My great, great, great grandfather was a ships surgeon in the British Navy who jumped overboard on his way to the battle of Quebec City, swam to shore in the Gaspe, and started farming in the woods.
My great great great great great great grandfather was a Viking who went across the northern seas to the Isle of Britain and liked it so much he stayed.
I am not convinced either of those stories are the gods honest truth. But when I was growing up, they were the characters that helped define who I was… they formed an identity that said, this was who it was to be an Anningson.
Who are those characters for you?
What are the stories you would tell to your kids around a campfire… about great uncle Billy the pirate, or old old grandma Sarah who was capable of forecasting weather…
There are characters in our faith story as well… you have probably heard some of their names, like Noah or Moses, King David or John the Baptist…
For the next little while I want to tell you some campfire tales about the Apostles… about the people who started the early church… who met together in basements, who prayed together when it was illegal, who shared with each other even when no one understood it…
The church of today is not the church of yesterday. This should go without saying but it is definitely true… when it all started out there were no buildings, there were no ministers, there were no committees…. There were a few people who were on fire with the message… evangelists…. And they believed beyond a doubt that they had to get the word out.
One of those believers was Peter…
Peter would eventually be known as the head of the church. He would become the first pope, in a sense, and the biggest church in the land would be St Peter’s Basilica. He was at the centre of the group of disciples who began the church… but it was not always that way…
Peter, whose real name was Simon, was a fisherman in Bethsaida… actually an owner of a family fishing business… where most of the fishermen in his region were poor and probably owned nothing but a net, he owned boats, and along with his brother Andrew were among the first disciples called by Jesus.
Along the way Jesus keeps testing Peter, and he kept failing… terribly actually, from the whole refusing to see who Jesus really was, right through to the denial of Jesus in the courtyard on the night of the crucifixion,
Peter made mistakes… but Jesus saw something in him. So much so that he nicknamed him the Rock… the Rock upon which the future would be built… upon which the church would be built… that is Peter.
With the Kids
The disciples fear…. Our own fear… God showing up when we are afraid…
The First Days
Let’s take a step back from Peter as the head of the church to those first days after Jesus hung from a cross. Almost every story we hear from that first week is a story based on fear….
So here he is, with the disciples, locked in a room afraid…. Peter knows he has denied being a disciple; he is probably embarrassed and worried and does not know what to do next….
He certainly does not seem very Rock like at this very moment. And to be fair, he has good reason. There is a lot to worry about and things are not going the way anyone could have planned.
But the thing is, that is part of his story, right… he was a guy who made mistakes and he was a guy who
somehow found a way through.
Here he is the week after Easter starting from a place of hopelessness and fear… a place where Peter cannot imagine what the future will hold or what the world outside the walls of his locked room will look like.
Have you ever been there yourself? Ever been afraid of the future? In a very real sense that is where Peter is now….
The Acts of the Apostles
For the season of Easter I am going to be telling campfire stories about the heroes of our faith. I guess you can guess that today is about Peter… throughout this season we read from the book of Acts, a book of history about the Apostles and the early church.
People often say that Acts is the second part of the Gospel of Luke, it continues the story of what Jesus was trying to do, but it focuses on the time after his death and on those who took over for him…. So beginning from the day Jesus is taken up into heaven, through the story of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples, what we read are the stories of people who stood up and made a difference.
So flash forward a few months in the life of Peter, those fearful moments in Jerusalem are over, he has left the locked room and begun to teach and preach… but… now Peter is once more confined, but this time he has been arrested and is on trial...
Brought before the high priest and the whole council; he is asked point blank… did we not tell you never to talk about Jesus again! Didn’t we tell you not to preach this stuff to the people?
And Peter boldly stands up and says, God has commanded we do this… it is the truth… how could we not speak up!
Well, this really doesn’t seem like the guy who was afraid to admit he was a follower of Jesus, does it?
Something has changed him, something has restored him, and something has given him the power to do more than he imagined he could…
I wonder if we sometimes forget about how fast things were happening, about what the followers of Jesus had to go through and what they had to wrap their minds around… I mean, from meeting Jesus to losing him, to starting the church is just a little more than three months.
They head to Jerusalem sure Jesus is going to change everything, watch him die, run away, then start the church up in a matter of months. I guess when I think about that I really do think that perhaps Peter deserved his nickname, he was pretty resilient.
There is no doubt that we can all relate to Peter… There are times when we feel fear and doubt and confusion; it is in those moments that we find ourselves in a locked room, blinded by walls on every side.
There are times when we feel confident and free, able to speak our truth about our thoughts and beliefs; able to hope and dream and see the big picture.
And still yet, there are times when we feel persecuted, having to explain ourselves and work extra hard to be who we want to be.
The point I am trying to make is not where you should find yourself or what you should be doing, the point is that through Peter’s story we see God. We can ehard God speaking through the stories of the lives of the faithful who have gone before us – stories rich with faith and response to God’s love.
It is up to each of us to find our own purpose in these epic stories. But we must always remember that the people of our past still have so much left to say… and that what they say is very relevant to us today…
So I hope you are left thinking about what it is that Peter is saying to you. How does his character and his story relate to yours? For just like the earliest flowers of the faith, you are a Christian too, filled with the same spirit of possibility.