Matthew 16: 13-20 – 23rd August 2020 – Peter the Rock?

Peter is the rock on which the church was built. At least that’s what our Gospel reading suggests. ….. St. Paul says similar things about us as Christians. Listen to his words from Ephesians 2:

You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. [1]

We are God’s temple, God’s dwelling place, rocks, bricks being built into God’s Church. As Paul suggests in the second reading set for today from Romans 12. [2] Each of us exercising our different gifts and strengths, supporting and caring for each other is in Paul’s thinking, strengthened as a building by the interlocking nature of our lives together.

Jesus says to Peter: “You are the rock on which I will build my church.”

But Peter was anything but a rock. Yes, he has just exclaimed that Jesus is Messiah – but two verses later Peter shows just how fickle he is. He cannot accept Jesus’ statement to his disciples that he must die. “God forbid, that this should happen to you, Lord,” he says. And Jesus uses the strongest of words to rebuke him.

Later, as we know so well, Peter promises always to be faithful, yet within 24 hours of that promise he has denied his Lord three times. Peter is no rock. He’s not even stable enough to build a dog kennel on, let alone a house or a church!

So what is Jesus talking about? He knows how unstable Peter is. ………..

Jesus is looking beyond what is self-evident. He sees into Peter’s heart and he also sees his potential. Jesus’ seemingly unfathomable statement about Peter is based not on what we can see of Peter, not even on what Peter thinks of himself. Jesus’ statement, Jesus’ confidence in Peter is built not on Peter but on Jesus’ confidence in the transforming love of God.

And as we watch Peter in the story of the early Church we see someone who gradually becomes a rock, a place of certainty, a person, who in the end, dies a martyr’s death. We see God transforming Peter, dealing with the rough edges of his personality, dealing with the selfishness and sinfulness, the pride which is so much a part of his life. Moulding and making Peter into the rock that Jesus said he always was.

We too are living stones being built into a temple fit for God. Just like Peter, we are being changed and renewed, we mess up, we get things wrong, we hurt ourselves and each other. We definitely are not perfect! However, just like Peter, whatever we currently feel about ourselves, whatever we think others think about us, Jesus sees us as his rocks, his stones, his bricks.

And just like Peter we are called to build God’s church. We are called to be the secure point, the place of hope, the signpost to others around us. We are called to point others to the one who has loved us, who thinks the world of us and who gives life purpose and meaning. We are called to point others to Christ and to be the rock on which they can begin their life of faith.

We are called, as the Church in our community, to be a visible manifestation of the Kingdom of God in that community. If people cannot see the Kingdom of God in the church that serves them, where will they encounter that Kingdom?

We are not perfect, and never will be this side of heaven. But we are called to be a people, like the apostle Peter, who learn over time how to be more like Jesus. This is Jesus’ vision for us, or of us … that we are a community, in our parishes, and in our individual churches, that shines with the light of the Gospel. When God looks at us, that is what God sees. God sees the possibilities, the improbable joys, the unlikely achievements.

And, dare I say it, that is God’s hope for the way we relate to each other.

When we look at those with whom we struggle, we are intended to look through God’s eyes, to see the possibilities, unlikely as they may seem. To see what that person might become if loved and accepted and trusted. To see the possibilities, the improbable joys, the unlikely achievements.  To see that they too could be a Peter – a rough cut stone which could become the most beautiful of diamonds.

You and I are being built, being changed as God deals with us throughout our lives. You and I are each being built into the person God already knows we are, and it is God’s intention that we together become the people we are meant to be. His family, his people, his nation.

References

  1. Ephesians 2: 19-22.
  2. Romans 12: 1-8.

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