The Rock our Character is Built on

Cooking eggs and Driving

A man is cooking eggs in the kitchen for a nice summer morning breakfast when his wife comes running in. Immediately, she sees the eggs and gasps in horror.

“Be careful! CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh, my no no no no!”  The husband, was startled by his wife’s strong reaction hurries over to the fridge to get some butter.

“You’re cooking too many at once. TOO MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW!”  The husband now worried about his wife’s mental state forgets about the butter and goes running to the eggs on the stove.

“WE NEED BUTTER! Are you CRAZY??? Where are we going to get the butter? They’re going to stick! HURRY!”  The husband runs to the fridge once more and the stops.

“CAREFUL about the eggs! CAREFUL. You NEVER listen to me when you’re cooking! Never! Turn them quickly! Oh, not that quickly, don’t you know how to cook? Are you nuts? Turn the EGGS!”

At this point, the husband is, tense and frustrated.  His hands are starting to shake, he can’t get the words from his brain to his mouth and he is still in front of the fridge.  He has no idea what to do.

Finally, he blurts out, “What is WRONG with you? I know how to cook eggs.”  The wife’s body languages changes as she calmly says, “I just wanted to show you what it feels like while I’m driving with you in the car,” and then she leaves.

It does not matter if you identified with the husband or the wife in this little joke, because we have all been on both sides before.  The husband was beginning to question his competence in his cooking skills and the wife was tired of questioning her own driving skills.  Both, deep down knew they were good, but circumstances tested and caused them to question something they had never had to question before.  The same thing happens with our character and faith, especially when it comes to the rock that our faith is built on.

Last week we talked about why character matters.  We reflected on why the content of our character matters.  This week, scripture gives us something to help figure out the one thing that needs to be part of everybody’s character, in everybody’s heart.  This week we are called to reflect on what and who our character is built on.  Jesus is the rock of our foundation.

The Rock of our faith

This is a hard thing for me to preach on because there are no two people who are at the same place in their faith.  For those who are at the beginning, who are wrestling with how they feel about church, God and Jesus, this can be baffling.  For those who have been at church for a while, this will sound like common sense, and will have no real big surprise.

Jesus is to be the rock that we build the foundation of our faith on.  Jesus is the reason we have this church, the Holy Spirit and this community.  God is the starting point for developing good character and the reason why we want to be better people.  For many of us none of this is new.  The trouble is, if we do not take time to revisit the foundation of hearts, who our character is built on, we may find ourselves responding with a less than robust answer, instead of with a passionately powerful one.  We want this because Jesus is the rock of our foundation.

Don’t’ read in to the story …

At this point in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus and the disciples have been traveling around the far north of Israel’s land.  They are far way from Herod and Caesar.  In a safe, far off place, Jesus essentially asks, “Who do people say that I am?”  He must have known what the disciples were going to say, but I suspect that he wanted them to reflect on it, and say their answer out loud.  Like any of us would, they respond with the safe general reaction – which tells us a lot about how Jesus was seen in his day.  There is no gentle Jesus meek and mild; no cozy, comforting friend of little children.  Jesus was a powerful, charismatic figure who was railing against injustice, political corruption and evil.  He was behaving like a prophet.  He had the outward personality of a prophet.  The general response was concerned with Jesus’ personality, not his character.

To be clear, when the disciples respond to Jesus saying that he is the ‘son of God’ they did not mean, ‘the second person of the Trinity.’  They did not mean what we understand from it.  Yes, Jesus was doing some amazing things, but this title of ‘son of God’ was used for many people in the scripture.  In the Bible it is used to show that the King of Israel stood in a particular relation to God.  The King of Israel was adopted to be God’s special representative.  They did not necessarily mean that Jesus was part of the Triune God.  That revelation only comes at the resurrection.  It is only after Jesus’ resurrection that his followers came to believe that this same phrase could have another layer of meaning.  To understand this passage, it is important that we don’t read the end of the story into the middle of it.  We should try an not read into more than is there.  All that Peter and the others were saying was: You are the true king.  You are the one Israel has been waiting for.  You are God’s adopted son, the one the Psalms and Prophets were talking about.  Jesus is the rock that the scripture was pointing too all along.

