The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
The Rock by Peter Blume, 1944-48
To build a church you need a joyous and loving flock.
Transformed by the power of Jesus,
And built on a solid rock.
There are a lot people buidling churches today, by their own design, usually built on themselves. There are a lot of people who claim to have faith, but faith in what? One does not necessarily have to have faith in God. “Barry”, a lifelong atheist turned to Websters Dictionary to build his argument on his social media choice not too long ago. This is the credible source he used to make his foundation. Pretty sturdy, don’t you think. He begins by noting, “Faith is defined as trust or confidence, a belief in religion or God, or a strongly held belief.
1. If you have complete confidence and trust in your spouse, this is an example of when you have faith.
2. If you believe in God, this is an example of having faith.
3. If you are a Catholic, then this is an example of your faith.
Websters, however, goes on to offer the following specific definitions:
1. unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence;
2. unquestioning belief in God, religious tenets, etc.;
3. a religion or a system of religious beliefs;
4. anything believed;
5. complete trust, confidence, or reliance;
6. allegiance to some person or thing; loyalty;
He says that as an atheist, he has no belief in any god or gods and, as a corollary, no belief in any religion. Therefore, he has no faith as defined in two out of the three mentions above.
He does go on to give examples of his faith.
• He has faith that his wife of almost 55 years loves him and has been faithful to him since the day he met her.
• He has faith that peer-reviewed findings in the hard sciences are honestly stated, barring dissenting reviews, and may be assumed to be factual, even though he may not be able to understand the scientific reasoning. That does not mean that he believes without evidence. It means he trusts and has confidence in the scientific process.
• He has faith -- in the sense of being confident, that the lack of credible, objective, and verifiable evidence for the existence of the god(s) of all religions, and the inability of the believers in those religions to produce such evidence, strongly suggests that the chance of any god actually existing is so small that it can essentially be dismissed.
• He has faith that the laws of the universe that we have discovered, including those in the future, and that the workings of the universe will continue to behave lawfully in all instances. A corollary to this is that these laws have not been, cannot be, and will not be set aside by any supernatural entity or force.
• He has faith that humans will eventually determine a natural explanation for the Big Bang, the origin of life on this planet, and the question of whether or not our universe is the only universe.
• He has faith in his own ability - both professional and personal.
• He has faith that his sons are fine, upstanding men, worthy of his pride and trust and in his grandchildren as valuable additions to the human family;
• He has no faith that anything reported in his morning paper or on television news -- all of it, is either honest or accurate. That's a lack of confidence based on experience.
Sounds like Barry has his own church. He has a lot of faith in his own gods; Himself, Science and the law of Man. That is a weak foundation and unfortunately shared by many in our world around us.
If the foundation of your faith is entirely humanistic, your rock will be crushed. What do we know happens in our world when we decide to evaluate anything without faith in God? When we find what is lovely, true and just, through the lens of Jesus, are we not more joyful and more loving? If God created us for cohabitation and being “one body”, you would think that would mean having faith in others who would also share in this quest to look outside themselves. Humans are flawed creatures who often turn inward. To be transformed, as St. Paul says, we hear God’s word calling out to us and to share our spiritual gifts. Faith in God is revealed, yes returned, to God through prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhorting, giving, diligent leadership, compassion and cheerfulness. I would love to tell Barry that the true definition of faith is found in the letter to the Hebrews where it says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (for Barry’s sake, this is from the Websters Bible translation) But God allows our rocks to fall, shatter and break apart, because of our freedom to choose. Knowing that He can rebuild us, Jesus admonished the atheist, saying, “Destroy this Temple and I will rebuild it in three days” in the Gospel of St. John. The painting titled, “The Rock” by another fellow non-believer, Peter Blume, we see how this artist provides a surreal illustration of construction and reconstruction.
God is in the business of building the Church. It does not reside solely around the individual but rather around the community of believers. That joyful, loving flock of people who do something extraordinary. What do we look for in our church? We look outside of ourselves, to the Holy, for guidance and direction to do amazing things that God has called us to do. Look at all of the buildings, the art and the rituals formed around the basis of faith in God. Where do you still see freestanding monuments of men and women today and how long do you suspect they will remain? Those who had faith in themselves are all but lost. Many of our churches, built around Jesus, however, are still standing after a thousand years whereas other institutions have fallen apart. The key that unlocks the mystery for these great innovations and discoveries has always been about God and God’s relationship to an obedient and faithful humanity that calls out to be builders on solid rock. Those who take risks have the mystery revealed to them. He accepts our choice to build or to tear down, knowing that we will eventually come around.
In a short while we will confess to the world who watches and listens when we say, “We believe in one God; we believe in Jesus Christ our Lord; we believe in the Holy Spirit, the giver of life.” Who are we, so called to make this revelation when we come short of God’s glory. We can relate to Peter. Think about the irony about his calling. A few chapters ago in St. Matthew, he took his eyes off Jesus and sank like a rock. Today, he calls Jesus the Messiah and is given the keys to which the Church will be built on his creed. Broken, sunk; Rebuilt and raised high can be found in us. Wherever you are in your faith, know that God will meet you in either one of those artifacts. He will meet you and He will build you up in an amazing way, most often, faster than we could imagine. Many may feel broken, like fragmented pieces of rock and this strikes home. Mentally, physically or spiritually you may wonder how this is possible. This is how we define our faith. It is not merely in our physical or mental strength, but mostly on our spiritual grounding. This is the rock that Jesus builds upon. It allows us to transform the world.
Today we are called to build the Church.
A church where we need a joyful and loving flock;
Transformed by the power of Jesus Christ and built upon this rock.