Binding and Loosing
 — Rev. Phil Hobson

August 27, 2017

Matthew 16:13-20

Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.

Jesus will found his church upon this rock, a pun on the name he has given Peter. And the keys to the kingdom of heaven will be given to Peter, and what is bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and what is loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven.

The images of keys and binding and loosing here have their roots in Jewish ideas about the authority to teach. So to the rock on which the church is built is given the authority to teach about what the kingdom of heaven is.

And the reason Peter is given these keys and this authority is that he understands who Jesus is. Peter says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Binding and loosing in terms of teaching is about how we interpret scriptures. And every generation must interpret scriptures in light of two things: what are the needs of the day and how is Jesus the Messiah in this moment, in this situation?

And binding and loosing here are not exactly the same as when the gospels speak of a woman, bent over, bound by infirmity, and Jesus says “Woman, you are freed!,” or in older language “your bondage has been loosed.”

But if Jesus is the Messiah, if Jesus is the Son of the living God, if Jesus is the word of God made flesh, then the binding and loosing in interpreting scriptures and teaching must have something to do with the binding and loosing that Jesus does.

And that means that how we interpret scripture has to answer the question of whether or not it frees people from their infirmities, lifts them from their despair, forgives them of their sin, and frees them to live the life of a restored and redeemed human being, created in the image and likeness of God, loved as only God can.

And I know that the moment I say interpreting scripture I get in trouble with some of my more conservative Christian siblings. As if there were a pure and holy way of reading scripture, and there were interpreting which is making it say whatever we want it to say. But to be honest, there is no one holy and pure way of reading scripture. Every reading, every translation, every teaching or preaching of scripture is also interpretation.

This is nothing new. From the first instance of the Ten Commandments in Exodus to their reappearance in Deuteronomy there are already changes to meet a new day. In Exodus, we are told:

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

When they appear in Deuteronomy, we are told:

Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

In Deuteronomy, “field” gets added and mentioned specifically. Already we had “or anything else that belongs to your neighbor,” which surely covers fields. But it gets a deliberate add in Deuteronomy. Why?

In Exodus, the people are nomads, they are wanderers, they pasture their animals together. In other words, they have no fields. Fields are not an issue. But by Deuteronomy, they are going to be a settled people, with houses and crops and land. Now one of the biggest parts of their property will be their fields.

It is the same commandment, do not covet. It could even be said to already apply to fields because it says, “or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”

But in a new day, under new circumstances, a new emphasis must be made.

So what is the emphasis we need in our day? What part of the Good News of God that we find in Jesus Christ do we need to make known for people today, especially in a day when we are missing an entire generation in church?

Have we bound the church so tightly with tradition and focusing inwards that maybe we have forgotten to go out to the highways and the hedges?

Have we loosed the discipline of being a follower of Jesus so much that it either resembles the agenda of political parties or it places no claim on taking care of others, especially the least of these in our midst?

Or are we ready to find ways of walking each day in a faith that says,

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

But such an inclusivity goes against a handful of obscure passages in the Old and New Testaments! Yes, it does, but it fulfils so many more of Jesus’ teachings.

But such a new way of Being the Church is uncomfortable? Yes it is, but does Jesus comfort, or salvation?

But we’ve never done it that way before!

True. But neither had the disciples in the Gospels until Jesus got a hold of them.

Who do we say that Jesus is?

And are we willing to make that the center of all that we do?

Thanks be to God.