May I speak in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
This is the first time I can remember celebrating the Feast of St Peter here, or anywhere else for that matter, which is strange, bearing in mind that Peter, Matthew tells us, was the rock upon which the church is built.
Who is Simon or Cephas, son of Jonah, renamed by Jesus, Peter?
According to the gospels, he’s the hot-headed, devoted, deserting, cowardly, impulsive follower and denier of Jesus. Imagine his school report -
definitely not the man we would choose to head up Project Church-build!
He doesn’t grasp new ideas easily, either. Think about the Transfiguration, where Peter doesn’t quite catch on and comes up with the idea of making tents for the visitors. Even after the resurrection, he was slow to to see the full implications of having non-Jews in the Church. He appears anything but quick-witted.
However, once Simon has grasped something, it never leaves him.
This is what makes him the personality Jesus recognises with the name ‘Peter’, translated as rock: he may be slow to take things in, but he’s utterly reliable once he has seen the truth; someone who can be trusted to strengthen his fellow disciples; a ‘rock’, on whose solid faith Jesus can build his new community.
Today we’ve heard Jesus ask two questions.
The first, Who do the people say the son of man is?
It sounds a bit like modern audience research and gets a variety of answers worthy of the back row of the fourth form, when they’ve not been paying attention.
But Peter’s answer to the second question, Who do you say I am? Moves him to the top of the class. This rock is not bone-headed, needing a hammer and chisel to get the ideas in, this rock shows God-given insight and rock-solid faith. Jesus chooses him, Peter, to build his church and gives him the rock to smash the gates of hell and the keys of the kingdom of heaven. They come together - the keystone.
We are the inheritors of the kingdom of God. Peter (and Paul who shares in today’s feast day) and all those down the centuries who have followed them, have passed on to us those rocks of faith to smash the gates of our own versions of hell as well as the keys of heaven.
The rock of faith gives us the hope and the courage, the Keys imply privilege and a responsibility. Andrew will tell you how key-up I get when I lose my keyring, or the tin opener, but also let’s remember key workers and keynote speeches.
The keys passed on from Peter give us, the Church, permission to innovate, to unlock doors that have been firmly closed. Doors keeping people out, doors keeping people in, physically and mentally.We’re waking up now to a new version of our world. Not a different one, the same world with the same issues, injustices, and challenges. The difference is that now, through the insights and experiences of the last months, we have been given the key to understanding, to seeing new opportunities, to open the doors and let <span style="font-size: 1rem;">fresh thinking into our institutions, attitudes, church … our hearts, so that through those unlocked doors we may glimpse the kingdom of heaven.</span>
These are exciting times. Let us pray for the courage to take the rock of faith and the keys of opportunity and make the most of them.Amen