After calming the storm, Jesus and the disciples come to shore, bombarded by people looking for healing. It is from here that Jesus takes his disciples aside and asks them who they think he is.
Peter’s declaration: “Messiah!” is followed by his fear for Jesus’s safety. Peter, the rock and cornerstone is transformed in seconds into a stumbling block:
Get behind me, Satan!
Echoes of the desert temptations.
Perhaps Jesus is tempted again.
Peter is not a boulder that entirely blocks Jesus’s path, but a rock jutting up from the earth, causing Jesus to stumble. He is more than a nuisance: something that could trip him, bring him to the earth in a mighty tumble, injure him, and keep him from moving on.
The booming voice announces
This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!
But we have trouble listening to Jesus.
Jesus tells us to be like children.
We make our children be like adults.
Jesus tells us that placing a stumbling block before our children will make us wish we were dead.
But our children suffer in broken homes, broken schools, and we expect them to inherit a broken society. It is our shame that 25% of our children go without food; that children are the true face of poverty.
This is sin. And Jesus tells his disciples that this is unacceptable. Not in the Kingdom. If they want to see the kingdom, then they build the kingdom. Here.
Be like children. Make this a church for children. Make this a world for children.
Our own stumbling block is that we neglect to see sin as the stumbling block it is. We make sin far from us. Something to avoid. Like spiders or direct sunlight. Or it becomes the weapon we use to bludgeon each other.
Sin is what we do when we put what we do before what GOD wants us to do.
Sin is selfish.
Sin is abusive, hateful, and disrespectful. It throws away the relationship GOD has been building with us since we were born.
Sin despises the humanity of other people and punishes it, calling it
refusing to acknowledge that those judgments could be our own.
The response Jesus gives instead, is talking. Being a people who talk about our problems, our pains, and our fears. That confronting sin and repenting for sin is what we do. And if it isn’t what we do, then we are already outside of community. We are the sinner by its definition.
This is the picture of community, of church, of faith: confront and repent. Not judging and blaming, not ordering and manipulating. It is speaking and listening when things get really wrong. When we hurt and abuse each other. When we break the hope and faith of others. When we become stumbling blocks.
We pray that our friends will actually be our friends and confront us. We pray that we will be able to hear them in the challenge. And we pray that we have the strength and the faith to repent.
That is Christian community. If your church doesn’t sound much like that, then it isn’t Christian. It is ordered by something else. But it can change. It can be confronted.
You are not a stumbling block. Your weakness doesn’t cause others to stumble over you. It is your fear, your aggression, your defensiveness. Instead, listen. Be like a child, full of hope and generosity, and love.
GOD reminds us to listen to Jesus, who already told us “Do not be afraid.”