On This Rock
6 June 2021
Matthew 6:15-18, Exodus 17:1-6, Matthew 7:24-27.
When is the 1st time Church word appears in our Bible?
Mt 16:18 which directly links it with Jesus asking, ‘Who do you say I am?’
It is all built on Jesus Christ the Son of the living God
Understanding Jesus is a prerequisite to understanding the church.
This explains the awkward, side-eyed, curious and judgmental stares we get as the church when people without faith in Jesus try to discern our purpose and function.
People cannot fathom it on their own, flesh and blood is limited in what it can discern.
God’s transcendent Spirit has condescended to make the Son known in a way we can understand.
Which makes the church is a bit awesome.
And makes sure we know that the church belongs to Jesus.
Not the biggest tithers,
Not the longest serving elders,
Not the seeker.
It might serve well to introduce a definition of church here.
Most simply the church is - The called out ones
The ones who have responded to the Spirit’s call to become God’s own family.
Called out of the world of sin and death, called out to life, now and in eternity with our God, called out to follow the way of Jesus.
These people, they belong to Jesus.
It is "MY CHURCH" says Jesus, And it is built on the Rock.
What does that mean?
When we look through the bible we discern that the rock is often a person
So better put, Who is the Rock?
Deut 32:15 God as the Rock of Salvation,
2 Sam 22:2 The Lord is my Rock.
If thouest liketh the KJV then they happily capitalise the R in Rock when it is deemed to apply to God.
Knowing Jesus intimately is crucial to knowing the answer to the question ‘what is the church?’ If the church is the body of Christ then we are to enact HIS will, HIS way.
In the Exodus scripture Jesus the Rock meets the people in the desert.
He is struck.
From this wound comes the life-giving water.
Paul explains it for us:
" I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,[a] that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ." [1 Cor 10]
On this Rock i will build my church says Jesus and he has shown us that it is:
A Rock of companionship - meeting the people in wilderness,
A Rock of sacrifice - being struck,
A Rock that gives life - life-giving water.
A story emerged from WWII that illustrates:
The Dorchester was a civilian liner converted for military service in World War II as a War Shipping Administration troop transport. She was able to carry slightly more than 900 military passengers and crew.
The ship left New York on January 23, 1943, en route to Greenland, carrying approximately 900 others, as part of a convoy of three ships escorted by Coast Guard Cutters Tampa, Escanaba, and Comanche. During the early morning hours of February 3 the vessel was torpedoed by the German submarine U-223 off Newfoundland in the North Atlantic. Four chaplains, a Jewish Rabbi, Catholic priest and 2 protestant ministers, helped the other soldiers board lifeboats and then, once the supply of life jackets ran out and spaces on the lifeboats exhausted they gave up their own. The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship. [Wikipedia]
On this Rock I will build my church:
A church of companionship - looking out for the other,
A church of sacrifice - giving at a personal cost,
A church that gives life - others might flourish.
"I will build" says Jesus
His Spirit is at work in stories like the ones we have heard.
His Spirit is at work in us as we are transformed into his likeness.
The Spirit is at work calling out to us.
Jesus is doing the building.
But building on the Rock in the scripture in Matthew 16 is ambiguous.
We could see the rock as Jesus himself and we should. This gives us the shape of the Kingdom and it is consistent with scripture.
But what does it mean for Jesus to say I will build my church on this Rock when he was affirming an action of Peter’s?
"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church"
Our Catholic friends would say that the rock IS Peter.
Our protestant tradition holds that Jesus is being clever with words. It is not the person of Peter that is the rock - The Bible tells us the personhood of the Rock held by Jesus.
The rock upon which Jesus builds his Church is the confession of Peter.
Though, Peter has a part to play.
The Confession of Christ as Lord by Peter is the foundation for the church because it is in confessing that we respond appropriately to the call of the Spirit.
I don't want to put words on God's mouth...And I'm only imagining here...
But I get the feeling the call of the spirit sounds like… who do you say Jesus is?
Our confession places us in the church of Jesus being built by Jesus that resembles Jesus
In confession, we agree with God, we are his family, we are saved.
Confessing is cutting through the confusion and claiming the clarity of conviction.
In Israel the rock, if you’re looking for somewhere to build, is generally covered by sand.
Which adds a layer of meaning to the parable from Matthew 7.
It easy and available and convenient to build on what is right there.
It takes hard work to clear that sand away and claim the solid foundation.
Now the parable talks of us building our house or our faith on the Rock.
The same foundation for both.
The church and our personal faith resembling our God.
For each are being built on the Rock.
Built on the call of Jesus,
Built to resemble Jesus,
Built by the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Built for Community,
Built for Sarifice,
Built for Life.