Before we dive into our scripture for this morning, I have a quick activity I’d like us to do. Take your piece of paper and a pencil and write down how you would describe yourself - particularly what can you say about yourself that is important to you. We’ll take a couple minutes to write those things down.
Does anyone want to share a few things from their list or anything that jumped out at you as you did this exercise?
Now with all that in mind, hear these words from the Gospel of Matthew - chapter 16, verses 13-20. (put into chat and invite someone to read it)
Scriptures - Matthew 16:13-20
13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17And 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. 18And 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. 19I 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.” 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Reflection - Melissa
Anyone want to take a moment to do a quick revision to their list?
There’s something about this passage that keeps me coming back to it again and again. It’s a powerful story about identity - that of Jesus as he asks his disciples first who do people say the Son of Man is and then asking them who they understand him to be. And there’s a lot to reflect on in that - the richness of understanding Jesus as the Messiah and what that means both on a cosmic and as a personal level. That Peter is the one to get it - Peter who had Jesus yank him out from a certain watery grave, Peter whose mother-in-law was healed by Jesus, Peter who enthusiastically wanted Jesus to wash his whole body instead of just his feet on the night he was betrayed, Peter who denied Jesus three times - Peter who was just in the middle of this rich relationship with Jesus -- I wonder how Peter's experience of Jesus’s Messiahship changed throughout the course of his life as a result of all that they went through together.
But there’s another identity revealed in this passage - it’s Peter’s. In this exchange, Peter names Jesus, but Jesus also names Peter. “And I tell you,” Jesus says, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” Peter’s identity and purpose takes on new meaning in light of Jesus’s proclamation. It’s not only Peter the fisherman, Peter the follower, but Peter the foundation - the rock - Peter the blessed. Just from that simple assertion that yes, Jesus is who he says he is - the Messiah, the son of God.
Peter may not have understood completely what that meant or how everything was going to play out - after all, the disciples are known for their inability to get things right, for their missing the point on many of Jesus’s teachings, for their petty squabbles about who will be the greatest, for not being highly educated or well-read or wealthy. In fact, the disciples are human beings, full of faults and failings and are just like us. But Peter knew God was up to something in Jesus - Peter had enough insight or intuition, Peter had seen enough of what Jesus had been doing to know that there was something of God going on. There wasn’t anything special about Peter - and yet Jesus calls him blessed and transforms Peter’s own identity and role in God’s hopes and dreams for the world.
That’s what happens with us. As we draw closer to God - as we understand who Jesus is in our life, as we learn the rhythm of life he invites us into, as we tune our hearts to his, as we surrender our lives in acknowledgement of Christ’s saving power - our very selves are transformed. We understand ourselves - and others - as God’s beloved children. We understand the ways that we are a part of God’s greater kingdom in the world around us. We understand that we are seen for who we truly are by Jesus - the good, the bad, the in-between - and we are still beloved and Jesus still calls us for God’s purposes in the world.
I’d like for us to take a look at our lists again - and make sure that something is on it if it wasn’t there before -- put “Beloved Child of God” on there. It’s foundational to who each of us is and if we start there and seek to live with that reality, we gain more clarity about how we are to relate to ourselves and to the world.
But take a look at your list - all the things that you put down to describe yourself that are important to you -- parent, friend, justice-seeker, spouse, reader, educator, artist, activist - look at those lists.
How would you look at yourself differently….or what invitation might there be for you...if you understood that part of you to be named for you by Jesus? In other words, imagine Jesus saying to you - and I’m going to pick on ________ here, ____________, you are blessed! For you are _____ and you have a part to play in God’s kingdom?
Jesus tells Peter that he is the Rock upon which he will build his church. As we consider the ways that we are known and transformed by Jesus as we walk with him, let it, too, be for the building up of the church - the church here in this place, the church across time and space, the church that witnesses to the deep and abiding love God has for us and for the world. In this may we all be blessed - and know ourselves as God’s beloved children. Amen.
Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and five year old son and 2 year old daughter, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.