Message: Isaiah 5:1-6; Psalm 138; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20
How often do we ask the question, who is Jesus? I imagine if we sat in the back of the worship space for a Table Talk with our cups of coffee and informally shared our thoughts of who Jesus is, we’d hear a lot of different answers. Who is Jesus? The disciples wonder who Jesus is. Is he John the Baptist, the messenger in the wilderness who wears clothes made of camel’s hair, eats bugs for lunch and cries out “prepare the way for the Lord”? Is he the prophet Elijah whose rock solid faith soldiers him through battles with idolatry, corrupt monarchies and injustice? Is he the priestly prophet Jeremiah witnessing to God’s reign through the fall of Jerusalem and on into exile?
Simon Peter, a simple fisherman called by Jesus to follow him, who periodically finds himself on unsteady waters, waivers when put to the test denying our Lord, still, finally, with unshakable faith says what he knows to be true; what he believes in the bottom of his heart, the depth of his being. When Jesus asks again, “who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter responds with “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”; our central tenant of the faith. In the truth, Jesus commissions Peter.
This morning, God blesses the church with another commissioning as we gloriously receive the newest member into the body of Christ through the sacrament of baptism: Luca Michael Russell, brother to Finley, son to Danielle and Phil and godson to Sara and Tom. As we prepare for the waters of baptism to wash over precious Luca, we’re reminded of the words we confess. We believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord. Our statement of belief is not just some rote words we spit out. To believe means we trust deep within that Jesus Christ is our very soul, our center, the foundation, our rock.
We promise in our baptism to believe in this Jesus, the chosen one of God, who comes to live among us as one of us, to bring all to accept the kingdom of God over and above any other influence. This Jesus, anointed as the Christ, he suffers, and dies upon the cross, for us, that we will know God’s love, embrace God’s love, and live and love as God in Christ.
Promising to live a baptized life in Christ with the gift of the Holy Spirit is not for wimps. Our prayer for wisdom and an inquiring and discerning heart develops through consistent inward digesting of God’s Word, the practice of prayer and actively turning in the direction of the way of Christ. God in Christ gives us courage and the will to persevere by surrounding us with fearless folks. Striving to know God and love God with joy and wonder is God’s desire for us in a world that is often far too troublesome. For Luca, he’s off to a good start with his most beloved family and godparents. God in Christ blesses Luca with a rock solid foundation to live a life following our one true God, Jesus Christ, the savior and redeemer of the world.
These days, if we’re going to follow Jesus we need a rock solid foundation. We need to know who Jesus is. At some point, though, we need to make our decision. Does it matter to follow Jesus or not? Last week as we were preparing the Russell household for Luca’s baptism, we pondered the importance of knowing Jesus, of following Jesus. Parents agreed that if we don’t raise up our children in the faith, how will they know when and where they will confess Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God?
Peter is not called to build the community where the faithful confess Jesus Christ as their Lord. Peter is not called to build a building on some busy corner like Fairfax County Parkway and Franklin Farm Road. This rare mention in the gospels of the word church is rooted in the Greek words kyrios and ecclesia. The “church” is actually, literally: people belonging to God, assembling to worship God and called to go out from the world living in response to God. “Church” is not a building. Rather, “church” is living, breathing activity of the Crucified Jesus, the Son of God who died and rose, not to condemn the world but to save the world. One wise theologian reminds us that “the church of our Lord Jesus Christ is built on a costly foundation.”
As our sure foundation, God in Christ continues to bless Epiphany as together, we GROW. We are a people strong in seeking to know Jesus Christ as Lord. We are a people solid in the saving love of Jesus Christ. We are a people fortified in Christ called through our baptism to go out and make God’s world known.
This year, trusting in Jesus as our rock, we’ve taken a leap of faith to grow. We’ve added two additional worship services: an 8:30 Rite I on Sunday mornings as well as a first Sunday of the month Celtic worship at 5:30 p.m. in the evening. Trusting in Christ has permitted us to hire a Children, Youth and Family minister. Now the seeds of a Youth Confirmation class are being planted. Strengthened by the rock of Christ’s mercy the Outreach Ministry has added a Hot Meals feeding program to their already active ministry of caring for the needy. At the same time, Outreach is preparing once again for the Hypothermia Shelter with approval for twice as many guests as we’ve had in the past. Our preschool has built a rock solid foundation which this fall will begin with double the enrollment. My, friends, with Jesus as our sure rock and foundation, and with the gift of the Holy Spirit strengthening us in our baptism, we too are called to be rock solid as Epiphany.
Please, help strengthen the foundation of Epiphany as we grow to be the church on the corner caring for our neighborhood and beyond. Today, we’re asking that each of us give some prayerful consideration to our role as a stone building upon the rock of Jesus Christ. Addressed envelopes are on the table in the back of the worship space. Each envelope has a message from me and a notice of your current commitment as well as an opportunity to reconsider your current commitment to give. Please, stop by the table. Don Brill, our treasurer, and some others will be there to answer any questions you might have as you pick up your envelope. Take it home. Read, study and inwardly digest how God is calling you to grow Epiphany. Jesus, in readying his team of foundation builders comes with a reward. With Peter’s confession, Jesus rewards him with the keys to the kingdom. We too have been given the keys to the kingdom to build the church upon the rock of Jesus Christ, here on this corner. May each of us confess Jesus as the Christ, the anointed one, the living Son of God and build upon the rock of our foundation.