The word Peter means rock. Cephas in Aramaic, Petros in Latin. Jesus called Peter his rock. He would build the church upon this rock. But the funny part about Peter, or Rocky as one theologian calls him, is that he was not solid at all at first.
Peter made more mistakes than anybody. He denied Jesus three times, he distracted from the event of the Transfiguration by trying to build monuments, he even gets called Satan by Jesus just a few verses later. How could Jesus have looked to someone so unreliable to start the church? How could Jesus have seen rock-solidness when the rest of us can only see a bumbler? What was it about Peter that made him the one to trust?
Peter does one thing right in the gospels. When Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is, Peter nails it.
"Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asks Peter.
"You are Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God."
Peter knows who Jesus is and he devotes his life to Jesus. For all his faults and foibles, he puts Jesus first. He knows that Jesus is the Christ, the ruler of his life, the most important one in world. He makes Jesus his first priority. He gets that part right.
As Christians, Jesus asks us all this very simple question. He asks it all of our lives...
"Who do you say that I am?"
We answer this question by the way that we live our lives. Is Jesus your Lord? Is Jesus the first priority in your life, above all other relationships? We answer this question not just with words but primarily with our deeds. Does Jesus have some time in your day? And is Jesus part of your financial budget? We set our priorities primarily by allocating our time and money. If you want to see what is most important to a person, look at their calendar and look at their bank account. Where are they spending their time and where are they spending their money? That will tell you much more than words.
On July 20, 1969, two human beings changed our world forever by walking on the surface of the moon. But before Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong got out of the Lunar Module, Buzz did something amazing, something that very few people know about. Buzz Aldrin gave himself communion on the surface of the moon. It was the first thing that he did. After his return, he wrote about it in Guideposts magazine.
Aldrin was an elder at a Presbyterian Church in Texas. He wanted to do something for God on the surface of the moon. He wanted to show the world that God was the first priority in his life. He asked his minister what he should do and the minister suggested communion. Buzz did not know that this would be possible. So the minister consecrated a communion wafer and a vial of wine and Buzz Aldrin took them with him. He and Armstrong had only been on the surface of the moon for a few moments when Aldrin made the following public statement:
“This is the LM pilot. I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.” He then ended radio communication and there, on the silent surface of the moon, 250,000 miles from home, he read a verse from the Gospel of John and he took communion.
Later, he wrote about taking communion on the moon..."In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the scripture...
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit ...
Apart from me you can do nothing.
"I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think the very first liquid ever poured on the moon and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements. And of course, it's interesting to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who made the Earth and the moon - and who, in the immortal words of Dante, is Himself the "Love that moves the Sun and other stars."
Buzz answered Jesus' question, "But who do you say that I am?" by receiving communion on the face of the moon. How will you answer Christ's question?
Today, you will have an opportunity to walk around this campus and view a variety of ministries of this Cathedral. One way that you can answer Christ's question is to devote a portion of your time to serving God. This can happen in so many ways, from preparing the altar to serving a meal to the homeless. Look around. God is asking for your time, see what you can do to serve Jesus here in the core of the city.
In the next two months, we will also be asking you to make a financial pledge to the Cathedral. The more that you give, the more ministry can be done from this beautiful place. Consider your financial priorities. Is God right up there on your list? Are you giving enough to really be making a sacrifice for God? The amount of your pledge is not as important as the weight of its importance in your own budget. Giving should be the first thing that you do, not the last. Who do you say that Christ is in your life? Is he a top priority? It is sacrificial giving that changes the world.
Buzz took communion on the surface of the moon. It was the first thing that he did. His first priority.
Peter left his home, his wife and his job to follow Jesus. What are you willing to give up? What are you willing to give? Do you take communion every week on the morning of the first day of the week? Is it the first thing that you do?
Jesus asks us all..."But who you YOU say that I am?"
How you chose to live your life...that is your answer.