Thursday, August 13, 2009

Upon this Rock...

{blog posts have been infrequent this summer. i hope this is the first post of many as i aim to blog more and be less procrastinator-like. hope this makes sense.}

the conception of the church, perhaps, can be found in a brief conversation Jesus had with his disciples on the way to Caesarea Philippi. Jesus poses a question (found in Matthew 16:13-20) , "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" Less than remarkable answers are given by some of the disciples. I'd say they are less than remarkable because Jesus doesn't dwell on any of those answers. He quickly turns the tables to the disciples themselves. "who do you say that I am?" Peter answers giving the presumable first reply. It doesn't strike me odd that Peter's answers. Peter always seems to be first to say something, only most of the time he sticks his foot in his mouth. But not know. Peter gets it right.

"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus blesses him and states one of the most profound statements ever recorded: "you are now called Peter (meaning 'rock') and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prove stronger than it."

This statement is profound because it is here that the church begins, spoken into existence from the words of Christ himself. "I will build my house upon this rock."

Interesting. Jesus chose to Peter. In an lot of ways this 'Rock' of a person often at times didn't get it, often said the wrong things; once was bold enough to walk on water but lost faith in himself and began to sink; fell asleep in the garden when asked to 'watch and pray'; turned to violence over love when the soldiers came; before the Crucifixion denied knowing or having anything to do with Jesus and who kept his distance during the death of his Rabbi. In many ways, Peter failed and would fail. But Jesus picked him to build his church upon.

I wonder if there might be a parallel to the failures of Peter to the failures of the church that was eventually 'built' on that rock?

Later, in Acts 2, despite his failures, Peter connects the dots, receives the Spirit and the house of Jesus, the church, begins to break ground. The church breaks ground, not on land - but on hearts. The church begins to build on the hearts of man and woman and child. Peter is chosen, much like many other 'failures' were chosen. Remember? Jacob wrestled the angel. Moses led the Israelites but because of his impatience never stepped foot in the promised land. Rahab, a prostitute, was instrumental in the Israelites finding that promised land. King David committed adultery and then covered it up with murder. Thomas doubted. Paul held the coats of members of the Sanhedrin while they stoned Stephen. There are many others.

Fact is, God uses imperfect people to do remarkable things. He doesn't call the equipped, he equips those he calls.

But over the years, the church has acted much like Peter, before his transformation. I suppose it is because we are made up of imperfect people... but that is no excuse for our imperfect behavior. In some ways, perhaps, we've lost our way.

I find it interesting that at the end of this section {Matthew 16:13-20) Jesus 'warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.' Maybe it was because he knew that proclaiming Jesus as Lord could potentially get in the way of emulating Jesus their Lord. Perhaps.

It's one thing to proclaim Jesus Christ from the rooftops. It's another thing to live out his mission of Loving God and Loving People and serving the poor and reaching out to the oppressed.

Maybe Jesus knew that the once and future church that would be built on the Rock would proclaim Him with great joy - but yet, not live like Him, perhaps because, frankly living like Christ is intense. Hard. Challenging.

In closing, i give you the words of Rich Mullins:
"And as the skies proclaim the work of His hands, the Church testifies to the work of His Messiah. Red blood and flesh confess Jesus' Lordship, then drop the ball and are baffled by the immensity of that confession. People who are not pointlessly perfect receive an unattainable revelation and then misunderstand and betray the Truth. They foolishly divide and become divisive and yet He makes them one. They stumble and limp and sometimes turn to lesser gods and then are embraced by the One they've abandoned. As Paul says "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God" and this confession that Jesus is Messiah still changes pebbles into rock and as long as the Church confesses, she will continue to be what is in her genes to become.

We've got pretty good genes. We'll do well to grow into them.'

inspired by Peter Rollins - The Orthodox Heretic & Rich Mullins - The World As Best As I Remember It


Tim said...

perhaps, after re-reading my own post (and correcting grammatical errors, no less) i might sound as though i am speaking out of both sides of my mouth.

i've re-read that closing quote by Rich Mullins and his statement of how God continues to turn pebbles into rock speaks of the love that God has for us.

yes we are imperfect. yes, the church has lost it's way (of sorts).

but maybe this post is more about imperfect losers being transformed.

we can save the 'church is not being the church debate for another day.'

how might God be transforming me? what might he be choosing me for?

there are times to point out the flaws of us, the church - but for now... for today - i think i need to focus on what God has chosen for me... to do... to be.


troy. said...

Tim: I really appreciate your addendum (and your encouragement). I know you would agree that any follower of Truth is on a journey. I believe we all go through various seasons where we focus on different aspects of our faith (i.e. doctrine, living vs. talking, the church, the spiritual gifts, etc). And I trust that if we screw it up, no matter how good our intentions may be, God will work that out for His glory (even if we don't ever witness the glory that results).

On a very personal level, I've come to recognize (through the power of Christ) that 98% of my dissatisfaction with the way the American church is building on the foundation laid by Christ has to do with me wanting someone else (a pastor, lay leader or relevant author/speaker) to figure out how I (as a member of the greater body) should be living out my faith walk. That somehow if they bless it or model it or foster it along, it is God-ordained. I live in an almost constant fear that I’m not living up to the call placed on my life by the Author of Life. And the one thing I know for sure is that this fear is not penned by God. I honestly believe it has held me back so much and I’m so desperately trying to break free of it so that I can live my life in freedom – a freedom made possible by the cross.

Here’s a question I always ask myself: As you hint at, our shared faith is based largely on grace. So if my “right” to call him Abba is based on the fact that Christ died “once, for all,” why do I find it so hard to offer this same grace to the church?

Do I believe the American church (i.e. body of Christ) is perfect?


Do I believe that American culture has negatively influenced and infiltrated the American church (largely without us even being aware of the extent of it)?


Do I believe change in the church is necessary?


But here’s the thing (and I’m preaching to myself), I NEED TO BE THE CATALYST FOR ALL OF IT. Not that I’m responsible for “changing the World” (or even the American church) single-handedly, but that I’m accountable to the Living God and intentionally living in the truth that has been revealed to me.

I’m still working on doing this, of course, but I think (and a brother named Miller over at Toward Simplicity has recently helped me see this more clearly) a large part of this has to do with relationship – with Father. And I have no fancy thoughts to share on how to do this; but I’m thinking that if I make it a priority, it will work itself out. I mean, we were created for relationship -- the Bible is the story of God bringing His people back to Him (again…and again…and again).

Press on…

Anonymous said...

I think that Jesus was saying, Peter, what you just said is the ROCK that I'll build my church on.

That was "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

That is the ROCK that my salvation, faith and life is built on.

Not Peter, Troy, Tim or any paid staff or lay person.