Pentecost 13, 2023

Frederick Dale Bruner wrote a very good commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew which I have recommended elsewhere. He divides it into two volumes, the first he entitled “The Christ-Book” and the second he called “The Church-book.” This week we come to the passage from which he took this name, Matthew 16:13-20 in which Jesus speaks of a rock on which He will build His Church. Of course for Lutherans this is a bit of an uncomfortable verse. It is emblazoned in glittering letters around the dome of St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. It was the funding scheme for that building which prompted Luther’s theses on indulgences in 1517. It would be Catholicism’s interpretation of this passage in reference to the pope and papal authority, particularly over the binding and loosing of sins, which would occasion much of the ensuing conflict between the Lutherans and Catholics.

But the Lutheran preacher today really needs to be aware that this is not a burning issue for our people. Perhaps it should be and I suppose one could preach toward that end, but I don’t recommend that. I think the controversy serves to obscure Jesus’ words about the Church and his mechanism for building. Is it the confession of Peter on which He builds upon or is it Peter upon which He builds the church? The confession without a confessor makes no sense and without a confession, a confessor is an unding. Jesus builds a church which is based on people witnessing/confessing Christ to a world in rebellion. Be one of those confessors today. Loose the sins of a sinner, confess that Christ has died and risen for that sin and that sinner. Preach to that end.

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