“From Solid Rock to Stumbling Block”

Matthew 16:21-28

The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Then Jesus turned, and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.  You are a stumbling block to me.”

With those words from this morning’s gospel lesson, Peter took a fast, far fall.  In last Sunday’s gospel passage, Jesus declared Peter the rock on which the whole church would be built.  Now, just seven days later, Peter’s approval ratings have plunged all the way from solid rock to stumbling block.

Which, needless to say, is not the only time this sort of thing happened in Peter’s life.  Most notably, there was all that pain on the last night of Holy Week, when Peter promised to support Jesus to the end, only to abandon Jesus at the end.  Not to mention Acts chapter eleven, where Peter stood up, with courage, for the full inclusion of Gentiles in the church, only to back down, under pressure, in Galatians chapter two.

All of which makes all of us feel nothing but empathy for Peter, because we all know how it feels to fail.

None of us are strangers to the complexity of the human condition.  The wisest people we know have blind spots and limits, and the brightest and best of people sometimes make the poorest and worst of choices.  None of which surprises us, because we all know that we all have our own subterranean fault lines and flaws running beneath the surface of our soul.

Perhaps that is why so many love, so deeply, that sentence at the center of the burial benediction from the Book of Common Prayer;  “Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming.”

Sheep of God’s own fold.  Lambs of God’s own flock.  Sinners of God’s own redeeming.  Indeed, aren’t we all, all of the above?                                                                                                                                                  Amen.