Readings – Exodus 1: 8-2:10; Psalm 124; Romans 12: 1-8; Matthew 16: 13-20
Let’s focus on St. Peter today. Just a couple of Sundays ago we read about his water-walking. He stepped out of the fishing boat of disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee. He walked alone toward Jesus who was also water-walking. At first, Peter focused on Jesus, and all went well. That is until he noticed the winds blowing, and the sea waves rising. He became afraid, and he began to sink until Jesus reached out and saved him. Jesus then said, “Oh, you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14: 31b
Today we read about Peter among the gathered disciples becoming the first to declare, “You are the Messiah [the Christ], the Son of the living God”. This time Jesus responded, “Blessed are you… you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church…I will give you the keys of heaven…”.
A third snapshot of Peter alone and afraid was in the courtyard of the high priest on Maundy Thursday, the night preceding his crucifixion. There Peter denied even knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed to announce the sunrise.
A fourth snapshot was Peter, in the midst of the other disciples on the morning of that first Pentecost. Peter spoke to a gathering crowd.
…this man…you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.Acts:23-24
If I were to design a coat of arms to describe St. Peter, it would contain not only the keys to the kingdom but also, the crowing rooster. Peter was courageous in community, among the disciples, and he was frightened when alone, the keys and the rooster.
Here we have a person, like many of us, stronger in the midst of a supportive community, and frightened when out on his own.
So, when I think of St. Peter being at the entrance, at the “pearly gates of Heaven”, I am reassured that there we have a man who knows us, who has been in our shoes. He knows that we are stronger when within a community of faith. As the collect says, “when we are gathered together in community”. He also knows that we are fearful when we are out on our own, afraid of water-walking and in hostile environments.
Peter also serves to remind us and to model for us what the Psalmist wrote for all time.
Our help is in the Name of the Lord God, the maker of heaven and earth.Psalm 124, v.8