But seeing that Sunday's lectionary reading was about this amazing chap called Peter - here goes with my sermon from yesterday: This was preached at 9am at the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary.
A New Name
Mat 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
Mat 16:14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
Mat 16:15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Mat 16:16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Mat 16:17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.
Mat 16:18 And 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.
Mat 16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Mat 16:20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Introduction: How many of us have our name in the Bible? I am privileged to be one of this group – bearing the name of Peter, a close disciple of Jesus: Today I am inviting us to reflect on the story of the naming of Peter - the name given to Simon, Son of Jonah.
Simon lived in Bethsaida with his brother Andrew, his wife and mother in law. He was a fisherman who, like his brother Andrew, and his friends Philip, James and John, had all decided to follow Jesus.
Today’s story comes at a turning point in the ministry of Jesus. Matthew Ch 14 tells how King Herod silenced John the Baptist because of some very pointed preaching about the values of the Kingdom of God. Jesus takes time out to recover from this tragedy, and when he returns he takes up where John has left off. Only instead of sermons – he puts the values of this Kingdom into practice. Matthew 15 tells of Jesus rebuking the Pharisees for failing the people; he then goes to the people on the fringes of society where he prays for a Canaanite woman, embraces the outcast and the unclean, and feeds the crowds.
Jesus now turns to Peter and asks him if he has understood his mission...”Who do you say that I am?” This is is about how Peter understands the identity and purposes of Jesus.
This is a good moment to pause:
I am inviting us to imagine that we are standing in front of Jesus – and he asks us “ Who do you say that I am?”
I suspect some of us might answer:
· You are my personal saviour.... the one who rescues me from my sin and gives me purpose.
· You are the one who has called me to follow you into the ministry.....
I wonder if we sometimes have other answers:
· You are the one who must answer my prayers: when I pray “In the Name of Jesus” I expect to get my way.
· You are the one who will help me find status, and authority and power: Jesus gives me religious and social superiority.
· You are the one who I will look to when I need religious entertainment: when I need a break from life I will turn on God TV for a bit.
This is the moment for us to be challenged by Peter’s answer .....
“You are the Messiah”
you are the promised one of God ...
you are the one who owns my life ....
There is no half-way here / no lukewarm answer
This is absolute commitment
This is not about getting something from Jesus and is instead about offering total loyalty to Jesus.
and in reply Jesus says to him
I see potential in you: you are the foundation for the new movement I am beginning. I will call you Petros – a rock: a foundation stone.
Jesus was not stupid. He knew that Peter was not perfect.....
But he saw the potential of what Peter could become.
This then is the good news of our faith: God looks beyond our failures and shortcomings and sees the potential for what we can become.
Here is my question: If Peter had been standing in front of us what would we have said to him:
“You have a short temper”
“You promise stuff that you do not deliver on.”
“You have a big mouth.”
Jesus knew those things.... but he saw the potential: “you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.”
So if anyone feels inferior, or inadequate – hear the whisper of the Spirit of God saying .... “You are more than a Simon...you are my Peter”! God sees potential in us.
But I would fail us if I did not point out the moment of challenge to us all:
Just like God sees beyond our failings to our true potential – so we are challenged by Jesus to look for potential in the people around us.
I suspect that we often see each other’s faults before we see the human potential that lies within.
The challenge of this week is to look beyond the Simon.... and to discover the Peter in the people we meet
Ø When we encounter a tired, grumpy shop assistant – will we see the mother who is caring for her family?
Ø When we meet an old man struggling to park his car – will we see a father and a grandfather who is loved by his family?
Ø When we see man on television pleading for peace in Gaza – will we see someone who pleads for justice for his community?
Ø When we see poor miners who are pleading for wages – will we see men and women who generate wealth for our nation at the expense of their health and their families?
Let me sum up.....
The Invitation has been: to offer Jesus our absolute commitment: “You are the Messiah”
This was followed by a Challenge: to show our commitment by looking for the potential in the people around us.
The answer lies with you.