Earlier, when Jesus was offering his sermon on the mount, he talked about a wise man building a house on a rock (7:24).  Now, Jesus himself is declaring that he will be doing just that.  Jesus is calling forward the image of the great city of Jerusalem, on the rocky heights of Mt. Zion.  He is using this image to help spark the imagination of his followers.  Clearly, he was not talking about building an actual city, or an actual temple.  The passage does not want to be read that way.  Instead, through Peter and Jesus’ first followers, God would build a community where all those who give their first allegiance to Him as God’s anointed and King.  This community was going to start right then, and right there.

Jesus was talking about building his Kingdom from the inside out, starting with the heart and character of each person he encounters.  The rock of our foundation is built on is Jesus Christ.  From this place, all other things follow.  Things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”.  These things are only fully present when we firmly know who Jesus is, and have Him as the rock we build on.

 

 

Building on the Rock

Whenever we choose to respond to a situation in God’s way, where we connect with our good character, instead of reacting from our natural inclination, we grow and develop a deeper character in our faith.  This is why, God allows all kinds of character-building circumstances in our lives.  We have conflict, disappointment, difficulty, temptation, times where we wonder where He is, and delays in our plans so we can have a firmer foundation and better relationship with God.  When we are deep in the middle of a character building moment, there are a few things we can do to help respond from deep within ourselves.

Have you ever been talking with someone, only to realize that they are really trying to sort something out and not really listen to you?  These are the times that our inner voice makes it our mouths.  When your inner voice comes out of your mouth it can be scary because there is a reason that we keep it bottled up on the inside.  Surprisingly, we need to give this voice more actual mouth time.  Talk to yourself.  Everybody does it, they are just not aware of it.  Besides, for me, this is actually a kind of prayer since you are trying to sort something out, and you need God’s ear, … an ear outside of yourself.   Talking to yourself can help you explain why good or bad things happen, or why you feel that you have succeeded or failed.  This little action, that I personally do when I am all alone, has the power to make you more aware of the self-defeating conversations that you have stuck inside you and lay below the surface.

This also means that you also need to listen to yourself in the process.  Evaluate your own thoughts.  Do you really think and believe that?  Is that feeling real or imagined?  Is that really what you believe God wants for you?  Write them down if you need too.  When you hear what triggers the good and the bad deep within you, you will be better prepared to respond in the future, and maybe even do something about it in the process.  Take the risk with God on this.  Jesus is the Rock your character is built on, don’t be afraid to build on it.

Another thing you can do is S-l-o-w down.  This something that I am personally practicing.  We often react instead of respond.  A reaction is what happens when you touch a hot burner on the stove with your hand accidentally and immediately pull away. A response is what you say to somebody who tells you something you don’t want to hear.  The difference is that one is thoughtless and instinctive, and the other is learned and disciplined.  Reactions help us to survive, like removing your hand from the hot burner.  Responses help us to navigate survival.  When we respond, we are choosing to be in touch with our selves as we act on our character that is firmly built on the Rock of our Faith.  It is easier to respond if we are moving a little slower.

Yes, Jesus is the rock that our character and faith is built on.  We all need to examine what the rock is like for each of us as we have each changed and grown since it was first placed there.  Is Jesus still meek and mild for you, or has Jesus changed for you?  Do you still have the faith that you had when you were in Sunday School?  Do you have habit of reacting instead of responding?  Are your responses shallower than you want?  Most importantly, what are you doing about it.  Remember, agreeing with Peter that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s Messiah means that we have a part to play in God’s plan with this world.  This plan involves a declaration of faith.  It involves each of us being an agent of Godly justice and peace to this world.  It means that this community is a starting point in this process.  Peter and the rest of the disciples had much to learn, and had many failures to overcome.  It is all part of the process of being part of Jesus’ new community – that is called to forgive sinners.  Amen.