We have heard today’s Gospel story many, many times and indeed we have given much time, attention and reflection to the questions which Jesus presents to the disciples and to us:  “Who do people say that I am?” and then more pointedly, “Who do you say that I am?”  While doing so is indeed immensely important, we cannot deprive ourselves of the rest of this scene, because it is also of tremendous significance.  In this passage, Jesus does much more than ask questions which forces us to reflect on our eternity.  He prepares His disciples and us for a journey, a message and an announcement that has no end and is just as significant today as it was when He was with His disciples.  He led His disciples on a very long road trip to a very unlikely place to ask His questions, to make His announcement and to deliver His message. It was undoubtedly one of the longest journeys of His life and very probably farther than any of the disciples would have ever traveled on their own accord.  The place to which He brought them was Caesarea Philippi, which was dedicated to the god Pan.  To put it bluntly, the city was known for its wildly hedonistic rituals and was actually referred to as the Gates of Hell by people of its time. People of today might describe this ancient city as “Las Vegas on steroids.” Once Peter had correctly identified Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus was ready to make His announcement: “You are Peter and upon this rock, I will build my church.”   So there you have it, there is His announcement, the announcement for which He took His disciples on a seemingly endless journey to the brink of a den of iniquity to make. But there is more; much more.  Not only does Jesus say in plain words that He intends to build a church He used a word that had never been used to mean “church” before.  He used the Greek word “ekklesia,” which means “assembly” or “a gathering of people with a specific purpose.” When Jesus spoke of “church,” He was not referring to a building. He did not use the word “kirche,” which means a church building at all. He was speaking about an assembly of people who gather for the purpose of worship and ushering in the Kingdom of God.  So what about us, are we about being an assembly of worshipers or are we more focused on a building when we think of Church?  Now before we answer that question lets ponder a little bit. Do we like more structure, or less structure?  Are we neat freaks or are we ok with things being a little bit messy?  Do we want things to be routine and predictable or we good with things being unpredictable and spontaneous?  Are details a big thing for us or not so much?  Are we ready for a mission or do we prefer business as usual? Are we more concerned with pleasing and keeping our nice community that we have in our church building satisfied and content or with the fact that most people who should be part of our “ekklesia,” our assembly, aren’t even here? We need to consider these questions because I don’t think Jesus concerned Himself a whole lot with a well defined structure.  I think He was ok with things being a little bit messy. I don’t think He was all about the staid, the routine and the predictable; I think He was more spontaneous.  I don’t think He ever got trapped in small details, and I don’t think He would ever be satisfied unless His church was continually growing.  Upon this rock, upon these rocks, upon each of you, upon each of us, Jesus wants to build His assembly, His Kingdom, His church, His Ekklesia. Are we ok with that, or does it frighten us a bit?  Well, if it does, perhaps it should.  But, then again, as He did with His disciples, if we are willing to allow Him to use us as a foundation for His Church, He will literally lead us to the gates of Hell to show us that the gates of Hell will not prevail against us.  NBThe thoughts that I have shared in this week’sPastor’s Corner are largely a paraphrasing of pages 3-7 of Father Michael White’s book Tools for Rebuilding.

AuthorCathy Remick