Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men…. Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
From St Matthew 16: 21-end, NIV.
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”
From Chapter 6, Alice through the Looking Glass.
Today’s Gospel reading continues from last week’s, where Simon Peter had called Jesus the Messiah and had been blessed for doing so, given a new name and told that he would be given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Using the term Messiah was perhaps a dawning realisation for Peter rather than the acceptance of all that it would involve so it’s perhaps unsurprising that, when Jesus later tells his followers that he will suffer, die and rise again, Peter rebukes him, saying that this must never happen. It must have been bewildering for Peter to hear himself now called Satan and a stumbling block but perhaps the strength of Jesus’ response shows how hard it was for him, too. Reading the accounts so many years later, it may be easy for us to assume that Jesus naturally chose what God was asking of him but the Gospels suggest that he had to make his choice for God every day. This may be of comfort to us in the bewildering times in which we now live, when there are daily choices to reflect upon, whether about faith, major life decisions, using a mask or even going out. However, by losing the habits and expectations that were so familiar, it may be that lives will be saved and blessings found amidst what now seems disruptive, whether or not it all seems back to front. Those are the values, not only of the kingdom of heaven as Jesus’ words remind us, but of Carroll’s Looking Glass world, too. As we wrestle with the many changes faced today, it’s not only Peter who is bewildered or Humpty Dumpty who is pondering which is in charge.
So, this weekend’s Bank Holiday is timely as an opportunity for enjoyment, relaxation and re-creation before the schools return, autumn draws nigh and the worst wheat harvest for 40 years begins to push up food prices. Holidays were originally Holy Days and, when we seek the holy each day (perhaps beginning by praying the following prayer daily) then we will find ourselves being renewed, refreshed and re-created. That can be reflected even when, like Peter, what we’re looking at seems back to front or topsy-turvy and when, like the White Queen Alice met through the Looking Glass, it seems as if we also sometimes have to believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast!
With my prayers,
Diocesan Collect for the week
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray and to give more than either we desire or deserve: pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.