Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Confession of Peter, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Today is the feast of the Confession of Peter and the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

(Incidentally, I've added a new little widget over there in the sidebar showing the countries in the World Council of Churches' Cycle of Prayer. Appropriate to see much of North Africa, including Tunisia, there this week.)

Looking at the narrative of the confession of Peter I notice that when Jesus asks "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" they all answer (perhaps Peter included?) somebody else (Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist). Then Jesus asks, "But who do YOU say I am?" That's when Peter pipes up with his answer: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

I have this feeling that a lot of the other disciples said to themselves moments later, "That's just what I was thinking; I just didn't say it out loud."

And I think the reason why we celebrate Peter is because he's so darn willing to let himself look foolish and say what he really thinks. He's willing to take chances, to make stupid mistakes, and to look like an idiot. Which is the very next thing he does.

And Jesus gives the keys to the kingdom to this impetuous driver, a hopeless runner-off-at-the-mouth? Not in very safe hands, those keys, are they? But I think that says something about what Jesus wants for the church: he doesn't seem to want the church in safe hands, the hands of people who think before they speak so that they're sure of their answer.

And when I think of it that way, when I think of the church in the hands of someone as rash and prone to error as Peter, I simply cannot imagine it. It is so completely foreign to the way the church as I know it works. How on earth would it work? It would fall apart in no time. But maybe that matters less to Jesus than it does to us.

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