PETER and PAUL
Gilbert and Sullivan, Marks and Spencer, Laurel and Hardy – there are certain names which always seem to go together. It is the same in our ecclesiastical world – Philip and James, Simon and Jude, Peter and Paul.
is an ancient tradition which maintains that these two apostles were martyred in
that as it may, what is beyond conjecture is the remarkable speed with which the
Christian message spread around the eastern Mediterranean and beyond, very
quickly establishing a foothold in Rome itself. Generally speaking, when
referring to these various Christian groups coming into existence where the
Gospel was being preached for the first time, the New Testament writers tend to
use language and metaphors derived from pastoral and agricultural practice. Saint
Paul, for instance, speaks of the Christian community in
However, other imagery, other metaphors, emerge, drawn not from agriculture but from the building trade, the construction industry. In today’s feast this other way of describing life together in the Christian household of faith comes into focus. So in the Collect we pray that inspired by the teaching and example of the duo viri, Peter and Paul and made one by the Spirit, we may ‘stand firm upon the one foundation Jesus Christ’. In the Gospel, Jesus declares that he will build his Church on the rock of Simon Peter’s confession of faith in him as Messiah. Such language echoes what is said elsewhere. In the Letter to the Ephesians the writer states that as ‘members of the household of GOD’ we are ‘built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, with Jesus Christ himself as the corner-stone’. The writer of the First letter of Peter says that Christians are ‘living stones…built by God into a spiritual house’.
stones’. When used for building, stones are not shapeless blocks of rock.
is exactly how the
readily think of God as Creator of all things.
He has quarried us from the bedrock of human nature and he works on each one us with spirit-level, plumb-line and measuring rod, as he seeks to shape and fashion us through the events and circumstances, the responsibilities and relationships of everyday life. It is ‘with many a blow and biting sculpture’ that the heavenly Architect ‘fashions well’ these ‘stones elect’.
Some of us are easier to deal with than others. Some of us are hard and resistant and unyielding. Some, for one reason or another, do not fit easily and readily into what God has in mind for us. Others do not weather well but tend to crack and crumble, peel and flake under the stress of life’s storms – the wind and the wet, the frost and the heat, of all the manifold changes and chances of this fleeting world.
However, God’s patience with us is endless and he never gives up on any of us. No matter how much we may despair of ourselves, he never despairs of us. He goes on believing in us and never loses hope that each one of us, by his grace, will finally fill to perfection our appointed place in the Great Church, the New Creation – each one resting firmly on the foundation of those who have gone before us, each one being a strong support to those around us and each one helping to provide a firm base for those who will come after us.
‘I will build my Church upon this rock’. That is who we are and what we are – ‘God’s building’; a place where GOD is to be encountered, ‘a spiritual house, a holy temple in the Lord’.