Beautiful Orthodoxy: A Sermon from Matthew 12:1-14

By Ray Cortese
Senior Pastor, 
Seven Rivers Church
November 15, 2023

“‘You know what I want? If somebody says, ‘What denomination are you in?’ and you say, ‘The PCA’ they would say, ‘I have heard of you. That is the church where the weary and wounded are welcome.'”

-Ray Cortese, A Beautiful Orthodoxy

Pastor Ray Cortese preached the opening sermon of the 42nd General Assembly of the PCA in Houston, Texas. It was a Tuesday evening in 2014 when he stepped to the pulpit to commend some of the beautiful ministry work happening in the PCA from church planting in Japan, to ministry on the campus of Jackson State, to the warm welcome of the local church. Cortese outlined a sampling of the beautiful ministry efforts happening in the PCA and expressed longing for more.

Preaching that night from the Gospel of Matthew 12:1-14, he provided three characteristics of orthodoxy expressed in beautiful ways. First he describes humility in evaluating our own lives and engaging the world in which we live. Second, he focused on the mercy shown to those in need. Finally, the willingness and need to rest as a mark of orthodoxy – especially for people prone to self-validation.

The sermon resonates well today as a reminder that our orthodoxy (right belief) must shape lives that communicate, serve, and care for our neighbors. Cortese laces helpful illustrations throughout his sermon. Particularly moving was the historical illustration of Juneteenth given the geographical proximity of Galveston Bay to the Houston Convention Center where we all gathered that night. The illustrations continue to range from Cortese’s own life (struggle to rest), ministry within the PCA (Kara Tippetts, Second Presbyterian in Memphis), and quotes or stories from a wide range of authors (C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Pope Francis, Gordon Macdonald, Rosaria Butterfield).

It’s a sermon that challenges us to hold to orthodoxy by acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

— Joel St. Clair, Pastor, Mosaic Silver Spring

Listen to A Beautiful Orthodoxy

Ray Cortese is a native of Miami, Florida, and a 1983 graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA.  He has been the pastor of Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church, located in Lecanto, Florida (70 miles north of Tampa) since it began in 1984.  An important part of the ministry of SRPC is Seven Rivers Christian School, begun in 1988, fully accredited serving families and students from Pre K3 thru 12th grade.

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