The Stodden Churches

Rector’s Reflection for the Feast of St Peter

I like Peter because he is such a rich mixture of positive discipleship, and unmitigated failure. It is that mix, that is so human, that enables me as a church leader today to identify with him; and find encouragement. I would have to say that he is my New Testament hero, because every time I miss the mark and get something wrong, every time I let Jesus who called me into ministry down, I think of Peter. And when I think of Peter I feel encouraged and inspired to keep on going; rather than think, “Well, that’s it, messed up, time to call it a day!”

Peter was called by Jesus from running his fishing business in Galilee to the business of fishing for people early on in Jesus’ ministry. Peter was not a luke-warm person, he was passionate; he threw himself wholeheartedly in whatever he did. So when Jesus calls Peter to be a disciple there is no hanging about; Peter throws his life in with Jesus despite having no idea where this man is going to lead him.

We are always encouraged to read the small print before we commit ourselves. Peter’s enthusiasm says, “hang the consequences, this Jesus is special, and I will go with his flow and see what happens!” Peter is like the surfer who goes out with his board and just delights to ride the wave. Peter’s willingness to ride the “Jesus wave” and not hold back leads him to be the one who is willing to put his hand up for Jesus when Jesus asks his disciples after months of his teaching and healing; “Who do you say that I am?” Mark tells us Peter’s bold answer; “You are the Messiah!”

Peter’s passionate, whole-hearted enthusiasm has him say aloud what the others, more reticent, may have been thinking. It is a great “Eureka” moment in the Gospel story. It is a great spiritual high, but it is the next part in the story that speaks to me. As soon as Jesus starts to explain the culmination of his mission that will mean his suffering and death on the Cross Peter tries to talk him out of it. Peter gets it, then again he doesn’t. He goes in moments from real positive discipleship to unmitigated disaster. I know from my many years in church leadership that you can go through a period when you think things are really going well, the church can be growing, people can be responding to a new initiative in ministry, and then it can all go wrong. You take a wrong turn, you say the wrong thing, or it just seems that you have missed the “Jesus wave” and you are just tossing about in the waves of misfortune. It is all too easy to think you have failed and that is it; but when I look to Peter and his relationship with Jesus I see that failure is not the end; that even through failure eventually Jesus’ kingdom can be extended.

Jesus did not give up on Peter; he valued and loved this man despite his faults. For me the moment at the end of John’s Gospel when Jesus restores a Peter all too aware of his failure is very moving when Jesus restores Peter by asking him; “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”  Peter responds each time to Jesus with, “Yes, Lord, you know that I Iove you!” What really matters in being a Christian disciple, whether you are a leader or not, is that you love Jesus

I know that for me to keep going in my discipleship what matters above all is that I love Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. That is the encouragement that I get from Peter; Jesus forgives his failures and renews his service because he knows that, despite his failures and mistakes, Peter really loves him. And that is all that really matters, that we love Jesus.


Bless you all,

Stephen

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