Taking a liberty

Proper 16a – Sunday 21st August 2011
Matthew 16: 13-20

HolidayI’m off on holiday shortly. A nice fortnight away from my desk. Recharging my batteries, relaxing a tad, enjoying my family. What could be better?

Consequently, I’m in a little bit of a holiday mood already. So, perhaps you can blame that for me taking a little liberty with my blog this week. For my thoughts and reflections on Matthew 16: 13-20, I’m going to sneak round the corner and quietly mention the next couple of verses which form next weeks lectionary passage. The next couple of verses? Well, this is such a well known story. And verses 13-20 go together with verses 21-28 like cheese goes with biscuits.

In fact, I can’t recognise this passage without seeing Peter at his brilliant best and infantile worst!

St Peter's KeyI still get a chill go up my spine when I read this segment. Not just for Peter’s reply to Jesus, but because those words are emblazoned on my heart: “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Without recognising who Jesus is our faith is nothing. It is the key to our beliefs – just like the keys handed over to Peter in his moment of glory.

But hey, let’s bring in that sneak peek into verses 21-28. I love it when Jesus gives his disciples what for, it makes me feel that one day I could make it as a disciple. Not realising that this is the divine purpose, Peter, riding high on a wave of pride and courage, takes Jesus to one side and tells him, “Death? You Lord? No way!” To which Jesus doesn’t mince his words:  “Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works.” (Matthew 16:23 The Message)

You know, if that had been me, if I’d been standing in the shoes of Jesus, I would simply have stretched out my hand and said, “Keys. Can I have the keys to heaven back Peter? Your credit rating has just been downgraded and we are just going to have to give the key holding job to someone else. Stop blubbering, man. You blew it! Now, where’s Judas?”

Perhaps it not such a bad thing that I’m not Jesus! I’ve not always been blessed with a terrific sense of judgement. But here we have the key (oops, sorry for the pun) to this passage.

Jesus accepts us as we are. Full stop. If we’re Captain Fantastic one moment and Lieutenant Losealot the next that’s fine with God. He’s not going to take back the keys. Jesus accepts Peter with all his faults and flaws and imperfections. Jesus accepts me with all my faults and flaws and imperfections. This passage isn’t about action, it’s about faith.

Over at Sarahlaughed.net Sarah Dylan Breuer says this way better than I can. Read her blog this week, so much more informed and better written than mine, and the crux coming here:

There’s a timely lesson for us in Constantine’s confession and Peter’s, in what they get right and where they fall short, and it goes back to the discussion we were having two weeks ago about faith. Faith isn’t about assenting to a proposition; it’s a relationship of trust with a person. Faith in Jesus isn’t primarily about saying or thinking correct things about him. Faith in Jesus is following him, serving those the world despises; it’s not a guarantee of earthly glory and success, but willingness to share the scorn that the proud heap upon the humble.  Faith doesn’t found empires, but frees us to live as sisters and brothers of all nations. Faith in Jesus doesn’t tell us that we will defeat our enemies; it moves us to love, forgive, and be gracious toward them as Jesus was toward his.

“Faith … moves us to love, forgive, and be gracious toward (our enemies) as Jesus was toward his.”

I can’t phrase it any better.

There. I’ve taken a liberty. Two liberty’s, in fact. I’ve started thinking about next weeks gospel. And I’ve based my thoughts around someone else blog. You’d think I was on holiday already.

Ice CreamJust in case you’re wondering, I’m so in front of myself I might meet myself coming back. I’ve written my blog 3 weeks in advance so these words are being automatically posted for me. As you read this I’m still sunning myself in glorious Bognor Regis, licking a wonderful Mr Whippy cornet – I’m a lucky lad!

Happy days

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About Neil Chappell

Husband, father, Congregational Minister and football fan all rolled into one convenient package.
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