21st Sunday Reflection
The Assembly Of The Beloved Community
And Jesus, coming into the regions of Caesarea Philippi, questioned his disciples, saying, “Who do men say the Son of Man is?” “And they said, “While some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He says to them, “But you, who do you say I am?” And, answering, Simon Peter said, “You are the Anointed, the Son of the living God.” And in reply Jesus said to him, “Blissful are you, Simon bar-Jonah, for ﬂesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but rather my Father in the heavens. And to you I also say, you are Peter [Rock], and upon this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades shall have no power against it. I shall give you the keys of the Kingdom of the heavens, and whatever you bind on the earth will have been bound in the heavens, and whatever you unbind on the earth will have been unbound in the heavens.” Then he warned the disciples that they should tell no one that he is the Anointed. (Mathew 16:13-20) Taken from a translation of the New Testament by David Bentley Hart (Orthodox theologian and scholar) published by Yale University press New Haven and London, 2017.
Yes, things do fall apart, there is upheaval, change and disintegration; this is our journey and our history as the human species. Yet, these upheavals are also gifted transitional moments that move us from our slumbering pseudo-intellectual philosophic musings to face the bloodied rock-face of our individual and corporate identity.
We now face an opportunity for new creativity, looking ever more keenly within the depths of our souls for those things that are really important, to the nature of being human. Fully awake now, we come to discern the illusions that we mistook for truth, goodness, and beauty.
This is the continuing circle of life, dying and death that gives way to new life, to new understanding and to the birth of new forms of community, new forms of living and interacting with each other and our world.
As we sit on the mountain with Jesus and his disciples, we experience with them the confusion of a people that are broken and disheartened. Here is Jesus in front of us, teacher, healer, Prophet, and friend. Perhaps there is some resentment or negative feelings at the burdens this friendship demands of me, curbing my freedom and denying my wants or needs. Perhaps there is also some fear of the vulnerability of love that is at the core of this call to a new relationship.
Insecure now in my identity, in my resentment and fear, I shrink a little into the anonymity of the crowd with the rest of the disciples. So it is that Simon Peter, Simon bar Jonah, speaks out on behalf of the disciples, and also on my behalf, “you are the anointed, the Son of the living God.” This Son of Man is also the anointed, the Messiah, the Son of the living God; this is the definitive God-Man.
By Peters’ love of Jesus, he has opened himself up to the Spirit of Truth that unifies us to the will of God, “to attain the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God”. (Eph. 4:13) From being acknowledged as a stumbling block to the will of God, Jesus now acclaims Peter as the foundation, the rock on which the assembly, the church is to be built. Jesus now acclaims Peter as blissful, blessed, in unity with God. Peter has taken on the identity of the beloved as we also now take on our identity in the assembly as the Beloved Community. We have been given a new corporate identity and no longer are we to be called unfaithful, desolate, and broken, for we have become the Beloved Community.
In this new role in the Assembly of the Beloved Community, we have been given the role of doorkeeper, as guides in the unity of the Spirit to the Kingdom of God, guides to the will of God for the good of the Beloved Community.
It is not we who command God to our will. It is the Spirit that guides us to the command of God’s will; all that is commanded by God for the good of God’s creation and all that is forbidden to the harm of the Beloved Community.
This new corporate identity and that unifying love in the body of Christ includes a rugged commitment to do good for the family of God whether you feel like it or not (Galatians 6:10). This includes affectionate love, not just sacrifice for those you don’t like. It is a feeling of endearment. We are to have affection for those who are our family in Christ. “Love one another with brotherly affection” (Romans 12:10). “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22). “All of you, have . . . sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).
This is Jesus’ promise and our anchor as the Beloved Community.
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