We Have The Keys
“We Have The Keys”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 27, 2017
Readings: Isaiah 51:1-6, Psalm 138
It’s amazing how impatient we are. We want everything now. Most of the time we’re not even satisfied with now. According to Scripture, the things around us are temporary and passing away,
and yet we look to these things for the security that we are seeking, instead of establishing ourselves on what will give us hope for the future. We rush to the cities, not realizing that cities are destroying the very character of God’s creation and we are affected in the process. We get lung and all manner of health problems and this leaves us in frustration and anxiety.
In today’s lessons, especially that from the Old Testament, God tells us to “Listen to Me!” What a statement that is because most of the time when we hear God’s Word, we don’t pay attention. When we go out the door of the church, we forget what God just told us and then we wonder why life is so difficult and filled with anxiety, stress and pain. God speaks to us very clearly: “Listen to Me!” We listen to other voices. We get our security from presidents, government offices and financial institutions, but the peace they bring is only temporary. They pass away.
From Isaiah 51:1 “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug.” This tells us that we came from God and we were created in His image and likeness. This brings us hope. When God talks about the rock and the quarry, He is talking about the time when Christ will die on the cross. They will bury Him on a rock, thinking that His body will be secure there. They were debating about what might happen to His body later and they wanted to seal up His tomb so nobody could take His body. But Christ hadn’t finished what He came to do when He died. He had not yet destroyed the power of the enemy and Hades. He had not risen from the dead and conquered it, so His work was as yet unfinished. Many of the disciples were frustrated and anxious. What would happen now that He’s gone? He told them that on the third day He would come back, but they didn’t listen to what He said. They didn’t comprehend it. We, too, would think that it was the end for Him, for how can He get out of the rock? We see the rock as something stable, secure and immovable. When we bury loved ones in a cemetery, we put them in a concrete vault to secure them. But from what when they are not even there anymore? Here we’re given the encouragement that even though Christ’s body was put on a stone in the quarry and sealed by a rock, it didn’t stop Him from completing the work He had to do. On the third day, He came out of the quarry. He had gone in the midst of time to the depths of the earth to defeat the enemy, release the captives, and then He appeared to the public to say, “I have finished what I promised I would do”. Did men see it? No; they thought He was still in the tomb. How long did He stay in the tomb? I don’t know, but when the stone was rolled away and they looked inside, He was gone. He said that He went to the depths of the earth and He finished the work He came to do. He set men free. Jesus fulfilled the promises of God. The stone tomb couldn’t stop Him from fulfilling what He came to do.
I believe God wants Isaiah to share this with us so we can have hope. The situation we’re facing today may seem impossible but we don’t have to worry because God will do something. Believe and it shall be done. God has made many promises to us and yet many times, we don’t wait for Him to fulfill those promises and take it upon ourselves to solve the problem. But God is speaking to us here to give us hope and assurance. He also says, “Look to Abraham, your father”. Go back to Abraham for a moment. He was told by God that if he would leave his country and go where God wanted him to go, he would be the father of many nations. He was 70 years old when he left his country, already past the reproductive years. He believed God but his wife Sarah didn’t get pregnant; they had no children. Instead of waiting for God to fulfill His promise, his wife said, “Take my maid and have a child with her”. Abraham did as his wife asked him to and Ishmael was born. But God said, “That’s not your son. He’s not the one I’m going to use”. When Abraham was past 90, Sarah, only a little younger than he was, bore a child. Impossible, but God was fulfilling His promise to make Abraham a father of many nations. In the natural, it couldn’t be, but God shows us that if He makes a promise, He will fulfill it. It doesn’t matter what’s against you. Those things will pass away.
Abraham’s disobedience or lack of patience in waiting for God to fulfill His promise brought conflict, hatred and turmoil into the world, even to this day. From the roots of Abraham, through Isaac and Ishmael, there’s conflict even now. Muslims came from Ishmael and He said they will have conflict forever. Disobedience brings pain, yet God still fulfilled His promise to Abraham.
As I was studying this, I remembered the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 33 when God asked Ezekiel if he thinks the dry bones can live again. If God were to ask me that question, I would tell Him that I don’t believe the bones would live again. Impossible! They’re lifeless, all dried up and scattered all over the valley. But God showed us that even in such a situation, He could bring life back to those bones and they would become a mighty army.
How many times have we faced difficult situations and we thought there was no hope. God says that He will take the desert and make it into a garden like Eden. He can do it. I think I’ve shared with you about Imperial Valley in California. Ages ago, it was flooded by the ocean which made it salty and unable to grow produce. But through man’s ingenuity and God’s guidance, they were able to get rid of the salt and now what used to be a wilderness produces enough vegetables to feed the whole world – a desert becoming a garden. When we see the impossible, do we listen to the promises of God? Do we heed what He’s telling us? “Pay attention to Me, O My people. Stop looking at the negatives, at what appears to be impossible. Hear me. I won’t fail you. You are My people.” He says, “For a law will go forth from Me, and I will set My justice for a light of the peoples”. Many of today’s laws are against Christianity and the principles of God, but these laws will pass away. The law that will regulate our lives will come from God. We may have to put up with these laws for now but we don’t give up hope. God will raise up His people. He’s telling us, “Lift up your eyes to the sky.” Stop looking at the impossible. “For the sky will vanish like smoke and the earth will wear out like garment.” He talks about the earth and the sky changing, and we may think they’re going to be destroyed, but I don’t believe that’s what He’s saying. God is not a God of destruction but of restoration. He’s going to change the earth and the skies to the perfection that they were at creation. This gives us hope. God says, “My salvation will be forever”. If His salvation is forever, then you have to know that the earth will not pass away. This is God’s faithfulness.
