21st Sunday Ordinary Time – “I will build my Church…”
Most Catholics and bunches of Protestants know that this is the text that the Roman Catholic Church goes to in order to buttress our idea of and practice of having a pope. That’s what we do.
I took a different tack and looked at one line in Matthew chapter 16 in order to at least approximate the depths I discovered in it. See what you think.
Basic Text: Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
So, what is the church, the ekklesia, that Jesus was building???
The Greek Old Testament translates ekklesia as “assembly, congregation, those ‘called forth’.” On the one hand, it refers to any gathering of the people of Israel. On the other, it describes the people called forth from Egypt to the Promised Land. That is, called from lives of idolatry to worship of the one God. It is a gathering of the people always in need of ‘being taught’ and repentance so that our praise may be true.
Deuteronomy 4:9f But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children— how you once stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, “Assemble the people for me, and I will let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me as long as they live on the earth, and may teach their children so”;
Psalm 149:1 Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Joel 2:15f Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; 16 gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy.
So, here’s a thought: The Church, the people ‘called forth’, come together as those who, with greater and greater awareness, take up the work of collaborating with Grace so that we hand over our idols –
Money & power, riches & honors, pride & self-sufficiency, whatever we do to bolster our self-esteem – in other words, worship of self.
Yet, worship of self based upon our sense of inferiority, emptiness, fear, resentment over old hurts, unworthiness, inadequacy, impotence… All these that fuel our need to worship self.
THIS is the church, then – an assembly of those called forth from idolatry. And, Simon Peter, a disciple who needs conversion & repentance yet-doesn’t-see-it, is the rock upon whom this ekklesia was grounded.