In the footsteps of Peter
5th After Trinity ~ Petertide
Mark 6: 1-6
Who are your role models?
I bet most of them will be pretty good at whatever it is you’re looking to them to model, whether its creative or musical skills, athletic ability, leadership, academic success, preaching - the list goes on.
No one usually picks a role model with a list of flaws as long as their arm. Out of the disciples, who would you have picked to pioneer and be the foundation of something as important as the church?
Today, we remember Peter.
Peter, probably the disciple we know the most about from the Gospel accounts – and perhaps the disciple we relate to the most. But possibly not the one who would be voted as “the disciple most likely to succeed.”
Possibly not the one who springs to mind as a role model.
Peter was the enthusiastic visionary, the one jumping up and down with all the ideas “let’s do this, hey look at me, I can walk on water” Peter was probably the one who when he spoke the others rolled their eyes or thought, oh no, what has he said now?
Peter was also the disciple who failed spectacularly, denying three times that he knew Jesus. But Peter was also the disciple who knew more than anyone the restoring power of God’s love, and forgiveness.
Peter gives us all hope –because he is not some kind of perfect Saint. To the other disciples, and probably to us, Peter is hardly the one who might be called the Rock. If we are honest he is as flakey as the Cadbury’s chocolate bar. To Jesus however, he is the Rock, the foundation on which to build the church.
Later in his ministry Jesus would ask the disciples who they thought he was. Peter, quick as a flash answered. ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.’
The story goes that Margaret Thatcher visited a home for those suffering from dementia.
She enjoyed a brief conversation with one of the residents, who seemed to be fairly lucid, so she risked asking,
“Do you know who I am?”
“No,” replied the resident, “but if you ask that nurse over there I’m sure she’ll be able to tell you”.
Who do you say I am?”
Imagine Jesus asking you.
I think it’s the most important question any of us will ever need to consider.
“Who do you say I am?”
What would you answer?
Son of God?
Disturber of my peace?
“Who do you say I am?”
This isn’t a question reserved for theologians, for priests, for the great and the good, this is a question aimed at each one of us. We can, of course, answer with our lips like Peter, quick to leap in with his extraordinary insight. We might make a reasonable stab at answering that crucial question with our words, but it is also our actions that tell others just who Jesus is for us.
Who do I say Jesus is when I cut in on someone in traffic?
Who do I say that Jesus is, when I ignore the Big Issue seller on the High Street?
When I fail to take a stand against injustice, at home or abroad?
When I put my own needs ahead of the needs of my neighbour?
When I just can’t be bothered to go the extra mile?
Who do I say that Jesus is, then?
If we are known as disciples, then our actions tell the world just who we say Jesus is, as loudly as any declaration of faith.
On the wall of a Cathedral somewhere in Europe are these words:
You call me Master and Obey me not.
You call me Light and See me not.
You call the Way and Walk me not.
You call me Life and Desire me not.
You call me Wise and Follow me not.
You call me Fair and Love me not.
You call me Rich and Ask me not.
You call me Eternal and Seek me not.
You call me Gracious and Trust me not.
If I do not Bless you, Blame me not.
When we proclaim Jesus, in word, and in action, when we proclaim his love for us all, when we proclaim his forgiveness and his restoration to the broken world in which we live – then the foundations of our faith grow, and the walls of the Kingdom are built. Then we like Peter become rocks, on which the faith of others can be supported and grow.
Our life as church, here in this community and this Benefice is built on the proclamation of Jesus as the son of God. A proclamation that strengthens each of us, and gives us our foundations.
Our faith and that of those around us is a corporate faith, we’re in this together. Like Peter we fail and fall, we open our big mouths and put our feet in, but like him we can know forgiveness and restoration in our own lives and to offer it to others.
Like Peter we should be enthusiastic about our faith and our relationship with God. Some of us are going be more prepared to leap out of the boat and get our feet wet, but we are family and none of us are so flawed that we can’t be restored, called and used by God.
None of us have it completely right either, every time we meet together we acknowledge our different gifts and callings and promise always to support each other, to be rocks for each other as we walk the path of life together, and build Christ’s church by our love and our actions, walking in the footsteps of Peter knowing that if he can be chosen to be the foundation of the church then it will be alright for us to follow.