In Romans, we read that all things are from Him and through Him and they bring Him honor, glory and praise. In the last few days we had a lot of rain. We get frustrated when it rains but the rain speaks so clearly of the greatness of God. In Scripture He says the rain that He sends will not return to Him until it has accomplished the purpose for which He sent it. He uses symbols, but you can go to a plain and see rain falling, and in a couple of days, you’ll see the rain going back to heaven because it has accomplished its purpose. I’ve seen this many times in the US. This shows us that everything coming from God always has a purpose which brings praise, honor and glory to Him. God’s wisdom is unsearchable; we cannot comprehend His judgment. Everything that exists and will ever exist comes from Him, is empowered and strengthened through Him and goes back to Him in praise and glory.
In the Gospel, Jesus and His disciples had gone to Caesarea Philippi which is outside of Israel. Here Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” He didn’t ask them this while they were in Israel because He didn’t want them to be influenced by the Jews in their reply. They said, “Some say John the Baptist, and others Elijah, but still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets”. He asked them first what people were saying about Him, not who they think He was because then they would be put on a spot. This shows us that the people around us may not think the same way we do about God, but this should not affect us. Our relationship with God should be truthful and honest, not dependent on others’ opinion.
He then asked His disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” He was testing them. Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Jesus responded with, “….flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Peter spoke out of what God told him through the Spirit. He didn’t listen to what people said; didn’t let them make him doubt who Jesus really is. He believed that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus then said to Peter, “….you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it”. He was telling Peter that from then on, he would be Peter, the rock and from what Peter had spoken, from that revelation from God will come His Church. He wasn’t talking about Peter but the revelation of who He was: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is the foundation of that revelation. We must have that same revelation because what He did was done for us, in fulfillment of the will and purpose of God from the beginning of time. Things happened in between. Man failed, the enemy became ruler of the world, but this didn’t stop God from fulfilling His plan. He sent His Son to take back what Satan had taken and bring it back to Him.
I said last week that this is the Year of Jubilee and its purpose is the restoration of all things. If I borrowed money from you and I couldn’t pay it back, you would have a right to take my property and hold it as security. But on the Year of Jubilee which is every 50 years in Hebrew timing, what was legally taken from a person will be returned to him so he can go on with his life. In taking their property from them, you’re not destroying them because that property would be restored to them in the Year of Jubilee. This indicates the character and greatness of God. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, the enemy took over for a period of time, but when Christ came, He took back what belongs to God. Everything comes from Him, is maintained through Him and goes back to Him. Even tough we rebelled against Him, He still takes care of us.
He said to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you lose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven”. In other words, He’s putting the dominion over the earth into the hands of man, as it was in the beginning when God put Adam in the garden. Did He not tell Adam to cultivate and keep it, instruct him to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue and rule over it? God has restored that through Christ and yet we still do not hold that as a righteous commandment from God. We have the keys but what are we doing with them? We use them to open the door for Christ to come into our lives. We have that power and I believe that very intensely. We can either reject what God has given us or we can open the door to receive it. The enemy will try to bring many things against us but we can be what God wants us to be – determined, faithful, committed and loyal. Bad things may come upon us but they can’t stay because God has promised restoration. We are His children; He won’t fail us. He promised that He won’t forsake us. He said He will supply our needs. He said by the stripes of Jesus, we are healed. He will fulfill His promises if we wait upon Him. It’s our choice; He has given us free will. Are we going to depend on Him or on ourselves? The keys come with responsibilities but He has given us the grace, ability and gifts to fulfill them.
The challenge comes to us in Ordinary Time: are we living out the life God has given us? Remember, the stone tomb couldn’t stop the will of God. The wilderness couldn’t take away His ability to be productive. The fact that you’re too old can’t stop you. Don’t listen to the things of the flesh and the world. Don’t let them control you and take away the hope and faith given to you. We listen to negative talk, not realizing that maybe we are the ones to conquer the impossibilities. We are more than conquerors in Christ. We can overcome the situations that hold man in bondage and fear because we have the keys. It’s time for the Church to wake up. God, through Isaiah is saying to us, “Listen to Me. Pay attention to what I’m saying. Stop listening to the other voices”.
Jesus said, “The things you bind on earth are bound in heaven”. It doesn’t mean we can be rampant with what we do with the keys. It has to be in agreement with what God has set in His will. If God said He will supply your needs, you can either deny that by moaning and groaning or borrowing, or you can hold the keys and say, “Lord, I know You promised to take care of my needs. Thank You for the supply. It will come”. Abraham was tested for 30 years before the promise of God was fulfilled. That’s a long time to wait; doubt can come in very strong while waiting. We can’t wait that long. Five minutes of waiting and we panic. But what did God promise us? What did He give His life for? Jesus said, “The things I have done, you shall do also”. This includes healing the sick, casting out evil spirits and raising the dead. He didn’t stop there. He also said we shall do greater things. Why do we allow ourselves to be limited when we have the keys; when we have so much power? Will we allow doubt by listening to other voices or will we believe God? Are we going to manifest what He gave us so that the world can see that God is real? The challenge to us in today’s readings is to look at the impossible because God will make it come to be. Let’s listen to God. I hope you read the bible everyday. Every time you read it, you’ll see something different because God speaks to us through His Word. It’s the law.
Let’s prove to the world that God is greater than their ideas. That’s why we have the keys. The world should be following us because we hold the keys to the Kingdom.