Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear you,
To receive your Spirit,
To be led by your Spirit.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
We are drawn again into retreat. In some ways we may wonder just how many retreats a person needs to attend. After all, isn’t there work to do? What about service, who cares for the practical workings of the Kingdom of God? If we pause to read the gospel narratives between the lectionary readings, we discover Jesus back among the crowds, healing the lame, the maimed, the blind and mute, and then providing a meal for the multitude who gathered. We discover Jesus in conversation with religious leaders, and then offering spiritual direction to his close followers. It is to this deeper work with these early followers to Jesus now turns his attention as he takes them on retreat in the northern reaches of the Herman Mountains, some thirty miles north of Capernaum.
Jesus knows who he is and the purpose of his coming into our world. It is time for the disciples to engage in knowing, and the great struggle this knowing will entail. Time apart with God in retreat places us outside of the customary structures, the norms we live by.
The mountain solitude invites presence and dialogue – with one’s soul, and with God.
Jesus invites just this kind of conversation as he begins by asking, “Who do people say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13) This question is not hard to answer; there was an ongoing buzz among the people as to who Jesus was: “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets,” the disciples report.
Now Jesus asks a deeper question: “But who do you say that I am?” Who am I for you?
Pause now and allow yourself to be on this mountainside. Feel the breeze and the cool mountain air. Hear Jesus asking you, “Who do you say that I am? Who am I for you?”
. . . . . . . . . . Silence. Reflection.
Finally we hear Simon Peter’s answer: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus responds to this disciple by not only drawing attention to what he has said, but to how he knows. Jesus moves past Simon Peter’s words of confession to the deeper reach of his soul: “Blessed are you, Son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.” We cannot know who Jesus truly is unless God reveals this to us. This kind of knowing is not book knowledge, nor public hearsay, but rather is a gift given to us, a blessed gift of knowing brought about by the presence and work of God’s Spirit within us. This is a knowing within the soul, a knowing which our mind agrees to, often with mental struggle.
It is this kind of knowing—this work of God’s Spirit within revealing to us who Jesus truly is – that becomes the rock on which Jesus says he will build his church. It is this gift of knowing infused with trust and faith which unlocks and gates of all that stands against God and sets the captives free.
It is this kind of knowing which brings freedom, and which brings us into the community of faith – the binding together of all who receive this gift of knowing, of believing.
Pause again now, and reflect on your own experience of freedom from the captivity of all that stands against God, and of the experience of being brought into the community of all who believe, the family of those who know Jesus.
. . . . . . . . . Silence. Reflection.
This kind of knowing is not a one-time experience, no matter how gradual or sudden our experience of saying “yes” to Jesus is. Rather, this knowing is a journey of surrender throughout life as we day by day offer ourselves—our bodily selves in this world now—to God (Romans 12:1-8) and so find our place and purpose within the body of Christ.
Hence the retreat. This time apart the disciples remember later, after Jesus death, burial, and resurrection. Gradually the pieces make sense, in time they know more deeply who Jesus is and what his life and death and resurrection are about. They know who they are, and God’s call and purpose for their lives in the world. (Romans 12:1-8)
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
- 8/15 Monday: Matthew 16:13-15
- 8/16 Tuesday: Matthew 16:16-20
- 8/17 Wednesday: Psalm 138
- 8/18 Thursday: Romans 12:1-8
- 8/19 Friday: Exodus 1:1-15
- 8/20 Saturday: Matthew 16:13-15
- 8/21 Sunday: Matthew 16:16-20