As we listen to today’s gospel lesson, we may find ourselves cheering on Simon Peter as he “gets it right,” naming Jesus as Messiah. Go Peter: first of the disciples, longest to be traveling with and witnessing all the fullness of God that is Jesus! You’ll have your human failings and stumble soon enough, but for now, you got it Peter.

Yet if we focus too much on Peter’s passing moment of triumph, we risk missing the real show. For Peter and all of the disciples are but witnesses to Jesus, witnesses to the one who is really in the spotlight. Jesus, who asks the disciples who people are saying that he is. And the disciples respond that some say he is John the Baptist, some that he is Elijah, some Jeremiah or another one of the prophets.

In a story that I was reading this week about evangelical Christians, a woman in a small town in Iowa described how she had voted a certain way in 2016 because she felt it would protect her rights as a Christian, and give her and other Christians back power that had been lost.

It took me a few days before it dawned on me, just why that statement seemed so strange to me; the statement that her vote would “protect her rights and give back power to her as a Christian.” Then a light bulb went on as I thought: Christianity and striving to follow Christ with God’s help are not a right or power to be encoded into a government, but a humble privilege and a calling to a daily way of living and striving. Something we irresistibly do because the Holy Spirit, Divine and persistent as it is, just won’t let us go - despite challenges that can and will come our way, as well as periods of doubt and drought in our lives of faith.

When the scene of our lesson today from 1 Kings opens up, we might expect to find the prophet Elijah - a prophet being one called by God to turn the people back towards God – at the head of a parade or at least at a victory feast. After all, Elijah is fresh off a major success in his role as prophet. Elijah has gone into the midst of the Israelites, who had turned away from God to worship the false gods of Baal, and he has challenged the priests of Baal to a test of power and won, and won big time as God helped Elijah to call down fire so strong that his sacrifice drenched in water on the altar is completely consumed, along with all of the water that had run down all around the altar. And the priests of Baal are cast out and the people are awestruck.

What does it take to grow deep roots?
What does it take to grow deep roots in our lives?

For Hadiya-Nicole Green it was the love of her aunt and uncle, the aunt and uncle who raised her after the premature death of her mother and grandmother. (NPR, Storycorps, July 10th, 2020) The love of her aunt and uncle made possible the deep roots in Hadiya-Nicole, deep enough roots so as to be able to persevere through the tragedies she experienced, get well-educated and become a physicist; deep enough roots to be able to keep her going through yet another tragedy when both her aunt and uncle were diagnosed and then died from cancer when she was in her early twenties. And these roots were not just deep enough to keep her going, but they helped Hadiya-Nicole to delve deeper and grow farther in her life, deciding to focus her scientific work on finding cures for cancer, including a new method and approach that has already seen success in testing with mice.

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40)

Powerful words from Jesus. Yes, these are powerful words through which God invites us to consider how we welcome our fellow human beings; how we treat those around us, considering our treatment of others as though we are considering how we would treat God. Later in Matthew Jesus will again remind the disciples and us that our treatment of those around us matters, and that whatever we do or do not do for our fellow humans – “the least among us” - we also have done or not done for Jesus (Matthew 25).

It would seem that how we see, perceive, and treat our neighbors is directly related to how we see and treat God, at least in God’s eyes.

Oh, that shakes me to the core.