Gospel Reading for Petertide

Matthew 16:13-19


Peter’s Declaration about Jesus

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’


Bishop Jonathan’s Reflection on 21st June


A number of you have commented how much you appreciated Bishop Jonathan’s Reflection last Sunday. He has now provided the text, so for any who may have missed it, or for further reflection, we are publishing it here. The readings were: Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 10:24-39.


“Well, I’m not sure this is a perfect Gospel reading for Father’s Day – but maybe it’s not as inappropriate as it might seem. I had a great start to my Father’s Day with one of those cards that is created  out of your own photographs – showing my children and I drinking rum punch in our garden on a sunny day this spring and one with us drinking rum punch in Barbados 2 years ago. Coronavirus permitting, we plan to do the same again next spring.

As I look back over my ministry years, the 3 years in Barbados stand out as a key element – as will the 9½ years here. No earthly society is perfect, but in comparison with many places, Barbados has doe a good job of developing a place where people of different ethnic backgrounds are learning to blend, to accept each other as fellow Bajans, fellow Christians, fellow brothers and sisters. I remember when I was there noticing a huge difference in mutual acceptance between what I had come to see there, and what I saw on a visit to Atlanta in the southern states of America.

Back to today’s Gospel though. Jesus speaks in a language picturing extreme opposites- the children in the market place, neither of whose exuberant joy or mournful wailing provides any kind of sympathetic reaction – the camel and the needle – and we have, the man set against his father; you will be hated by all; only those willing to shoulder the burden of their crosses are worthy of me.

I notice that the conflicts pictured are mostly integrational: a man against his father, daughter against her mother, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law; father against child, children against parents – and only one reference to brother against brother.

Is this therefore more about new versus old than it is about family and dynamics? Elsewhere Jesus is pretty clear about the need to take family responsibilities seriously. I think this passage is about not compromising on our primary calling as children of God, and on the essential challenge to love God and to love, care for, one another – including our families.

For the people to whom this Gospel was first written, such a calling carried the very real threat that others would be so challenged by it that persecution, and imprisonment and death were real possibilities. Holding fast to the new wine and new wineskins, the deeper family that is the family of God in Christ, that’s what leads to the finding of the full, abundant life offered to us in Jesus.

The truth is that almost every generation thinks differently to the one before, and there are times when that becomes particularly obvious, and sometimes painful.

Through them all, Jesus calls us to stay focussed on the real priorities – to set our compasses by what is right rather than what is convenient/what makes us money/what avoids the particularly painful or difficult, even though others will suffer as a result/what we are used to/our default settings.

One of the challenges before us at the moment is addressing what’s called unconscious bias – the almost involuntary instinct to be suspicious of anything remotely different and then either to ignore it or react against it. I think that at the heart of what our black and minority ethnic brothers and sisters are increasingly tired of. Somehow, we have to acknowledge that bias and set our faces against it. Rejoicing in what and who is apparently different and emphasising what holds us together.

Ultimately that is the love of God shown to us in Jesus – may that love be always in the forefront of our lives.


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