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Sermon about the Apostle Peter

Sermon on the Apostle Peter

Ordinary 20 Sermon - Reverend Canon Charles Royden

 

I suppose for lots of us the holiday season is coming to an end. My holidays finished yesterday, we have just come back from Scotland fishing in some glorious lochs and salmon rivers.
On holiday I had time to reflect upon our reading today and the Apostle Peter,

Of course the thing which was of importance was that Peter is the patron saint of fishermen. He owned a fishing boat. Max and I used lots of boats on holiday, some good and some not so good, one had a broken bailing system which left a hole in the boat which let water in. We had great weather until the last day when we went out with a Ghillie called Dick who has fished the loch for decades. He stopped fishing at 4.00pm and Max and I thought we might have another hour, when we went out is was fine but suddenly the heavens opened a storm came up and the reasonably calm loch suddenly gained waves. We had a small light boat made of larch and it was tossed about and we had a few scary moments. Of course there was no reason to panic we had life jackets and the boat station had a rescue boat if we had capsized. That was not the case for Peter which is why he is a good patron saint for fishermen who put out to catch fish in sometimes very dangerous conditions. Lake Galilee is like a sea and it has storms and you were in fear of your life when they turned nasty. So we know Peter was a man of action, courageous and brave.

He also ran a business, he would have employed men on his boat and he knew about heavy taxation under Roman occupation. People depended upon him, he was a leader and this prepared him to be a leader in the church. Of course as a leader he was also the one who had to make decisions, just like on the boat, and that meant he stuck his neck out.

  • Specifically we know that whilst he was first to proclaim Jesus as the Christ, he misunderstood what it meant for Jesus to be a king, he misunderstood power and authority. The other disciples did this, James and John had their mother ask if they could sit at Jesus left and right hand !
  • Most famously he denied Jesus three times. Yet is was he who actually followed behind Jesus instead of running away.
  • He chopped off Malchus ear with his sword

 

So what can we learn from Peter?

1. Jesus welcomed his profession of faith even though it contained lots of wrong information
Jesus welcomed Peter as a work in progress, not the finished product. We should believe therefore that Jesus welcomes us in the same way, with our misconceptions and ignorance. We do not have to have everything sorted out before we respond to Jesus in faith.

2. Jesus knowingly endorses one who will make mistakes.
Being the leader obviously put Peter in the firing line. We see all of his failures very clearly. Jesus never sough perfection, he sought out those who were willing to serve, those who would go were sent. The life of the critic, or the armchair leader is very easy, Jesus has no work for armchair disciples. The parable of the talents is an illustration of this. God presence in our lives is not a guarantee against failure.

3. Jesus knows that God is at work in Peter’s life
Jesus says to Peter ‘flesh and blood has not revealed this to you’
Being able to respond to God in faith is a spiritual gift. It is the Holy Spirit who lives within us as we struggle to make sense of our faith. One of the things which we should try to find in a partner is somebody who makes us a better person, somebody who helps us to bring out of ourselves the best that we can be. In fact that should be true of all of our relationships, if people bring out the worst in us then we should perhaps thinks of not spending time with them in relationship. The work of the Holy Spirit is to help move us one towards the person God wants us to be. It is not that one day we will find perfection. We know that Peter himself even as a senior apostle was admonished by Paul for changing his approach to whether gentiles had to become Jews if they wished to follow Jesus. Yet he grew immeasurably from Simon the fisherman to Peter the Rock, upon which Jesus predicted the church would be built.

This change is true for all of us. We are works in progress and we seek to have God, by his Holy Spirit make us the best person of ourselves that he intended us to be.

This is not making us all the same!

If you join a cult then they tell you what you should be like, how you should think, speak, eat everything. Some Christian sects can be like this, churning our clones. I thought of it a bit like recycling plastic bottles you enter looking like one bit of plastic and you all get melted down and end up the same looking plastic bottle. We are not called to be made the same, we are called to be a part of a church and we are all different. We bring our individual gifts to be used by God and we become complete as the different part make up the Christian church.

Some are leaders like Peter,

  • First into the tomb
  • Fearless and passionate , don’t’ consider the consequences, soldiers come for Jesus, chop of their ears

Others are like Peter’s wife who take on huge sacrifices, she joined him on his missionary journeys, put herself at risk, gave up her stable life to support him in ministry. God was clearly at work in her life and yet we do not even know her name !

 

Jesus asks the question, ‘Who do you say that I am’

This same question comes to us down through the ages. Has the Holy Spirit planted the seed of faith in your heart ? If he has then you too are a part of God’s church and you are called to be a part of this process of being a disciple, being made into the most fulfilling person of yourself, the best person that you can be this side of heaven.
Through the Holy Spirit God calls us as we are and welcomes us with all of our imperfections. Like Peter our relationship with God will change us and make demands upon is. Not to make us all the same, Stepford Christians. God made us to be different not to all be the same.
To use the bottle analogy he wants plain bottles, and coloured bottles, straight bottles and curved bottles, all part of his kingdom

When we answer, ‘You are the Christ’ that has implications for us and for our lives. We are not saying that Jesus is a great teacher or role model, we are saying that he is our creator God.
It has implications, implications for how we spend our time, money and energy

This is for all Christians, not just the Peter or Pauls. God call us all to be wholehearted in all aspects of our lives. Knowing that we are imperfect and make mistakes, recognising that still God choose you and seeking for God’s Holy Spirit to enliven every part of our lives, which like our holidays are over far too soon.