our human nature to live and die as one of us, so that he might reconcile us to God the Father. The course of human history was potentially changed from death to life, from darkness to light, from destruction to eternal salvation and peace.

We do not want to miss this point of inflection. It has already occurred one two thousand years ago. Yet we must embrace it today in our own lives. Otherwise, we will go on complaining about our lives and miss the greatest gift of grace from a God who loves us unconditionally. Have we accepted his love? Have we accepted his Son? It is time to change the trajectory of lives and move in God’s direction. Amen.



Track 2: The Greatest Question of All

Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm 138
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

When I was on seminary there was a movement to discover the historical Jesus. i believed the movement was called the ‘Jesus Movement.” Scholar are still playing the same game. At least they are aware of the importance of his identity and are searching for an answer.

Who Jesus is absolutely essential the the Christian faith. Jesus raised the question with his disciples:

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”   (Matthew 16:13-17)

As Christian believers we need to be aware of what people are saying and teaching about Jesus. But that is not enough. What is more important than anything else is what we say about Jesus and who we believe he is. Scripture tells us who he is, unlike many so-called biblical scholars who say they haven’t a clue. Nevertheless, the Bible testifies against them. From the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people.   (John 1:1-4)

And from Colossians:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in[i] him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.   (Colossians 1:15-20)

And from Philippians:

Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
 so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.   (Philippians 2:5-11)

The Apostle Peter, however, did not have the New Testament scriptures to read. He had a testimony directly from God the Father. Jesus said to him: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.” God the Father is still revealing his Son for those who will open up their hearts. Have we had a personal revelation from God?

Telling others who Jesus is of equal importance as knowing who Jesus is. Jesus said:

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.   (Matthew 10:32-33)

Are we ashamed to mention the name of Jesus to a fallen world? This world is decaying and falling apart. Jesus is forever. God spoke through the Prophet Isaiah

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
    and look at the earth beneath;
for the heavens will vanish like smoke,
    the earth will wear out like a garment,
    and those who live on it will die like gnats;
but my salvation will be forever,
    and my deliverance will never be ended.   (Isaiah 51:6)

We are nearer to the Day of the Lord than ever before. What is our testimony concerning who Jesus is and who he is to us?








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Filed under homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year A

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