Saturday, 28 June 2014

On This Rock

Why Peter? Why is he the one who is to be the Rock, the one on whom the Church was built?

John was clearly more spiritual - emotionally closer to Jesus. And we like a nice, spiritual thinker, don't we? Thomas generally had more insight - he knew exactly what going to Jerusalem meant. Matthew, I suspect, would have been better organised. And, as many have commented on my Ministers' CVs post, organisation - proper organisation, as opposed to organisations - is something the Church is often lacking. If Matthew had been the first Bishop of Rome, maybe today the average clergy study wouldn't be a candidate for the"Buried Alive - Uncontrollable forms and Old Song Books Special". You know the one where the previous incumbent is found behind a wall of old copies of Songs of Living Water, still trying to work out her attendance return, four years after the new minister moved in.

But it was Peter who made the declaration.

"Who do people say I am?" They're all asked.

And the disciples have ready answers. "Some say a prophet, or Elijah returned, or Jeremiah."

That's the scholar's answer to the question who was/is Jesus - different things to different people. A minor irritant, soon forgotten, to the Roman governor. A rabble-rouser who had to be eliminated, to the Temple rulers. The "Son of David" to a beggar in the street. An irrelevance, to most people today in the UK - remembered in a child's carol or hanging lonely on a war memorial.

But that question is only a lead-up.

"Who do you say I am?"

And only one voice comes back. "The Messiah, the Son of the Living God." In a quiet moment, a still point, an eager young man suddenly knows, and makes his wonderful confession.

That certainty was soon interrupted by fear, by doubt, by terror. "You are the Rock" becomes "you will deny me". A moment's glorious recognition becomes a terrified, guilty night, a day of horror and a day of flat desolation.

But then "you will deny me" turns into "feed my sheep". The knowledge is refreshed,  the relationship - only denied one side - restored.  And the Rock - still gormless, getting it wrong in the arguments over Gentiles with Paul - is ready to stand firm.

And so Peter is the Rock on which the church is built. We are not here to care what others say about Jesus. We're not always strong, we're often right. We're weak, we're human.

But we stand on the rock, knowing the Church, battered and bewildered and threatened as it often is, stands against all the works of Hell and, in telling out Peter's confession, will bring those gates down and the prisoners - if they want - out.

The words spoken by Peter, the first duty and most important words of Popes, bishops, priests, ministers,  pastors, deacons, Sunday Club teachers, and very single other living stone, built on that Rock, as they look to their cornerstone and foundation.

"You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God".

And everything else comes after.

1 comment :

  1. If I hadn't had Peter to prove that we don't have to be perfect before God can make use of us, I wouldn't be a priest today.


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