Central United Methodist.
It would never take much. I mean it would take a little. If you were lucky. A slight
distraction. A quick well timed sprint and you were safe. Just a single finger or sole of
a shoe against old gray and painted wood and you would be home. In the summer I
was fine, sometimes the shoes got a little bit wet in the evening dew, but in the winter I
used to put bread bags between two layers of socks to keep my feet dry. I felt boots
slowed me down, and I gained a little bit of speed with just tennis shoes. But if my feet
got wet they would get cold quickly, and it was more fun to play with warm feet. It of
course depended upon where and when we would play. But usually a front or back
steps of any house would serve the purpose well. Preferably something that one could
access quickly at a full sprint, from either the front or the side.
At my cousins house, it was always the front deck. Lighted well enough from the yard
light the deck could easily be guarded, but the light was not bright enough to cover
everything, so one could also easily hide. It seems like every night as kids we would
get kicked out of the house at some point after dinner. And what do kids do outside,
in the winter, after dinner, at night, in northern Minnesota. We played hide and go seek.
It is an easy game. One person is “it.” They close their eyes and count to 30, while
everyone else hides. Those who are “it” have two goals, find and tag everyone else.
Those that are hiding have two goals. Don’t get tagged. And Get home.
The front deck was home. Once you were there, you were safe. Like I said, it wouldn’t
take much. Just touching that deck with the very tip of your finger and you would be
safe. There were always of course a few arguments. Close calls as fingers against
railings and fingers against winter coats seemed to happen both at once. We didn’t
have much of a budget for our game, and slow motion replay wasn’t an option. I was
safe. No, I tagged you first. Ross, what did you see? I got your coat. I didn’t feel it.
That’s because I didn’t get you that hard. I know I was safe. Matt, what do you think.
But once you were safe, there was nothing that could change that. In a kids life, there
are few feelings like that….like home. Not home as in a house. Not even home as in
family. Home as in safe. 100%. No arguing. No excuses. No rule changes. Home.
A divine Permanence. For those few minutes until the next game you stood on a never
changing rock. All of this feeling found instantly the first time fingers or toes scraped
against old gray painted wood.
Today’s gospel reading comes from Matthew 16. Believe it or not, wars and murders
might have been caused and calculated over an understanding and or misunderstanding
of this passage. We will try to stay away from the political stuff, but we
will also try to find some of the good stuff. So buckle up. Matthew 16: starting with
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the
Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to
them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the
Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I
tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of
hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth
shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he
was the Christ.
Here ends the reading of the word of God. Thanks be to God.
We have come to an important part in Matthew’s narrative. Jesus has received many
titles up to this point….. Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph. Jesus,
the teacher. Jesus the prophet. Jesus the healer. Jesus the miracle worker. The
religious leaders of the time would say also Jesus the blasphemer, but lets not focus to
much on that one. But a new title is about to be given…..Jesus the Messiah, or Jesus
If you have been following along with us in the book of Matthew, this has been building
for quite some time. Jesus’ disciples have seen Jesus do amazing things, and they
have heard Jesus say and teach amazing things. Jesus has fed the 5,000. Jesus has
fed the 4,000. Jesus has healed people by speaking. Jesus has healed people by
them just touching the fringes of his garments. Jesus has redefined and re-interpreted
laws and traditions that have been in place for centuries. Jesus has praised sinners,
and rebuked religious leaders. He has quieted the storms and walked on the seas. So
when Jesus asks his disciples, those few individuals who have walked with him, those
individuals who have seen all he has done, and listened to all that he has said, and
when Jesus asks those disciples who do YOU say I am……… It isn’t surprising for us
to hear their answer…….You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
After hearing what everyone else was saying about him, Jesus wanted to know what
his Disciples were saying about him. And I am guessing after a short pause, they
answered with every bit of courage they had, and with every bit of knowledge they
knew, and said to Jesus with hopeful certainty, you are the Christ the Son of the living
The fulfillment of action and time clarified in just a few words. The steps taken
together. The nervousness and fear in the very beginning when for some reason all
was being left behind to follow this man. The stories heard. The miracles seen. Each
day the idea was becoming clearer. Each day, each footstep walked with this man
erased a little more doubt. And what else could he be? How could he not be? A
question. A pause. An answer. The only answer. Who do YOU say I am? And Peter
says, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus’ responds to these
words with “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed
this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there with a simple blessing, Jesus goes on. I guess this
wasn’t just a random conversation on the streets of Philippi. There was a plan, and a
purpose to the question. With Jesus there always seems to be a plan and a purpose to
every question. And when the answer was given, and the blessing was made Jesus
continued with his plan………And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will
build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Can you imagine growing up in a world without these ideas. Without Jesus, the Christ.
