When I was in Hebrew school, one of the teachers told me that once I had read and understood Genesis in the original language, my view of sunrise and how I would reflect upon the dawn of Creation would change. I believed them, but then again, I didn’t. So, during one of our days on the Blue Ridge Parkway last week, I left our bed and breakfast to reach a beautiful overlook where I hoped to contemplate my teacher’s message at the first light of day.
As the sun began to rise, I discovered he sold short the impact between God’s first words at the dawn of Creation, and the morning of new light we get to see every day. I got emotional. I got spiritual. I spoke out loud some of the words from Genesis in Biblical Hebrew, lifting my arms as I said them. I wanted to tell my teacher that all the tuition bills were worth it.
As the sun was catching everyone’s attention at the beginning of its morning traverse, a jeep pulled up next to me, and four women stood up in their seats, holding their phones, trying to preserve the moment in an image. My moment was now past, but I could not contain my joy. I spoke to them, jokingly telling them they looked like gophers coming out from their holes under the prairie to survey the landscape. We all laughed, and I attempted to explain what I was experiencing with the Old Testament and revisiting the microcosm of daily sunrise when compared to the dawn of Creation. My efforts could not do justice to my discoveries, but the women could sense the passion I had.
At that moment, they shared that one of the members of their group had just lost her husband to cancer, and they were attempting to celebrate something beautiful amid her recent loss. I looked at the widow’s outward countenance and was touched. My moment was not done. We all introduced ourselves, and the woman nearest me announced that she was from Austria. After some small talk (in German), the women then told me that I needed to talk to the Austrian woman more about God. I dont’ know what they meant, but my heart was ripe for the task.
Then, the most amazing thing happened. I will do my best to recall the exchange we had, but it won’t be exactly right. There was a bit too much Holy Spirit for my memory to be accurate here. Here goes.
“My name is Petra,” she said.
“Oh, do you know what that means?” I asked.
“Yes, Rock.” She obviously had been asked that question before.
“No, I mean do you know what rock means?” I said.
Dead look. Her face said, “Of course, I know what a rock is! But now that you ask, I don’t think I really know what rock means.”
“I promise to make the next moments worth her time.”
We all scramble for a piece of paper and something to write with. We ended up with a receipt from a Honda dealer and a black Sharpie to write with. I take it out as the women are now looking on.
“In Hebrew, most words are three letters long. Each letter has a meaning. The word “rock” is “Eben” in Hebrew. The first letter is Aleph, and, among other things, it means Lord or leader. The second letter is Bet. It can mean house, family, with, and in, among other things. It also refers to what the son builds for his father. The final letter is Nuun. It means the number 50. So, if you look at the word “Rock” it is a combination of leader, family, and 50.”
“What is the 50 all about?” one of the women asked. I knew she was a Christian because she had just told me.
“Well, what happened 50 days after Pentecost?” I asked.
“The Holy Spirit was given to us,” she said. Correct.
“Lord plus Family/son plus Holy Spirit. What does that sound like?” I asked.
“The trinity,” said one of the Christian women.
“Bingo!” I said. I turn to Petra.
“Petra, your name means the Trinity.” All the women pause. I turned to one of them.
“Can you look on your phone and find Matthew 16? When you see the word “rock” in your translation, replace it with “trinity” as intended and read it out loud to us.” She find the verse as everyone listens to her read.
“I say to you, upon this Trinity I will build my church.”
Silence. A mystery unraveled in front of them. Petra stares at all of us as we talk about her name.
“Wow, that is so cool. I was always taught that was about a firm foundation,” she said.
“I have certainly heard that translation. Rocks and foundations were common knowledge to all the people who were listening. If that was Jesus’ point, it would be the most uneducational and unchallenging statement he ever made. The new idea that there was now a holy trinity that would be the basis of a new covenant.” I return my gaze to Petra.
“So, Petra, it is upon the meaning of your name that Jesus establishes his church that all your friends go to. God knew that there would be a day when you would discover the meaning and purpose of your name, and that discovery is happening today, at sunrise” I say.
“Can we have that paper you just wrote on, sir?” one of them asks.
“Of course. It isn’t every day you get to use the Old Testament teachings to point people to the deeper meaning of the New Testament. Here, have my Honda receipt.” They take it from me, and we return to small chatter.
Not long thereafter, I needed to leave to get back to my group. One of the women approaches me. She is a bit shaken.
“Just this morning, we were praying for Petra to hear the message. Thank you so much,” she said. Her voice remained shaky. She was impacted by a teaching meant for someone else. Or was it meant for someone else?
It was now my turn for total silence. I am not a preacher, nor do I consider myself a sermoneer. Yet, today, that is how I will be remembered.
I got in the car and drove up. I called my friend Marty to tell him what I remembered of the moment. It had only been an hour or so, and I probably already had some of the details wrong about what I said. Maybe I am a preacher.
In the middle of my sharing, I suddenly stopped caring about who I was in all of this. I was in the right place, and God was using my language talents for Good. I got to watch it happen. It wasn’t an academic share. It was an introduction to a world that was previously unseen. Today, I was lucky enough to see the curtain torn aside.
An hour later, I had a friend request from Petra on social media. Of course, I accepted it. I said a prayer for her and sent her a picture that I had taken right before they arrived as well as one of her. I might even share this story with her.
The Hebrew word Eben became Petra in Greek. For Petra, it was her name. In the big picture for all of us, the rock became the trinity and a new foundation that still stands.
I hung up with Marty, pondering the depth of that scripture. I laughed. You might say I had a belly roll.
Can I then say that I had a Rock and Roll moment?