It’s so nice to be back here with you this morning. I missed you.
On Wednesday, I had lunch with a colleague – a priest in the church – a wise woman – and a friend. And we talked about many, many things. And she saw me.
Not just – sitting across the table from her. I mean – she really saw me.
She understood what I was saying. She understands the person I am. The commitments I make. The way that I live. She gets me. She sees me.
And it feels good to be seen, doesn’t it?
I hope we’ve all had experiences like that – with people who know us – and understand us. Maybe for you its family – or friends. Often for me, I find that similar bond with other clergy people – because having made similar commitments – they understand my life more organically…with less need for explanation or apologies for time constraints – or anything else.
Can you think of a person or two in your life who just…see you? With whom you just don’t need a whole lot of words?
These people can be special for lots of reasons – but often they’re special to us because they have the ability to tell us things about ourselves that…we might already know…but maybe we need to hear anyway.
In the course of our conversation – this priest friend of mine – was able to remind me of some important things in my own life. Things that I already knew – like – it’s really time for me to go on retreat – and make some time just for God.
But things that I also really needed to hear someone say out loud. Because it’s the truth. And sometimes we all need help seeing and hearing the truth.
Peter does that for Jesus today.
Today we see something really special about the relationship between Peter and Jesus – and we can learn something new about both of them. At this point in Jesus’ life – he knows who he is. He has a deep understanding of his relationship with God – of his own divinity. And of the human part of him – that makes him like us.
And he knew – we think – a lot – maybe even everything – about why he was here. So – Peter isn’t telling him something new. But he’s naming for Jesus something true.
Peter is showing Jesus that he knows – that he believes – that he sees Jesus for who he is.
What’s lovely about this passage – about this moment- is the way it illumines for us the relationship between Jesus and Peter. The intensity. And the vulnerability of their relationship. Jesus – at this point in the Gospel – is starting to have some notoriety. Other people are starting to understand a little more about who he is – and what he’s capable of. And I’ve always thought – that the human part of him – might still be trying to catch up to all of this. That certainly seems possible given the way he reacted to the Syro-phoenecian woman in last week’s Gospel.
Because we have to remember – that Jesus was both human and divine. So both human and God – at the same time.
Which means that the part that was human – would still come with all of the same insecurities and instabilities – and funny little personality quirks – and all those same things that we have.
That make us who we are. That make us successful sometimes – and hold us back others. So I’ve always thought that at this point in the Gospel narrative – Jesus is still sort of – trying this out – and for sure – he’s experiencing this truth – and taking it on – and knowing it in a new way.
He’s learning to reconcile what he knows to be true – with what his human heart is telling him can’t possibly be true. What he can’t possibly be capable of.
And Peter – Peter sees Jesus. Both human – and divine. Peter is both friend – and follower – of this complicated – human being we call Jesus. And so in this moment – in the Gospel – Peter tells Jesus the truth. And it’s a truth that, I think, is also a challenge for Jesus.
You are the Messiah. And in other words – you are capable of greater things than you may yet know.
How many of us struggle in similar ways?
We know – logically – because the church – and tradition – and scripture tell us that we are made in the image of God. That we are wonderfully made – to do good. To change the world. To tell other people about Jesus and the good news of the Gospel. To love our neighbors. To care for the homeless, hungry, and marginalized.
And yet – we talk ourselves out of it. We limit ourselves.
We stop short of the goodness God gave us because of our own human limitations – because surely, we can’t possibly be capable of that…right? I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not…..whatever – enough it is – that we just aren’t.
We know too, I think, most of us – organically – that we are meant for good, kind, loving relationships. In which we are respected – in which we respect the other person. We were created to have these honest relationships – the ones that challenge, and love – and stretch us – pulling us in to new places of goodness and faithfulness. Relationships like that Peter and Jesus share. Relationships in which we see and are seen for who we are – and for what God would like to do in us.
But too often – especially at church – our fear hold us back. And we put up walls – or use harsh words – or do anything we can, really, to not let others see us. To spare ourselves the intensity – and the risk of being so vulnerable – so authentic with one another that we might get hurt...
But somewhere – in that human heart and head of Jesus Christ – were the possibilities of those same limitations. Of the same fears that we allow to separate us from God and from our neighbors. Somewhere – that human being who is our Messiah had to overcome the same doubts – and the same challenges. And there were moments – like this one – when he needed someone to see him. To know him.
And Peter – in this moment – is that friend. And follower. Who is able to say – I know exactly who you are. I know exactly what you are capable of. And what’s most important here – is Peter is saying I know whose you are. You are the Messiah. Son of the Living God. In that statement alone – we find out who Jesus is – where he comes from –and why he’s here.
And this moment of truth is important. Jesus tells us so in the way he responds.
On this rock I will build my church. Because it is that moment of truth – that moment of clarity - Peter shows us what church is.
He has a relationship with Jesus. An honest one. An intense and vulnerable one relationship. He speaks the truth – in love. And in some way he re-names or re-calls for Jesus the work that he’s here to do. To be the Messiah. The Savior and Redeemer of the world. In that same moment of truth-telling Peter also acknowledges Jesus’ own relationship with God – and to the world. All in that one moment.
This is what it is to be church. And we cannot be church – unless we are willing to do this. To have these relationships – in which we are vulnerable. In which we choose to see others – and allow them to see us. And then – we have to be willing to tell the truth. To remind each other that we are made in God’s image. With a particular call.
To show the world the truth – and to call the world back to the faith. Through the relationships we have – and by telling the truth.
Which means we need each other in order to overcome our own fears and limitations. We need to be in relationship with Jesus ourselves. And we need not only to be willing to speak the truth – but also to hear it. Even when it’s hard. Even when it challenges us to do more than we think we can – or more than we want to.
Even when it requires us to do brave and difficult things. Like loving each other. And saving the world.
Peter speaks the truth to Jesus today. He sees him – and then tells him the truth. And in so doing he also names for us – telling us the truth – that Jesus Christ is Lord – and setting for us a model of what it means to be a witness – what it means to be a church.
So. How are you doing? On this Sunday morning – toward the end of August – right now. How are your relationships doing? When was the last time someone really saw you? Enough that they could tell you the truth? And how often do you take the time to really see the people around you?
Do you know the truth? And if you do – how long has it been since you told someone the truth? How long has it been since you had a conversation with someone about what God wants to do in them? About their particular spot in the world? How long has it been since you told someone the truth about Jesus? And about your relationship to Jesus?
When we learn to do these things – and when we learn to do them together – then like Peter, we will be the church.
Then like Peter we will be the rock – in Meriden – on which Christ builds his church. Amen.