Building Ekklesia

In the Gospel for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mt. 16:13-20) Jesus takes his disciples on a road trip. They go north to Caesarea Philippi which stood in a lush area near the foot of Mount Hermon, the religious center for worship of the Greek god Pan. This place was well-known for its pagan worship. 

Caesarea vs Vegas

Worshipers believed the cave at its center created a gate to the underworld where fertility gods lived during the winter. The people living there took part in pagan worship and fertility rituals. The ancient city of Caesarea Philippi could be described today as “Las Vegas on steroids”. The disciples were probably shocked when Jesus took them there. It was there that Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” and then Jesus announced to Peter “upon this my rock I will build my church.” 

Peter The Builder

What is interesting about this text is Jesus’ use of the word “church”. Jesus uses "church" to describe the community he is building, which Peter will inherit. He used the Greek word “ekklesia” which is defined as a movement not a building in the way we might know. Jesus wanted to build upon Peter, his rock, a movement. Jesus never built a church and he never asked anyone else to. Ekklesia sound much more exciting and unlimited. 


The building project we join with Jesus is not constructing, maintaining or visiting some place. It’s a movement, so this means it must move. And it has to grow! We need to be a growing movement of growing disciples who gather more and more people, similar to how the early Christian community is described in the Acts of the Apostles. With Peter as our rock, let’s go out and build a movement and help it grow!