"From the Pulpit" - reflections on the weekly texts from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the LORD Jesus Christ.
Boy, how the summer has flown! Here we are a week from Labor Day weekend, and where did the time go?
I love this story! Jesus is talking to his disciples, asking them what the word on the street was about him. Who were people saying he was? What was the chatter about among the disciples' friends? No doubt, when they came home to their own families in their own settings, their friends asked them about Jesus. What was he like? Is he really who he claims to be? So you can imagine the conversations at mealtime, and in their work and leisure time.
And they tell Jesus what they were hearing on the streets. Some said they thought he was John the Baptist. Others...Elijah, the one Jews were waiting for to return and usher in the new realm of God. Some said Jeremiah, while others said they thought he could be another of the prophets. What we don't hear in these conversations is anyone thinking he's a fake, a huckster, out to feather his own next. They knew this Jesus was something special, but they weren't sure who he was really.
And then, Jesus asks his disciples...wait for it..."Who do YOU think I am?" Whoa! We weren't expecting that! Homina...homina...homina, as they might have gotten tongue-tied trying to answer Jesus' question directly and honestly. Maybe they weren't sure themselves yet who Jesus was, despite all the evidence thus far in his early ministry.
But Peter blurts out...confesses...chokes out "You are the son of the Living God, Jesus". Ding ding ding! Notice Peter didn't say, "I THINK you are the son of the Living God", or he didn't ask Jesus, "Are you the Son of the Living God?" And Jesus, evidently proud of Peter for his response, names him "Petras" in the Greek. Now, petras in the Greek actually is translated as something like "pebble", or "stone". Not rock. To me, a rock is something much larger than a stone or pebble. How about you? Petra would mean rock, but the Greek found here is petras - stone or pebble.
Now, to be fair to our Roman Catholic friends, Peter is actually the first "pope" of the church. The Rock on which the church was founded. But the Greek is "pebble" or "stone". I could get into a whole apostolic succession with Peter being the first pope, but I'll save that for a later discussion. It is a very interesting topic, by the way. Maybe sometime we can explore that.
So...stone. Pebble. Something other than a "rock". What's the difference, Pastor Greg, you might ask. Well here's the difference in my mind. Peter is a stone in the founding of the Christian church. One of many. In fact, one of billions, including you and me. Each of us has a unique place to play in the history of the church (church here meaning the people - the body of Christ, and not the buildings we might think of.)
In our middle reading for Sunday, from Romans, Paul reminds us that while there is one spirit, there are many "members" or parts, each having their own gifts to share. "So we who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members of one another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given us..." he goes on to say. In other words, the church - the body of Christ, is made up of lots of Peter's, if you will. Each of us is called to share our gifts with the world. Some of these gifts include the gifts of prophecy, of teaching, of administration, of evangelism, and more, Paul says.
And what is really neat about this, and it's the same for us regular folks, is that Peter didn't apply for this role - he was selected by Jesus himself. He had no known talents for the job. In fact, Peter would go on to deny Jesus at his most vulnerable time - as he was being tried, and executed. But Jesus saw in Peter gifts for ministry. Gifts for lifting up the body of Christ. And so it is with us. We didn't seek out being disciples of Jesus. We're not qualified on any level on our own. But Jesus calls us into service in the church. Calls us to share our gifts, our talents, our treasures to help build up, pebble by pebble, this body of Christ.
And so, think of yourselves as "rocks" or "pebbles" or "stones" on which Jesus continues to build his church in the world. Stone by stone, pebble by pebble, it continues to be built in the world. A living, organic, moving body - the body of Christ. Built on the backs of the saints who came before us, and who share their own gifts and talents, just as Peter did.
Want to know more about Peter? Read the first 6 chapters of Acts sometimes. We see how the Spirit led him to do some amazing things. Preaching to his fellow Jews showing them that the kingdom of heaven had indeed come, in the person of Jesus. Healing the sick, raising the dead, bringing the good news to the world. It's an amazing story of faith, Peter' life.
I'll say more about this on Sunday, but maybe when you hear Peter as the "rock" of the church, maybe, just maybe, also think of him, and you and me, as stones in the whole "mix" that is the church of Jesus Christ - the body of our Lord. Amen.
1. Adria Ryan's 1year anniversary is tomorrow - Join us Sunday morning as we give thanks to the ministry of Adria, our musician. We'll have her special "treat" favorite after worship - Carvel's ice cream cake. Yum!
2. Wednesday, midweek bible study resumes soon - Watch for the date when we'll restart our weekly Wednesday morning bible study. 10 am.
3. Sunday, September 10th is "God's Work, Our Hands" Sunday. You're asked to bring a home made food item - a baked good/s, chili, soup, etc. During worship, we'll bless these "gifts" and send them to our local Fire Company, who does so much to serve us and our entire community. We have volunteers ready to deliver all that we bring. So mark your calendars, bake or cook an item/s, and bring it in on Sunday, as part of "God's Work, Our Hands" Sunday. BTW, this is the 10th year for this ELCA ministry. Check it out at www.elca.org, for this and other ministries of our wider church.
4. Hawaii fires - Many of you have asked how you can help out the ongoing relief work in Hawaii. The ELCA is already on the ground there, helping to provide food, shelter, water, clothing, and more to those whose lives have been forever changed. Prayerfully consider giving to the ELCA's Disaster Response fund. Go to the ELCA website at www.elca.org, and you'll see a number of giving options on the home page.
"Sweet Hour of Prayer"
"Come All You People"