Good morning, happy Monday, and many blessings.
The scripture for today is Matthew 16:13-19. This is the first time the word church is used in the bible: Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
There has been all kinds of debate and confusion about this passage. And as is typical when we can’t agree, there are usually lines drawn and things end in division.
The traditional Catholic interpretation of this passage is that it is here that Peter is granted authority as the first pope, and leadership of the church. But there is no clear indication that this is about an institution. On the other hand, the traditional Protestant interpretation would be that the rock upon which the church was founded was Peter’s confession of Christ, rather than Peter himself. However, that interpretation ignores what the text says.
While Jesus is the Cornerstone of the church, it is obvious that Peter was identified as one of the foundational stones the church would be built on. Later, Peter would write a letter to the church, and in it he would say, 1 Peter 2:4-5 You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. . .
However, the word church is used over 100 times through the remainder of the New Testament. And the word that was used almost exclusively was the Greek word, Ecclesia. And that word is defined in Encyclopedia Britannica, this way: Ecclesia, from the Greek Ekklesia, (“gathering of those summoned”), in ancient Greece, assembly of citizens in a city-state.
So, while the word church has a spiritual meaning today, when it was first used it simply meant a group of people who had been called together for a purpose. So, what do we discover about the Ecclesia or the church in the New Testament? The greatest asset of the early church was its community. So, while there was this large growing group there were also their small intimate groups that got together on a regular basis to discuss God’s word, to share food and to celebrate communion. Not only was church inclusive, the church was also exclusive. At the end of the day, the church is exclusively inclusive.
I am fascinated to say that the church is a hospital. Those of us who arrive are suffering from different social, physical, emotional, and spiritual illnesses. Hence, it becomes a place that is not toxic but rather a place of repair, healing, and liberating salvation.
And as we move ahead, we need you to be the church, to provide community and to provide support. For this reason, my question for you today is; How can you be the church?