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Matt 16: 15-18, 20
“And you,” Jesus asked, “who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Then Jesus said: “Simon son of Jonah, you are favored indeed! You did not learn that from any human being; it was revealed to you by my heavenly Father. And I say to you: you are Peter, the Rock; and on this rock I will build my church and the powers of death shall never conquer it.”
He then gave his disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
This is a time of great transformation in the scriptures. It is clear now that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the son of God. The power of his transformation transforms others. Peter is transformed. Peter becomes the rock of the Church. He will become one of the people to carry on and be the Church in the name of Jesus. Jesus has revealed himself to Peter and the disciples, but not yet to the world. He has revealed some of what is to come. Nothing will be easy in this transformation. There will be challenges and suffering. There will be death and rebirth.
Peter begs Jesus to take a different path than this one of suffering. And Jesus becomes angry. He tells Peter to get out of his way. He even goes so far as to call Peter Satan for tempting him away from the journey of suffering.
Jesus will need his family and loved ones on the journey. He will need them to be strong and faithful. Faithful in God as he is. And, perhaps harder yet, to be faithful to a friend and Teacher who they will follow through his suffering.
But much of it, he must do alone and with faith. Faith that God will not forsake him.
The faith is that after all is said and done, Jesus will rise again. Jesus will be with the Rock and the Church moving forward. Jesus will be with us. And Jesus will be with God.
Faith. That we, too, will be the rock and the church. That we, too, will one day be with God.
It seems that we are in a time of transition and possible transformation. Nothing is easy. There seem to be challenges around every corner and it’s impossible to plan ahead. A friend sent me a joke this past week: “I’m not buying a 2021 Planner until I see a 2021 trailer first.”
We like stability and for a while we could pretend that life was stable, but the rug got pulled out from under us and everything that was normal was swept away. Even if your own life changed little, there is still a nagging instability and a lot of loneliness and fear. Collective emotional turmoil.
Some are in absolute terror. Some are looking for signs of the apocalypse. Some are seeing the end of the world and crying out that we need to “save” people. Gentle reminder: we can’t save anyone. Each person must save themselves. This is where it “starts at home” truly means. Our job is to spread calm, good words, and to listen to others (something that seems a lost art). That is where we begin. We work to be our best selves and guide by example. We aren’t perfect, but that is where “saving” is possible. To give others hope by truly being with each other and seeking to build our own lives into beacons of love and grace. But I digress…
It’s hard to plan for next week, let alone next month, or next year. Something we’ve never worried about collectively before. Students, parents, teachers are heading into a whole new phase.
These are what I like to call the “between” times. Transition places. Not still this but not yet that. It’s the place in between transformation. It’s a place of opportunity. Maybe magic. It takes a lot of energy to be transformed. And time…
Sometimes, we’d rather just skip this part. This part is boring. This part is challenging or full of pain. We don’t want to go through these parts of life. We certainly don’t want our loved ones to go through these painful parts of life. But they have to and we have to. As hard as it is, we have to let our loved ones suffer and find their own way. We can’t lay out the path for them and grade it and pave it all nicely and neatly so that they will not stumble, fall, or get hurt. If we do, we become like Peter in the next passage who begs Jesus not to go through the suffering part. What does Jesus call him? Satan. The person who tempts us to skip the hard part or the person who lays out an easy clear path for us to simply follow. The person who doesn’t allow us to learn from our own mistakes.
“I can’t wait until this is over.” I hear a lot of people saying they just wish 2020 would be done. I get it, but how often do we do this? How often do we wish our lives away? I wish it was Friday. I wish it was vacation. I with this was over. This is our life. This is our challenge. These are our pains.
One of the things I love about this passage is that Jesus has begun to share his truth, but he’s not ready to share it with everyone. It’s just his closest loved ones who know who he is. We, too, need time to process the between of not still this but not yet that.
It’s like a new outfit that you’re not sure about or a new job opportunity or a new love. Sometimes, we just want a little bit of time to test it out, and try it on before sharing it with the world. Shedding and transforming in private.
Sometimes these transition times, actually more often than not, these transition times are times of failure. It’s like learning a new art or craft or skill. There are going to be stumbles and failures and frustrations. Who’s not feeling like they are stumbling, failing, and frustrated right now? Who’s not feeling overwhelmed and lost?
We need to allow time to grow and change and learn. Jesus can’t just declare himself the Messiah and the son of God and then go get himself crucified the next day. He has growing and building to do before he’s ready for that part of his destiny. He has a church to build and a mission to share.
Notice he starts small? With the people he’s most comfortable with? Then he transitions out more and more.
If we’re in a place where we’re going to stumble and fall and fail, we don’t want to be with people who are going to laugh or say “I told you you couldn’t do it.” We want to be with people who say: pick yourself back up, don’t worry, you’re failing forward. It’s all good.
People who bandage the skinned knees and bruised egos and brush off the dust and push us back on out path. EVEN if they are shaking their heads as we turn away because they know we’re headed in the most ridiculous wrong direction.
And sometimes, we want to leap out and fix other people or things outside of ourselves because it’s easier to look at what’s wrong outside of us. It’s not so easy to admit out own failings and places where we struggle.
Failing forward. We could walk the path someone lays out for us and maybe stay safe and do just fine, but we’d be denying ourselves our own journey, growth, and destiny. We’d be tempted by the devilish side to take the easy path, even when we know it’s not right for us. Sometimes, we’re on the wrong path and we know it, but we’ve just got to do it anyway because we know it’s the right wrong path for us.
What can we learn here? Embrace the journey. Don’t skip the boring parts or the painful parts. Don’t be tempted to take the easy, safe road. Keep good company. And when we change, we have the power to change and transform the people around us too.
Jesus didn’t just transform himself. He took Peter with him. Peter is also transformed. We, too, have the power to inspire and guide and help others along their path. By turning in to ourselves first. We, by embracing our challenges and transitions, including the boring and painful parts, have the power to transform. Nor just ourselves but those around us. We inspire. And through our spirit we breathe inspiration into others.
I’ll close with this one final thought. When I learned to become a yoga teacher, I was taught that we hold space for others to learn and grow. For me, that space I’ve tried to create has always been safe and sacred. Recently I read an article that we also have an obligation to create space that is also brave. I agree. We need space where we are safe enough to unfold the brave, courageous, most authentic versions of ourselves. And be there to inspire others to do the same.
Make my hands strong for the work of Love, and my heart open to receive others as I long to be received. Give me the courage to build the sort of neighborhood that I want to live in, claiming the agency of compassion to heal and restore anything that may be amiss or broken. Amen. (Diana Butler Bass)
In this time of loneliness, take time to reach out. Support those who are struggling. Take time to reach out not just to the people who are obviously struggling but to those who you think are doing just fine. They too, might need a little (or a lot of) support.