Over thousands of years have gone by since Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. In those times several names have come about to say who Jesus is. But let me ask you, just as Jesus asked his disciples, who do you say Jesus is? Some of us have heard many names, such as the Alpha and Omega, Lamb of God, Savior, and wonderful counselor, just to name a few. But truly who is Jesus to you? Maybe you’re not quite sure, maybe you’re figuring it out, maybe you know. The beauty behind this is there is a name for Jesus that lies within you, in however capacity you have experienced Christ. I want you to take a moment and turn to the person next you and tell them who Jesus is to you.
*give a few moments for them to share*
I’m glad you have had a moment to share with each other and I hope that you continue to do so after worship say over coffee at fellowship time. Its definitely something to think about and share with one another.
I’ll be honest when I started to work on this sermon, coming up with who Jesus was to me, was a little difficult. In the grand scheme of things I guess I hadn’t really taken the time to focus on who Jesus was to me. I knew he was my savior, but other than that I didn’t give it much thought. It didn’t occur to me who Jesus was to me or what name I called him, until I started to look at the music for this weekend. It was then that the name Light of the world sparked something in me. It came to me in the song Here I Am to Worship which we sang at last night’s service. As I looked at the first verse of the song it says, “Light of the World, you stepped down into darkness, open my eyes, let me see.” There have been several times in my life, where I have been in the darkness, stumbling about trying to find something to guide my path. In those moments I would cry out to Jesus, realizing then and once more that he is the light I am looking for.
If you are unsure about what your name for Jesus is, just as I was, thankfully we have things such as books or music to help us out. Not only that but we also those who have gone before us and had similar experiences. When we look at the disciples in today’s Gospel reading it appears that they too were unsure. They referenced people who they had heard say things about their beloved Rabbi. But Jesus doesn’t exactly care about what others are saying about him, he cares about what his followers say about him. This is when Jesus asks once more “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter responds by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. But what does Simon mean though?
When we look at scripture with a deeper lens, Christ was exactly a word that was used commonly like it is today. You wouldn’t hear people back in Jesus’ day calling someone they admired or worshiped, Christ. In the Old Testament, the word Christ was used to identify someone who was anointed, generally in reference to a king or a priest. But it also means to be chosen by God to go out and serve. It wasn’t just meant as a regular servant but rather someone who was given the charge to go out and save people to lay a foundation for a great kingdom. Due to the nature of the usage of the word Christ in the Old Testament, when Peter declares that Jesus is indeed the Christ, it’s something not meant to be taken lightly. It is a powerful declaration. Even Jesus notes Peter’s calling of such a name by saying “…no human has shown this to you. Rather my Father who is in heaven has shown you.”
I can’t help but wonder at this point in time, that Peter might have had some concerns sharing such great news. Sometimes it’s hard to share with people the things we know to be true, even if others are saying otherwise. I can imagine he might of felt nervous to share something so bold and powerful. But then add to that how suddenly after you answer Jesus, and he agrees with you. Talk about a awe inspiring moment. That alone would prove quite well that he is indeed the Christ. Not mention the realness of God. For Simon Peter however that wasn’t even the end of it for him. Literally moments after Jesus accepts Simon Peter’s knowledge, Jesus decides to share with him something that I’m a sure surprised him. Jesus chose to essentially rename Simon Peter to just Peter. So not only do did Simon Peter take a leap of faith and share what he knew to be true, because of God, but now this man who accepted the great name of Christ, decided to give him a new name. At this point if I were Simon Peter, my head would be spinning.
This crazy awesome moment of exchange reminds me of one of my favorite musicals. How many of you have ever heard of the musical The Rock and the Rabbi? For those of you who haven’t heard about it, it’s is a wonderful musical production that has toured the US and has come to the Fireside theater in Fort Atkinson a few times. This musical describes the story of Jesus and his disciples, but particularly focuses on Simon Peter, who in this story happens to be the narrator. There is a song in the show called “You Are the Christ” and basically gives the musical rendition of our Gospel reading for today. Before the song begins, Simon Peter is talking about how Jesus tells him that he is the Rock and in that moment he pauses and says “Imagine, I’d spent all my life waiting for the Messiah. How was I to know that the Messiah had been waiting for me.”
You see what Jesus addresses Simon Peter he says “I’ll build my church on this rock.” But what is Jesus really getting at by calling Simon Peter the rock of the church?
If we look at the meanings of the words in Greek, which was the first translation of the Hebrew Bible, the significance of the names begins to stand out. You see in Greek the name Peter means petros or detached stone and the word for rock is petra literally meaning bedrock. We can kind of gather where this is going. I mean in order to build something up you need to have a firm foundation or bedrock, to insure stability and structure. While that is important for our understanding of why it’s significant that Peter is the rock of the church, what does it really mean? There many interpretations of what the rock of the church is. Several commentaries theorize that Jesus is suggesting that with Peter being the rock, he is the start of new leadership within the church. And I’m not just talking about one congregation or church, but it’s the universal church with a big capital C. His leadership will help the church continue on and grow for the many who follow in his footsteps. Can you imagine being told by Christ that it is now your responsibility to help carry the church onward. I bet that Simon Peter might have felt a few emotions of either joy, nervousness, pride, and maybe even terror. I obviously don’t know but wouldn’t you feel the same way? To have Christ give you such an amazing opportunity to serve not only him but others as well.
At this point in the sermon you might be thinking, this is wonderful Autumn, thank you for sharing some insight into this Gospel reading, but what does all of this mean for me? Well I’m glad you asked and get ready because just as Simon Peter was called to be the rock of the church, so are you.
There’s a lot of ways you can interpret what I’m saying today but what I hope you get out of this is that you are called to a life of faith. Not just by yourself but with others, those that are around you. Your involvement in this congregation and in a community of faith is what is making a difference. You are carrying on something that has lasted for thousands of years. Whether you are helping to serve coffee on Sunday mornings during fellowship time, or helping in our youth ministries programing, or by coming to a worship service with your brothers and sisters in Christ to pray about the events of this world. You are carrying on something greater than you know. But it doesn’t end there for you or for I. I encourage you as the rock of the church, to do things with bold character, prayerful heart, and loving attitude that you may have never done before. Ask how you can be involved, don’t be held back by the what ifs or the unsure moments. Get outside of your comfort zone, because you are called. Everyone is called. Each one of us has amazing gift given by God, to be used in this world. I know many of you are already involved in many ways to use these talents and your leadership. But maybe you have that nudge that doesn’t go away telling you, “You should do this or that” Not because you aren’t already doing enough or because you’re lacking, but because you’re called. There is something out there that needs you, there are many things here in this church that need you. I encourage you to leave here today in an attitude of prayer and what I like to call heart checking, where you ask yourself what’s important to you and to go and do those things that matter. Show the world what you are capable of.
Perhaps when you act upon your calling to be the Rock of the church, just as Simon Peter would go on to do, you to may just find your name for Christ and end up experiencing him in a way you never have before.
Thanks be to God, Amen.
Sermon by Autumn Hartman