The Feast of St Peter and St Paul

The Feast of St Peter and St Paul

30th June 2013
The Rev’d Jonathan Chambers
St Paul’s Canterbury, Patronal Festival
John 21:15-22

St Paul’s Canterbury, Patronal Festival, 30th June 2013

As some will know I provide Supervision for people in ministry- chaplains and parish clergy. As part of my Professional Development I attended a seminar this week, on Ethical Supervision conducted by Elisabeth Shaw, former Managing Director of the NSW branch of Relationships Australia and member of the Ethics Committee of the Australian Psychological Society. Participants were Supervisors of Psychologist, Social Workers as well as Chaplains and Pastoral Carers. Elisabeth posed the question to us . “How would you respond if a supervisee – admitted to you in the course of a supervision session ‘I have a drinking and gambling problem , but it doesn’t effect my work?’” Or consider this : reading yesterdays Age newspaper there was the description of a social gathering when someone stridently gave support for our government’s treatment of asylum seekers. The writer was affronted and looked to her fiends to support her mild response saying “ well we need to see all points of view”, and was blown away by the fact that her friends who she knew actually agreed with her, after an awkward silence left her high and dry, and politely changed the subject. What is it that stops us from being brave and speaking up for what we believe in? We may claim its about having good manners, or perhaps from our past the we recall our mother saying, “if you cant say something nice, don’t say anything at all”, but in our heart of hearts we know we should say something and that our silence means consent. By saying nothing – we allow the injustice or potential harm to continue. So what stops us? FEAR …………..its generally about fear – not wanting to be hurt.

Today we celebrate the feast of St Peter and St Paul. You may recall an awkward moment for Peter as he waited by the fire in the courtyard of the High priest’s house in Jerusalem. One of the young women asked if he too was a follower of Jesus. “No I’m not “ says Peter. The story continues where he denies Jesus a total of 3 times, – and he recalls that he had vowed only a few hours before that he would follow him anywhere. It was FEAR that that gripped Peter.- ( ‘Better to be a live Jew that a dead follower of Jesus’!!) 2 And he went away weeping at his betrayal. Fear causes us not to be the people whom we really are or who we want to be. Its Fear that keeps us separated. Two Saints who stand out for me are our patron, St Paul and Nelson Mandela. Both were brave enough to overcome their fear of rejection by their own tribe, in order to include those on the margins. And I think it’s interesting that they both had personal experience of exclusion. As I’ve pondered their stories I’ve wondered whether their sense of need for inclusion and justice were born in the crucible of their own pain.

Following his conversion on the road to Damascus Paul was brought to the disciples by Ananias who vouched that he was no longer Saul the Pharisee and Christian killer, but a follower Jesus. The disciples were understandably dubious, but in time came to trust him. Soon after however the Jewish authorities tried to kill him, because he had betrayed their cause. Then there was then the ‘silent period’ as it’s referred to, where Paul returned to his home city of Tarsus for about 10 years. The scriptures don’t tell us what happened, but I expect that in that time he suffered rejection by both Jews and Christians – he was a outcast and I expect it was there he learnt to pray. Ten years is a long time – that’s how long it was before Barnabas hearing how affective he was in preaching for the Christians, finally asked him to come and work with him at the new Gentile congregation in Antioch. Nelson Mandela spent twenty seven years in prison. To come out, at the fall of the Apartheid regime without resentment and to call for reconciliation rather than retribution demonstrates that something must have changed Mandela’s mind. With all that time and knowing from his biography that he is a Christian, I expect that he too also learnt to pray. Paul out of his experience of being an outsider, overcame his fear of being unpopular with the Jewish Christians and became the greatest advocate for the Gentile Christians.

Mandela also overcame the fear of being rejected by his anti apartheid colleagues when he proposed the Truth and Reconciliation Tribunals, rather than a war crimes trial, because he knew that social inclusion was better than retribution for the new nation. I expect that it was in prison and in exile in Tarsus 3 which was transformative which led them both to see that love is better than fear.

