Peter and Paul – the pillars on which the early church grew. In unexpected places, in unpredictable circumstances these two men accept the task that Jesus has given them.
For each of them, however there needed to be a rebirth, they needed to go back to the beginning of their journeys in faith in order to be able to be truly restored in their relationships with God.
For Peter there was a need once more to be affirmed by Jesus as the person on whom his church would be built. And, perhaps more importantly given the his previous denial of even knowing Jesus let alone loving him, Peter had to reaffirm his love and his understanding of who Jesus really is – the risen Lord, the long awaited Messiah, the Son of Man.
For Paul the restoration was even more fundamental. As Saul he would have firmly asserted his faith in God, indeed he would have claimed that this was the motivation behind the acts of persecution he unmercifully commits. Paul had to be completely reborn and restored.He had to return to the helplessness of a child in order to be not just restored but reborn in his identity as a child of God.
Both men required not just a recollection of what a relationship with God truly was, they needed continuous encounter with Jesus in order to truly understand what his call on their lives truly was.And what of us? Have we met with Jesus in unexpected places, in unpredictable ways? Have we heard him speak to us – quietly perhaps by the side of the sea or with drama as we travel through life thinking we have it sorted like Paul did, that we know exactly what our lives are going to be?
Do we need to be renewed in our faith, restored to a full and meaningful relationship with God? Have we become complacent in our understanding of what being a disciple of Jesus really means? Are we in danger of taking the awesomeness of what the resurrection means not just for us as individuals but for all of humanity?
Yes we are here worshipping God which implies that of course we believe in the risen Lord, but how does that belief play out in each of our lives, both from a personal perspective and also as part of the body of Christ in the wider community?
These are big questions and ones that need prayerful and careful reflection if we are to respond with integrity and obedience. In the post resurrection appearances on which we have reflected in both this week and last week’s readings, all have begun with an encounter with a stranger before that stranger has been revealed as Jesus. None of us know when the stranger we meet may be revealed as our Lord and Saviour. We might not feel ready to meet with Jesus and respond to his call but like Peter and Paul we can’t escape it. Jesus will call us in his own time and we have to accept this and be obedient to that call whenever and wherever it may come.
The call on Peter & Paul was massive but we should not underestimate the impact of our own call. Whatever Jesus asks of us is of no less importance to him than that which he asked of those two great men.
Last Tuesday, Karen, Trudy and I went to the cathedral for a gathering of ministers, both lay and ordained, from across the diocese. It was a good morning and much wisdom was shared by the speakers and I’d like to share with you just two points that certainly spoke into my heart.
The first point, made by the visiting speaker, Bishop Tim Stevens, is that God doesn’t call us to be heroes – he calls us to be holy and to be hopeful. To be honest this feels like quite a tough call to me – I am so far away from being holy that it seems like a very steep mountain to climb and sometimes it can be hard to be hopeful, especially when we look at the brokenness of the world around us.
And the second point was made by Bishop Guli – that we should aspire to be gentle and kind presences in the world. Not necessarily meek and accepting of injustice, far from it, we should never hesitate to call out bad behaviour in all its forms, but that we should do so in the way that reflects the way of Jesus, a way that may seem counter cultural in this world but is the way that glorifies God and reflects all that Jesus calls us to be in the great commandment that he has given us – that we love our neighbour as he loves us.
We are Easter people , blessed by the risen Christ and called by him to be part of the new creation which began on that day over 2000 years ago. Let us go forth, expecting the unexpected and ready to embrace all it may result in. Alleluia, He is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!