Rector's Ramblings: June 28th 2020



St Peter, whose feast we’re celebrating today, is a great favourite of mine. Back in my Norfolk parishes, I had 2 churches dedicated to St Peter so I always got the chance to focus on him at patronal festival time. I love Peter because he such a lovely human mixture. Today, I want you to listen to his ramblings (read Matthew 16: 13-19 first). Imagine yourself there at Caesarea Philippi. Here is Peter:

  “Jesus was serious that day. He’d taken us away from the madding crowds. He wanted us to have time with him on our own – away from the demands of others. We often had such times with him – he’d open our eyes to his teachings; he tried to show us his calling from God. I loved those hours of togetherness: just so many jokes, such humour, such playfulness. People imagine we went away for a series of prolonged sermons – far from it. He was a great person to be around. You just wanted to be near and drink in what he was saying, even where you weren’t sure what he was getting at.

  That day we’d trekked to Caesarea Philippi and looked forward to another time apart but somehow Jesus was different: still as light-hearted, still as joyful. It’s so hard to describe the joy in him; you wanted to bathe in it, be part of it, have it.  That day there was a seriousness about him, almost anxiety in his eyes, and I was aware that this was an important moment. I wondered why. It seemed like any other of our meetings. He told stories, he laughed, he prayed as only he could pray. How real he was in his prayer.

   Then quietly, not looking at us, he said ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ Well that was an easy question. We’d listened to the crowds talking and knew what they were saying. They knew Jesus was different which made them think of the stories of the prophets of old, the like of which hadn’t been seen for centuries, apart from John the Baptist. Jesus was saying and doing the sort of things the prophets had done. God was doing something special. We all chipped in with our version of what they were saying.

  Jesus waited for our chatter to die down and looked straight at us: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ I looked into his eyes. I tell you, at that moment, it seemed and still seems, that I looked into the eyes of God. At that moment we held all heaven within our grasp. ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ No other answer was possible. I knew. I burst into tears and was full of joy all at one go. Jesus exploded with joy too, the anxiety gone from his eyes. He’d been holding his breath for our answer. In a flash, I understood his loneliness, His sorrow; the sorrow of not being recognised for who he was, the loneliness of our being afraid and distant with him. None of us could help but feel sheer delight. I was on fire inside with his fire.

   You’d be forgiven for thinking I’d arrived, that I’d made the grade. But there’s a list of failures in my life – as long as your arm- failure which included my saying I didn’t even know Jesus. I’d find myself using the wrong words, words that hurt or manipulated. I’d end up confused and weak and find my resolve to be the Rock Jesus had said I would be seriously damaged. When I look back, I realise I let the pressures of being an apostle build up. Believe you me, it’s no mean responsibility for a fisherman like me with a reputation for opening my mouth and putting both feet in being an apostle. I would become centred on pleasing people, not wanting to upset them. I’d get bogged down and put other priorities ahead of Jesus.

   It is important to me that my shortcomings have not been airbrushed out of the gospel accounts. I didn’t want people to look at me as Peter, the great apostle and saint, as a sort of blueprint for being a follower of Jesus that they could never match. That would have been no help at all. I want my life, the mixture that it has been, to be an encouragement. If someone like me can be one of Jesus’ friends, then so can anyone.

   I found in Jesus someone whose teaching was always about forgiveness and the inclusivity of all. He never shamed anyone. Take me – I’d launch into something, like walking on water, and then sink. He never ridiculed me. I denied even knowing him (and I was the one who said I’d never desert him) and he cooked me breakfast on the beach after his resurrection. Not a word of blame or condemnation.

   I could be as full of pride and self sufficiency as the next man. I learned eventually that when I wasn’t altogether too full of myself, and went to Jesus, acknowledging my emptiness and my need of him, he would just fill my emptiness and need. It was safe to take my imperfections to him. That was such a relief, learning that lesson. Most of us spend so much time and energy hiding our flaws, ashamed of them. Jesus would never shame us, or blame us. We matter to him too much for him to shut us down. This Jesus who I learned to love so much.

     Are you still depending on earning your brownie points with God? Please just go to him as I learned. Offer him your emptiness, your need of him; don’t be full of yourself and forgive yourself your imperfections. Jesus forgives those imperfections in us as I learned on that beach after his resurrection. So surrender to him again and open the door to allow him in. Strangely, as you know more and more that he accepts you and your imperfections, you can forgive the imperfections in others!”

Had dear old Peter got something to say to us today on his day in June 2020? What do you think?