Summary: "Look to the rock from which you were hewn." Our faith as Christians is built on the awareness that Jesus is the Son of the living God.

August 23, 2020

Hope Lutheran Church

Pastor Mary Erickson

Isaiah 51:1-6; Matthew 16:13-20

The Stuff You’re Made Of

Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.

UW-Stout in Menomonie has plans to renovate their student center. The focal point of the new space includes a large fireplace. And that fireplace will be constructed from Dunnville sandstone.

Dunnville sandstone is a lovely creamy yellowish stone. It is quarried just south of Menomonie in rural Dunn County. The Mabel Tainter theater in Menomonie is constructed from this Dunnville sandstone. The ornately carved building is from another era. For Menomonie citizens, it’s the central showpiece of the community.

To have the fireplace in the Stout student center made from this local stone will shape a connection to the surrounding land of the community. It will connect students to the land and the history of the community.

Rocks and stones have a way of grounding us. They give us bearings. It’s not unusual for hikers to set up rock cairns on hiking trails. Where the way is not obvious, these cairns provide much needed landmarks in an area where one might otherwise feel driftless. For hikers not sure of their way, the stone structure created by previous travelers is much appreciated.

Rocks. Tekla is a dear lady from a former parish. Tekla hailed from Westby, Wisconsin. And like most people from Westby, that means Tekla’s people came from Norway. Tekla had the opportunity to travel to Norway. When she went, the highlight of her trip was a visit to the farm where her family came from. Tekla wanted something to remember this place of her origin, and so she took home some rocks.

They must have been significantly sized rocks, because Tekla’s suitcase ended up weighing a ton! When she went through the airport to return home, the man who checked her bag said, “Gee, what’ve you go in here, rocks?” Tekla smiled sheepishly and said, “Well, as a matter of fact, yes.”

Our reading this morning from Isaiah speaks of rocks. Isaiah says, “Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.”

Isaiah speaks to an Israel in exile. They are located far away from their homeland. This exile has lasted for decades. The memory of Israel and the hope of ever returning is fading away. Isaiah speaks words of hope to them.

“Look to the rock from which you were hewn! You are not from this place,” he’s saying. “You were quarried in promise, not in desolation. You were dug from hope, not despair. You come from the living God! You were quarried by God! Remember who you are, dear people!”

Israel was in need of direction. They were lost, a lost people. They couldn’t find their way home. They needed help to trace the route that would take them back to their origin, to WHO THEY WERE. But so much time had passed, the trail had been erased. Isaiah’s words were a rock cairn to help them home. “Look to the rock!” he said, “Look to the rock from which you were hewn! Remember who you are!”

Isaiah’s words continue to echo with relevance throughout the years. In our gospel reading today from the book of Matthew, Jesus asks his disciples about what people are saying about him. The disciples tell Jesus what they’ve heard. He’s definitely caught the attention of people, but they’re not exactly sure who he is. Some think that maybe he’s the prophet Elijah, long promised to return. Others think that maybe the recently beheaded John the Baptist has come back from the dead.

But then Jesus asks the piercing question: “And what about you? Who do you think that I am?” Bold Peter answers, “You are the Messiah. You’re the Son of the living God.”

Peter has been able to see to the core of Jesus. Jesus is more than a wise rabbi. There have been many rabbis full of deep wisdom, but Jesus is in an altogether different category. And Jesus is more than merely a prophet. Israel has seen many prophets, including Elijah. But what Peter has seen in Jesus surpasses the proclamations of a prophet. Jesus expresses a force beyond anything in this world. The things that Jesus can accomplish, like his healings, the raising of the dead, the power over the forces of nature, these aren’t human. This is divine. Jesus is of the same stuff as God.

Jesus tells Peter that he is right on. And then he makes a word play on Peter’s name. “Rock,” he calls him. “This is the rock on which I’m going to build my church.” This confession of Peter’s. that is the bedrock on which the Christian faith is built.

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