The Rock Connection

September 3, 2006

Arlene Bougher

Certified Lay Speaker

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

Matthew 16:13-19

13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"

 14They 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?"

 16Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

 17Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

 

Psalm 95:1-5

1Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
       let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

2Let us come before him with thanksgiving
       and extol him with music and song.

 3For the LORD is the great God,
       the great King above all gods.

 4In his hand are the depths of the earth,
       and the mountain peaks belong to him.

 5The sea is his, for he made it,
       and his hands formed the dry land.

 

 

 

 

When I lost my mother recently, a knowledgeable close friend lovingly consoled me. She suggested I search for something that would remind me of my mother, a tangible connection, a linking object, through which I might feel my mother’s presence. She assured me this would help me through my grief. And so following her instructions, I began my search.

 

Thoughts streamed through my head about how my mother inspired me to start my egg collection. She had given me a few she made herself out of clay. Others, hand carved and beautifully painted, she had gathered on her late life travels as far away as India and China.

 

Then there was also a mindful flash of a small, cobalt blue perfume bottle, Evening in Paris, a gift from my father to my mother years ago before he died. It stood empty on her dresser for years, but one could imagine how full, of loving memories.

 

Finally, I decided my connection would have to be something my mother loved in nature, perhaps her favorite yellow tea roses, or a brilliant Monarch butterfly fluttering above my head, or the green-necked mallards floating on the Silver Bay not far from the farmland where we both spent our childhood.

 

But then, and I apologize to strict environmentalists, there was the infamous rock collection she had, each one a flat anonymous, less than palm sized stone, that easily fit in her small suitcase. For her, they represented the memories of the places she experienced, growing up a farm girl; she looked for an earthy connection. Now, many years later, a small group of stones circles a flowering bush in my back garden.

 

On a brilliant sunny April day, this past spring, 24 hours after my mother’s funeral, I was emotionally exhausted. My husband and I decided to take a long walk along the familiar Delaware River. A mile or so into our trek, on a newly laid and scraped path, I looked down to see such a rock to which my mother would have been attracted.

 

It was a small, flat, not perfect grey stone – a river rock. It wasn’t born there, but in some watery bed up river. As I held it, the heat of my hand warmed the cold stone. I felt some how comforted and connected to my mother.

 

My mother was my river rock in faith, the connection to my never doubting the existence of a reliable, dependable, all knowing, loving God. She gave testimony -in word and deed -that she believed in Jesus Christ as her Savior, Son of the living God.

 

 “The Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge,” so said the Psalmist. “Come let us sing for joy to the Lord; Let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation.”

 

Recently as I was leafing through an old copy the of a daily devotional pamphlet called the Upper Room, (I’m sure you are familiar with it) on a whim, I turned to the page that happened to be my late father’s birthday and was amazed to find a  story entitled A Waterside Stone by Zaina Renner. She tells us in her country, Sierra Leone (West Africa), someone who is reliable, who can be depended upon in all circumstances, is called a “waterside stone”. She describes how the rocks near the river are used for doing laundry and as a young girl she “hurried to be the first to use the rock that removed dirt the most quickly.” She “pounded the clothes on the rock hard enough to remove the dirt. The clothes were then rinsed and dried in the hot tropical sun.”

 

The author goes on to tell us the rocks are also a resting place beside the river, for tired travelers who sit on the rocks, drink from the river, and soak their sore feet. In just a few words she takes us from the mundane hours of her familiar day to the magnificence of her rock connection.

 

She writes, “Christ is like a waterside rock. He washes away the filth of our sin in blood that cleanses us. Christ is our resting place.”

 

Near the end of his life, Jesus gathered his disciples and took them 25 miles north away from Galilee to Caesarea Philippi. There were so many things He had to tell them but He also wanted to make a very special connection. In order to continue His work, God’s work, here on earth, they would truly have to understand who He was.

 

We read in the Gospel of Mathew, chapter 16, how Jesus questioned his disciples carefully. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist.” (Some believed the great prophet came back to life.)

 

“Others say Elijah; and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Each of these men had been prophesized to be the one who would arrive just before the Messiah.

 

“But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?” In the silence, Simon Peter answered,

 

 “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

 

“Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.’”

 

Here we have a true rock connection.

 

But we must identify that rock, first and foremost, as Jesus himself, suffering and dying on the cross for our salvation.

 

When Jesus looked at Peter and said, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” He could be saying Peter (which is a variation of the Greek word rock- petra) would be the first stone in the foundation of the church.

 

In 1st Peter, the apostle reminds us, as Christians, that we “are the church built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone.” You see, we all have a rock connection- far greater than the tangible water stone I still hold in my hand, or the rocks Zaina may use to launder her clothes at riverside.

 

Our rock connection already rests here -within us. Jesus Christ is our rock. We may be asking ourselves, how to make that connection.

 

 We need only to open our hearts to receive him as our savior, to know him as the cornerstone of our faith, Son of the living God, the Holy Spirit flowing through us.

 

We don’t need an invitation. We only need to say “yes”.

 

May God bless you; have a wonderful week.

  

© 2006 Arlene Bougher