These words happen everywhere. When things are good and when times are tough, it matters not. No matter the circumstance, they are the four words every pastor hates to hear. “Some people are saying…” First and foremost, this is a clear indicator that what will follow will be a complaint of indeterminate validity and seriousness. Let’s also be clear that “some people” always includes that person telling you, and more often than not (read 75% or more of the time) it only includes the person who has brought this “issue” to your attention. There is no winning a “some people are saying” conversation. The pseudo-anonymity creates an immediate barrier to conversation. Unless your pastor knows who those “some people” are, their context, their history, and what is happening in their lives, she has no way of knowing where this complain is coming from. “Some people” always means that what “they” want is right and everything else is wrong. Whether “some people” are talking about music, preaching, Christian education, or what donuts are served at coffee hour, the fact that they hide behind a wall of uncertainty is an immediate sign that nuance and negotiation are off the table.
I bring this up because Jesus seems to invite the “some people” response in Sunday’s Gospel lesson. “Who do people say that I am?” Jesus asks, and the “some people” begin to speak. “Elijah.” “John the Baptist.” “Jeremiah.” “One of the prophets.” Like it is in the parish, these responses seem to betray what is happening in the heart of the spokesperson. There is, to be sure, no real clarity about who Jesus is at this point.
Until Jesus changes the question by asking, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter steps out from behind the protection of anonymity and declares, right there on the doorstep of “Philip’s Caesartown” that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter strips away all pretense, all fear, and declares with full awareness of the political ramifications that Jesus is the true Anointed One, and that Caesar can’t be the son of God because Jesus is.
When we move beyond “some people” and get to taking responsibility for ourselves and our faith, God will do remarkable things and, as it was for Peter, God will open our eyes to see that which is obscured by the rood screen of mistrust, fear, and anonymity. In truth, what “some people” say doesn’t matter, instead, what really matters is, “what do you say?”