Without The Church. Without Peter, and the disciples. We really are blessed to be
given so much. But it also seems that something subtle has happened through time, a
subtle change that our eyes can no longer see, and our ears might have forgotten.
Something of which, if you are an early reader of Matthew’s writing you would not
simply glance over. Because after being called the Christ. And after praising peter’s
answer. Jesus goes on. He keeps talking. He is sharing some private information with
his disciples. He shares a plan. And he says he is going to build something. What
does Jesus say he will build? What does the Christ, the Messiah say he will build now
that it is known that he is the Christ…….Is he going to build His power? His glory? His
kingdom? ………..His Church. On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it…….
I want you to stop and dwell in this moment for awhile, and listen to Jesus’ declaration
to his disciples. He says on the knowledge that I am the Christ, it is on this rock, it is
on this knowledge that I will build my church. And I want you to dwell on that for a
moment just in case we have forgotten that we are THAT church. That promise, that
declaration was made to the disciples, and it was made to us. We are not A church.
We are not a church. We are His Church. Built on a rock, built on an idea, built on a
Christ, built on him, built on such solid ground the gates of hell cannot prevail against
On this rock I will build my church, MY church, MY church, and the gates of hell shall
not prevail against it…….The love that our creator has for us is, for lack of any better
words, simply amazing. From the very beginning his plan was to dwell with us forever.
To be with us, to be with his people. To give us a home with him, a home that would
not decay. A home made from more than old gray painted wood. A home, that
nothing could take it away from him.
It should give you goosebumps. The answer given here. The promise made here. The
declaration made about his church. HIS Church. About us. Upon this rock I will build
my church. And almost as if we are in a dream, here we still stand.
We get lost sometimes. We go out to hide in the world, and we forget where are home
is. We forget that it is not our job to be a church, and to just do what churches do, and
to just speak how churches speak. It is not our job to be a church….. It is our job to
stand on Christ. Our rock. Together we live our lives with foot on him, one hand in this
world. That is a church. Because we know we can take on whatever the world throws
at us if he is our foundation.
Because What has christ guided us through already. What winds have blown around
us, Yet here we stand. What seas have crashed against us, yet here we stand. What
storms have have battered our lives, yet here we stand. The gates of hell have beat
against these walls, but have not prevailed. Maybe his promise to us is true. I will
build my church and even the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.
It is a tough lesson for most people and most churches to learn, that our salvation is
not in us. It is never in us. I don’t care how many bread bags we put between our
socks, or how fast we are in tennis shoes. It isn’t how fast we can run, or how hard we
can work. Nothing can replace Christ in our lives, and in our church. As safe as we
think we are sometimes, our home is not old gray painted pieces of wood. It is not
varnished pews, or cushioned chairs. It is Christ, and Christ alone. Home is in his
word, and in his prayer. It is in his songs, and each other. This is a church that stands
on a rock.
And in case you think that you might not be part of all of this…….believe it or not, but
just your presence here in this moment, ties you forever to that moment. Jesus asked
his disciples, who do YOU think I am…….
As we run and hide and play in this world, and as we chase and tag each other, and as
we search our way in the darkness towards home, through time our voices join with
Peter’s, and through time our voice joins in with the other disciples, and through time
our voice joins in with all of those who have gone before and who will come after, and
together we echo with creation, together as one voice…. together as His
church…..Together we say……you are the Christ, the Son of the living god.