Grace and Peace to you from the mystery in whom we live and move, and have our being. On this rock I will build my church.
I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”Matthew 16:13-20
Jesus said my church, not the church, not a church. My church.
The Greek Ekklēsia describes Church as those who leave their homes and assemble in public places. Could that mean those who leave their comfortable residences? Leaving a contained structure. One thing we can be certain of is that it’s a calling out. It apparently is not a calling in. We’ve heard the phrase “Go you therefore into all the world”; and when Jesus went out to be in the world, he did an awful lot of calling people out, primarily those disciples willing to follow him.
“On this rock I will build my church.”
Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do they say that I am?” They answer several names that are not Jesus. Then Peter says, “You’re the Messiah, Son of the living God!” Jesus answers, “Blessed are you, Peter, on this rock I will build “My Church.” How odd this is. Did they have churches then as we know them? If he said that today, we might be a little confused. We might ask which one and name off many different churches just like the disciples named off different names for Jesus. As I said, in the Greek Ekklēsia, Church is defined as (1) a gathering of people called out of their homes into a public place and (2) any gathering of people assembled by chance, tumultuously.
Evidently this was not a good enough definition, and some commentators add to this definition of Church/Ekklēsia. They add more definitions under the heading, In a Christian sense.
“In a Christian sense” it says,
- An assembly of people to worship religiously.
- Those who are hoping for eternal salvation.
- Those Christians who gather in any town and become one body.
- Those who are faithful Christians.
“Who do you say that I am?”
It all began to seem very odd to me, Jesus’ statement ‘my church.’ It slowly poked the bubble of my past interpretations with many more questions.
I had to look closer at it to discover those questions.
Jesus said, “Peter, blessed are you for this was not revealed to you by men.” Then he sternly tells the disciples not to tell anyone who he is. What? Isn’t it kind of important? What if they did tell others like, “Hey Burford, Jesus is the Messiah!” What if Burford is asked by Jesus, “Who are they saying I am and who do you say I am?” “Well,” says Burf, “The disciples said ‘Messiah,’ but to me you are ‘Divine Compassion.’ It’s what I’ve needed.” “Blessed are you Burford. For that was revealed by your experience with my father in heaven, not by the disciples.”
Here’s my question to us today as we invoke the mystery in whom we live and move and have our being. How does this mystery reveal itself to you and me? Where do we find the divinity of God in the world? Is it only revealed once a week in a church building? Or is it found in the church of humanity out there? Is it a way of worshiping or is it a way of being?
Why did the fundamentalist evangelicals feel the need to add to Ekklēsia with an added group of definitions subtitled ‘In a Christian sense’?
The Christian sense? What does that mean, ‘in a Christian sense’?
in a Christian sense
It seems odd that we have become churches plural, yet we are one body. It’s odd that Jesus didn’t say, “Peter, on this rock I will build my churches.” Maybe we are being called out of our church and into the my church or The church. Jim said last week, quoting Father Gregory Boyd, “We don’t go to the margins to change others we go to the margins to be changed.” How do we do this without making other people change, but allow the mystery to reveal itself to them? Maybe we could ask them how the mystery we call God, has revealed itself to them… accompanying them in their search for intrinsic worth and belonging to God.
How do we ‘churchy’ people get nudged off our sacred pillars and expand old thinking with a more expansive understanding of church?
There it is in the text: By the renewing of our mind. Metanoia: the repentance of changing the way we’re thinking. And my guess is that it is more orthodox than how we’ve interpreted it in the church boxes on every corner. Crosses at the top instead of stones, and cornerstones at the bottom as a sure foundation. Proclamations on signage, and flyers. Bring a friend to our church. Encouraging people to come in and belong, instead of going out into our respective worlds, declaring the Anointed One’s message to greet them in their intrinsic belonging to the mystery, whether they are aware or not.
How can we see God in others if we don’t philosophically and metaphysically leave our homes?
Humanity searching to belong
In another story, the people said to Jesus, “Hey, your mom and brothers are outside,” and he says “I am with my mother and brothers.” Boom. They hadn’t even prayed the abracadabra prayer yet! But he says they are family. They are ‘my church.’
We wait for people to come to our institutions called churches. Sure, we advertise, put banners up, and do social media blasts welcoming others to come in. But there’s a dozen different messages once you go into the church, very few of which are declaring people as being enough, just as they are, before God. No, they need more literature and more ritual to belong. Perhaps we need to touch the deep longing within humanity searching to belong.
Who is ‘My Church’?
Could it be that Peter did not mistake Jesus for another, but saw God’s anointed divinity in him? Saw him for who he was? Could Jesus’ My Church be a people who see others as God sees them and is a witness to the divinity of God in them?
I know it stretches us. But isn’t that what the renewing of the mind does? What metanoia is? What it takes for transformation? When we see others in their declared intrinsic identity of divine belonging, perhaps, we see the My Church of Jesus upon which all things are built.
Perhaps My Church are people who see individuals the way God sees them, as inhabitants of God’s divinity.
Wednesday Respite is a 30-min contemplative service of scripture, prayer, music and a Spirited Touchpoint by Spirit in the Desert faith mentor, Rev. “Bro. Jim” Hanson.
Touchpoint is a reflection on where God’s story touches our life story. It is a short homily based on a biblical story of people in the Old and New Testaments and their relationship with God. Our spiritual ancestors’ experience of God’s grace connects with our lives in the present and our relationship with the Divine. Previous Touchpoints are available as PDFs or on SoundCloud.