Reading, Reflection and Prayers for Sts Peter and Paul
Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul (June 29th) Matthew 16:13-19
This weekend we celebrate Peter and Paul - two giants of the early church. Yet it would be hard to imagine two individuals less alike in their background or faith journey.
When we first meet Peter he is known as Simon. He and his brother Andrew make a living as fishermen, and were probably relatively uneducated. Though the gospels each tell it slightly differently, Jesus finds them on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and invites them to leave their boats and nets and go with him. Clearly it was a compelling invitation, as they abandoned their livelihoods and spent the next three years in Jesus’ company. Those years were spent listening and watching closely as Jesus gradually revealed himself through teaching and many works of power. Ultimately, as we heard in the gospel of a couple of weeks ago, they were entrusted with a share in his ministry.
Peter appears to have been the leader of the disciples: he was often their spokesman and the one first to respond, as we read in the gospel passage set for today. As Jesus’ ministry was drawing to a close, it was time for him to probe their understanding of his identity. As the others beat about the bush, Peter blurts out the only possible explanation for all they have experienced: ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ In response to this confession Jesus blesses him with the name Peter, or in Greek Cephas – the rock on which he would build the new Christian community, thus empowering him with a new identity.
As we know, at the crucial moment the rock slips and Peter denies that he ever knew Jesus. But Jesus sees beyond and deeper than Peter’s failure. On the beach after the resurrection, in what feels like a re- run of their first encounter, Jesus reinstates Peter as the leader of the church and this is confirmed when the Holy Spirit is given at Pentecost. Peter’s passionate preaching leads to the birth of the church.
The uneducated, impetuous, flawed in some ways, but fundamentally faithful and loving disciple becomes the leader of the new Christian movement. But it’s not all plain sailing from thereon in, as arguments erupt in the early church over whether Gentile Christians were required to keep the Jewish food laws or be circumcised. Some wanted to make God’s blessing conditional on strict observance of Jewish law. Peter, on the strength of a powerful vision and his experience among the Gentiles, tries to convince them otherwise, but he was up against strong opposition.
Enter Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. He argues strongly that God’s unconditional favour is for all: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, they are all one in Christ Jesus.’ Yet for the first part of his life Paul was one of the most zealous adherents of Jewish law. A highly educated Greek-speaking Jew and a member of the sect of Pharisees, he was one of the foremost people involved in persecuting the early Christians, arresting and imprisoning them. He stood by with approval when Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned to death. Then on the way to Damascus to flush out the Christians there, he had a dramatic encounter with the risen Jesus in a vision. It was enough to convince him that God had chosen Jesus to be the Messiah and to respond to his commission to take that message to the Gentile world. From then on Paul emerges as the leader of the missionary church, establishing and encouraging new Christian communities around the Mediterranean and Asia Minor.
So when we remember Peter and Paul, the architects of the church, we are in the company of two people, both flawed human beings from very different backgrounds, who responded to God’s call, and God used their gifts to build his church. God continues to build the church with the living stones of people from all races and backgrounds, people who are flawed as all human beings are flawed, people who have experienced a gradual revelation of God’s love for them in Jesus Christ as Peter did, and those who, like Paul, have been hit between the eyes with it. In the wake of the way in which recent events have highlighted the disparity of opportunity for so many, pray that the church in all its ways may always reflect the truth which Peter and Paul insisted upon: that all are one and of equal worth in Christ Jesus.
For prayer or meditation
Collect for Peter and Paul, Apostles
Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you in their death as in their life:
grant that your Church, inspired by their teaching and example, and made one by your Spirit,
may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Reopening of Churches for Services
You will have seen from the latest Government reports, that we are now able to open our churches for services from 4th July – this guidance is permissive, not prescriptive. Before we are able to hold services at St James and All Saints, a number of safeguards and changes need to be put into place. These to include, deep cleaning, sanitising of areas and social distancing measures. In order to meet the above requirements, it may be that we will not open for services until 11th July. We will publish proposed service times on 2nd July.
Deep Clean of St James Church - message from Joy
In order to be able to reopen for services, we need to have a cleaning session in church. I have made an
initial start, this enabled us to open for private prayer, we now need to complete the clean …… I plan to be in
church on Thursday 2nd July from 2.00pm and would welcome some help to get the church ready – if you feel you
are able and willing to help please can you let me know? I look forward to getting a small team together to get
St James ready to welcome the return of a Sunday service.
Many thanks Joy
Reopening of churches for private prayer
St James is open this Sunday (28th June) from 11.00 am till 1.00pm. There will be no midweek opening as the church needs to be closed for 72 hours following a funeral on Monday, and then deep cleaned on Thursday.
Sunday evening Zoom service at 6.30pm
The link and log in details have been distributed to those on the Parishioners mailing list but is also available from the Parish Office (see Contacts page). We shall need volunteers for the psalm reading, the bible reading (liaise with Anne), and intercessions so that an order of service can be circulated. Please contact Marian & Mike (540108).
A huge thank you to everyone for their generous donations for the Ledbury Foodbank - a reminder that collection points will be open every Tuesday & Thursday from 2-4pm (Station car park and Wisteria House, 7 Colwall Green).
An update from Melanie
I wanted to let you know that following my Radiotherapy I am feeling much better and therefore have been in touch with the Archdeacon to request an occupational therapy assessment. This will hopefully map out a plan for my return to work. In the meantime, you may see me popping up occasionally as we return to a semblance of more normal life.