Sermon Notes: 21st Ordinary, Year A

Text: Matthew 16:13-20



In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

I love books. I have lots of books. My Study is overrun with books. My Study is overrun, frankly, with the detritus of parishLife, to the extent that you often can’t see the floor.



So this week, Lou and I embarked on a task equivalent to the cleaning of the Augean Stables when we reordered my study.


Lots of books, millions of words of theology, of piety, of devotion.  Among those books I found two volumes of a set I had started to collect when I was at theological college. It is a serious volume for a serious subject: Christ in the Christian Tradition. It is about the theological speciality of Christology: the academic study of ‘who do you say that I am’.


This major work by Grillmeier is incomplete on my shelves. It is, when I started looked for other parts, incomplete. Not only are major parts of this book out-of-print, but the life’s work of the Jesuit Aloys Grillmeier is incomplete.


All those words. Millions of words. And the answer is still not complete.


Who do you say that I am?


From the deliberation of theologians to the response of simple fishermen, from the Ivory Towers to the very pews of this Church…


Who do you say that I am?


It is not an academic question at all, but a personal and direct question.


Who do you say that I am?


A question asked directly of Peter and asked directly of you. And you. And you.


Who do you say that I am?


All of those books can only answer in part. The thoughts of Grillmeier, of the Church Fathers, of the Saints, of the Gospels, of Schillebeeckx, of Barth, of Hans Urs Von Balthazar do not really give an answer. The answer, the only answer, the answer that Christ is only truly interested in is YOURS.


Yours alone. Peter answers for himself. You answer for yourself.


Who do you say that I am?


How do you respond to this simple, direct, unrelentless, unavaoidable question.


Who do you say that I am?


Saint Thomas, after doubting, responded with “My Lord and My God”. But blessed are those who believe without seeing.


Who do you say that I am?


It is a question that will not go away.


Who do you say that I am?


CS Lewis wrote in his great apologetic work Mere Christianity:


I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ This is one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”


Who do you say that I am?


Its response has shaped Continents, Countries, Lives.


Its response has done untold good, and unspeakable bad in its name.


Who do you say that I am?


It has transformed people, made Saints, given US here in this community, life and vitality.


Who do you say that I am?


“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”


My Study is a metaphor for my life: disorganised, cluttered, jumbled and haphazard – blown from one extreme to the next, seeking order and peace.


Christ is within that clutter, amidst that mound of books, underneath that chaos. He is there in the midst of my life, work and witness and he shines through.


I will never complete that collection of Christ in the Christian Tradition simply because the answer is not yet complete in this world.


But Christ is complete.


Who do you say that I am?


“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”