As I thought of these men’s lives, this week I recalled from many years ago a cartoon and poem by our Australian prophet, Michael Leunig. I couldn’t find a copy of it on his website so I sent him an email:

Hi Michael, I’m looking for the cartoon image that accompanied your poem “Love and Fear”. I recall a picture of people in a maze with high walls, unable to see or reach each other. The poem and the cartoon are some of the most enduring images which have informed my own spiritual journey as well as my sermons over many years. I’d like to illustrate this Sunday’s sermon with your permission, by providing a copy of the cartoon and poem to those who attend church-. Its an Anglican service so there will be a total of about 100 copies used.! So in summary I’d like to have an image of the cartoon and permission to use it in this way on Sunday. Thanks for your significant contribution to the spiritual life of our country Jonathan.

I wondered if I’d get a reply in time and how much it was going to cost – with copyright considerations etc His Personal Assistant Nicola replied:

Greetings Jonathan, Thank you for your email. Michael is happy for you to use his work as requested. Please find the image for poem ‘Love and Fear’ attached. With all good wishes, Nicola Again I was confronted by a saint and asked – Are we people who guard our rights very tightly or we generous of spirit?

So what is it that causes our fear that separates us from others and how can we over come it? Love and fear / Michael Leunig There are only two feelings, Love and fear: There are only two languages, Love and fear: There are only two activities, Love and fear: There are only two motives, two procedures, two frameworks, two results, Love and fear, Love and fear. 4 I think the answer is shown in the encounter in our Gospel today Peter who, who out of fear ran away after Jesus’ arrest and then denied him 3 times, meets the risen Christ on the tranquil shores of Lake Tiberius. In this intimate encounter, three times Jesus asks Peter. “Do you love me?” “Do you love me more than these?”

Why? Because Jesus knew it was fear of death that had stopped him being true to his knowledge and love of Jesus. He says. “Do you love me … me than these? Do you love me more than all others ?? Perhaps the unspoken answer is …”only if I feel safe”. So how do I know I’m Safe and whether God’s love is enough for me? Jesus says to Peter 2 things “Feed my sheep” and “Follow me” In order to know which are Jesus sheep and to know where to follow Jesus : we must PRAY How do I know that God loves me? By Praying, Listening! Becoming comfortable enough with God that you know .

Maybe today is an is an invitation to ask. Do you want to be more like a saint? Do you want to go a bit deeper? How? Maybe start seeing a Spiritual Director each month. Maybe set time aside every day to spend in conversation with God –( not reciting a list of things that you want God to do), – but telling God how your feeling and listening for God’s response. Maybe you could go on a Retreat. How many here a have a Spiritual Director? If your comfortable put up your hand. I guess the question is how serious are you about your faith? What is Jesus asking you to do ? For some I expect YOU ALREADY KNOW WHAT WOULD BE GOOD FOR YOU. You’ve thought of it before, but its” hard to find the time” . Is this the time ? Good news is the grace – you don’t do it in own strength, don’t have to try – it 5 happens. At the same time I expect it wont be easy- as it wasn’t for Paul, or Nelson Mandela. You are likely to have those uncomfortable conversations like the one between Jesus and Peter. Do you really love me??… But its in those conversations where we encounter and learn to trust the risen Lord. In time, the place of prayer becomes a safe place- so I learn to ” “love Jesus more’…… More than anybody… and know that nothing can separate me from that love. Perhaps most importantly, you will also learn to forgive and love yourself.

Knowing I can never be abandoned, I can afford to Live more generously …..more likely to think and reflect, before I react to an apparent slur or perceived threat from a remark that someone made Likely to be more resilient about the assaults of another- taking time to put myself in their shoes and understand how their harsh words may have just been a reflection of their own feelings of hurt and FEAR!!! Jesus’ invitation- “Follow me” If you respond, your world will change …..forever….I promise. It’s an Adventure of a lifetime .. ….for eternity What are you going to do? “Do you love me more than these?”

The Lord be with you