Being Rock People

August 21, 2005

Dr. Susan Iliff

Guest Lay Speaker

Montgomery United Methodist Church




Good morning.  Today I’d like to talk with you about “Being Rock People.”  What do I mean by that term, “Rock People”?  Do I mean geologists, rock collectors, or singers or musicians that some of the young folks are listening to these days?  Do I mean someone who is inflexible and very set in their ways, like a rock can be firmly set into the ground?  No, I mean to focus on us being people who both gain support from and give support to the rock of our Lord.  The rock that is the foundation, the cornerstone of our faith, our hope, our love, and our good works.


Let’s imagine being on a rocky beach.   This may not be difficult this time of year, depending on where one vacations.  Let’s walk along this beach and feel the sharp edges of the rocks under our feet.  Yes, we are barefoot here on the beach!  It is painful and difficult to walk here.  As Rock People, we may start with some sharp edges like these rocks.  The water of the Holy Spirit washing over us over time, and the movement and physical interaction of these rocks moving against each other, will smooth these rough edges and polish us, much as the smooth stones on a pebbly beach. 


Let’s take a walk on the pebbly beach.  It is a bit easier, not quite as painful.  Although the surface is a bit more even, these pebbles move and shift around underneath our feet, rolling under our feet, making us move a bit unsteadily at times.  Yet this pebbly beach is an easier surface to walk on and is less painful to our feet. 


Now let’s picture our selves on a sandy beach.  Sand is but a different form of God’s physical rock.  It is tiny pieces and particles of that greater whole rock.  Let’s walk along this beach, down by the water’s edge.  What happens here?  Our feet, our primary base of support for the rest of our body, start on top of the sand, but sink deeper into that sand, that God rock.  Perhaps it is our toes that sink first, or perhaps our heels, depending on where our weight is balanced, but the rest of our feet follow and sink deeper, providing a feeling of support, of being grounded. 


Our feet are akin to our mental support base, our mind, our soul/spirit (as opposed to our body) that strives to sink ever deeper into the Rock of God.  As written in Psalm 138, we are grounded in times of trouble.   But the Rock of God in the words from Isaiah, the rock from which you were hewn, serves to ground us all the time, not just when we are undergoing challenges and difficulties.


One evening I was walking in my neighborhood, thinking and praying.  As I walked, I noted some rocks in the road in front of the homes.  They caught my attention, as there were a lot of them, and they were somewhat different from home to home.  I picked up a few and compared them, some rough with sharp edges, some smoother, some larger, some smaller.  I thought about how they might be if they were gathered all together, like the rocks on the beaches where we walked earlier. 


If you note these in this basket that I carried home that day, they fit variably together.  The smooth rounded ones seem to nestle closer together easier than the irregular ones with sharp edges.  I reflected that this variety of rocks, smooth, small, rounded, rough, large, and irregular, represent people in our communities.  We comprise a variety of folks with different faith beliefs, and at different stages of our relationships with our Lord, some perhaps with no relationship at all.  To form that close-packed, tight relationship with the other rocks, we need to be more like the smaller rounded pebbles and sand that has had our sharp edges worn down.  Then we can serve as the bedrock, supporting God and supporting others in our world.


Let’s return to the story from Matthew.  Jesus posed a tough question to his disciples, focusing on Simon Peter.  "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"  


How would you answer that question today, if Jesus chose to ask you, rather than Simon Peter?  Would you back away, mumbling something that Jesus wouldn’t be able to hear?  Would you need to think a bit, and say, “Let me get back to you on that, Jesus”? Or would you, as did Simon Peter, promptly respond, “You are Jesus Christ, the Son of God!”?  Rock people would respond in the latter manner.


The name Peter, translated in Greek is Petros or petra, meaning rockman or rock.  Being Rock People like Peter, we must share our solid faith with others.


In this story from Matthew, Jesus instructed His disciples to NOT tell others that he was the Messiah, the Son of God.  His purpose in this was because he, at that time, to fulfill the scriptures and God’s plan, needed to be viewed as the Son of Man, a human who would suffer, be rejected and be killed. 


That was then.  This is now!  Jesus has suffered, died and was buried.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the father.  As rock people, we need to share this good news about Jesus Christ.  Let us go forth and do this, for the glory of God.  Amen.


© 2005 Susan Iliff