Here is the sermon I preached at Petertide (which included this same gospel reading, but with the relase of Peter from prison in Acts ch 12): pity I'm in the same church or I could 'pinch' bits!!
I have always had a soft spot for Peter. Despite the confidence-inspiring nickname – the Rock – there has always seemed to me to be something very human about him – more rocky than Rock.
Peter, it seems, is a blurter-out of what’s in his head.
When Jesus asks ‘who do you say that I am,’ the others disciples don’t have much to say. They’ve been quick enough to talk about what other people have been saying, but when they are suddenly asked what they think, they go very quiet. You can imagine finger-nails being examined, clothing being picked at for imaginary fluff and sandals being drilled into the floor.
But Peter splurges ‘You are the Messiah, the son of the living God’. He must have glowed with pride to hear Jesus respond ‘good for you, Simon’. Yet just verses later he swaps the victor’s crown for the dunce’s hat. Jesus talks of his forthcoming suffering & Peter says ‘that will never happen’ – and he is immediately rebuked by Jesus.
We can easily think of other mistakes Peter makes – the daft bit at the transfiguration about building little shelters for Jesus, Elijah & Moses; the refusal at first to allow Jesus to wash his feet at the last supper; and of course his denial of Christ – with his subsequent forgiveness.
Even in the amazing heroic tale from the Acts of the apostles, featuring Peter’s release from prison by an angel, Peter wonders whether all this is really happening – and in fact is convinced this is only a vision to encourage him, not a real live happening.
It must have been Peter himself who told the story of his release – what happened, what was said, and what he thought: he is not afraid to admit that he got it wrong and thought he was only dreaming of release.
Perhaps it is Peter’s very humanity, his ability to admit his mistakes but to be open to what God can do for him and through him, that makes him the Rock on which Jesus can build his church.
Jesus chooses an ordinary person – perhaps better at using his heart than his head – and definitely fallible and imperfect. This is Peter - a rock in the sight of Jesus – someone Jesus will take and teach and forgive and fashion into a stable foundation.
As we give thanks to God for the Rock which is Peter, let’s also give thanks for the God who by the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus Christ can take each one of us, rocky as we may be, and build us up into the body of Christ, the church founded on Peter, God’s agents in the world.
To God’s praise and glory