Sermon delivered at Second Church in Newton, August 24, 2014
Exodus 2: 1-8, Matthew 16: 13-20
In ancient Egypt, Pharaoh demanded that the first born sons of the Hebrew slaves be put to death, because their numbers were so many and he feared an uprising. One woman birthed a baby boy and kept him a secret for 3 months. When she could no longer keep him hidden, she built a tiny ark and placed the baby in it, sending it down the river, hoping for the slightest chance of her child’s survival. And further down stream, a certain woman found this baby, this Moses–”to draw out”–his adopted mother drew him out of water so that he could grow up to help draw the Hebrew slaves out of captivity in Egypt…and when those same people were following him through the desert with nothing to drink, he drew water from a rock.
Flash forward a few thousand years, to a rock of a different sort. Jesus asks a question of Peter, his disciple, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter declares Jesus the Messiah, and Jesus names Peter the rock upon which His church will be built. And Peter will live up to his name, standing firm on the day of Pentecost and preaching of the risen Christ in such a way that thousands are brought to the faith. He becomes a healer, a preacher, a protestor, an activist, always standing firm, even when he’s learning new things or changing his mind about who is saved and who isn’t (spoiler alert: everyone is). He doesn’t budge from the Gospel, the Good News…and it’s upon his work and testimony that our church was founded.
Flash forward a couple thousand years more….to those of us gathered together in this room, retelling stories from long ago….stories that all happened in secret. Jesus tells Peter not to say a word to anyone about who he is…Pharaoh’s daughter has the child nursed and cared for in secret…and yet, here we are hearing their stories…the one who drew out for the Love of God and the one who stood firm on God’s Love. Given enough time, we have to believe, anything done in the name of God, in the name of love and justice and creation…no matter how secret…becomes known throughout the world.
Friends, how do we make meaning? What do we make meaning out of? What do we give meaning to? Where do we look for our meaning?
Jesus has always asked two inviting questions, “Who do the people say that I am? Who do you say that I am?”
God called to Moses by name, “You who were drawn out, go draw out others.”
And we tell their stories, not because they end especially happily–Moses dies after 40 years of wandering the desert, barely making out the promised land on the horizon; Peter faces a life time of adversity before death on a cross of his own–we tell their stories because they are more than happy…they are full of meaning. These figures from sacred texts illustrate for us the glory of living ordinary lives imbued with purpose, with grace, with mystery and question and uncertainty….for the Love of God.
From the most helpless of infants to the tiniest most imperfect stones, God will use anything and everything to serve the project of Creation. God will even use ordinary people like us, if we are willing….and even if we are unwilling. The only question we need concern ourselves with is: Who do you say God is? Do you claim the name that God has already given you: Beloved? You are Beloved…BE love for others.
And if we were to flash forward another few thousand years…what might we find our own stories to be? What secret deeds, what quiet acts will we leave behind for others to make meaning of? Who will they say we are? There’s no way of knowing. I’m sure Peter could never have imagined his name in the same book as Moses. And we know that God is still speaking, the story is still unfolding…so let us not worry about how the story will be told, but dedicate ourselves to the work we know needs to be done. Today. Right now. You are God’s Beloved…go forth from this place and BE love for others.