12th Pentecost-A/Aug. 27, 2017/Community Lutheran/Pr. Joe Vought
Romans 12:1-8 Matthew 16:13-20
Jesus has moved north of Galilee. He is alone with his disciples near Caesarea Philippi, a city built to honor Caesar, who the Romans believed was god. There were also many temples in that region to Greek and pagan gods. Jesus asks, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Disciples answer, “Some say, John the Baptist or Elijah, Jeremiah or others.” Then Jesus gets personal: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter has a flash of divine insight, “You are the Messiah, Son of the living God.” Jesus says, “Blessed are you, Simon!” Peter tells Jesus who He is, then Jesus tells Peter who he is and what he will do. “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.” Notice how quickly Jesus moves Peter from confession to action with a wonderful play on words. Peter’s name means rock in Greek (think of the word petrified). Jesus, with a smile on his face, is saying, “Okay Rocky, You sank like a rock when you tried to walk on water, but I can use you as a foundation stone to build my church.”
How often do we make our confession like Peter, pray our prayers in hope that God may bless us to make all our dreams come true? Peter and the disciples had a few ideas: send the 5000 away Jesus so we can just be with you, build a Retreat Center on Transfiguration Mountain and stay up there, when God brings the kingdom, give us places of honor. Like Peter and disciples, we worship, listen to Jesus and then, all of a sudden, we learn who Jesus wants us to be. I imagine Peter felt mighty proud that day. But then he would learn to serve and stretch, to die to himself and be reborn. A wise man said, “The only difference between a lump of coal and a diamond is heat and pressure.” Or this one: “Christians are like teabags. You don’t know what’s inside until you put them in hot water.”
We are embarking on a new year of ministry, our youth have preached to us, served like Jesus and learned this summer in amazing ways. They are asking us to step-up to share Bible stories and teach them the faith. You are being asked to consider the call. Your Council, Pastors and a Team of Laypeople are embracing a new vision for Community Lutheran over the next 3 years. This September and fall you will be asked not just to worship. But because Jesus is our Lord, God will be calling each of us to make a commitment. Peter received the call and a commission from Jesus and St. Paul appeals to the Church in Rome “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of your minds.” We all have room to grow up in Godly faith and work.
Because you confess Jesus as Lord, how might Jesus be calling you to stretch/serve your Church and community in a new way? As you consider it, what holds you back, what are you afraid of? What prayers and support do you need?
We already know what it is to give beyond ourselves. Any good military unit must understand its mission. A good business will have company values. A symphony must give themselves to something greater than any one of them. An athletic team trains to play their positions for the love of the game. When we each do our part the Body of Christ moves forward. Jesus never gives up on Peter and Jesus never gives up on us. Ask Peter, walking on water, sinking down the next, confessing Jesus one moment and denying Jesus three times. Go to St. Peter’s in Rome, look below the altar where Peter was likely executed, at his tomb where he made his greatest confession, a rock and foundation of Christ’s Church. I don’t know who said it, but I believe it: “Jesus loves us enough to accept us just as we are. But Jesus loves us too much to leave us where we are.”
Peter is blessed by Jesus to be a blessing. Jesus uses Peter, and God can use us to build His Church. Maybe you’re uncertain, not sure yet, even a little afraid. That’s why it’s good to talk with brothers and sisters, to pray and worship. Jesus says, “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. We are baptized and blessed by God to grow up into Christ and be a blessing. With St. Peter, St. Paul and all the saints may God help us serve and say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, Not my will but your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen