Trust, relationship and return
Yesterday I arrived in Westminster for my week as duty bishop in the House of Lords. Following recent events there is much chatter of broken trust, as well as much talk about the how, when and what of returning to a more familiar pattern of life. In all of this the themes of trust, relationship and return are writ large, and it seems poignant to me that today is the day when we remember St Peter on whom Christ built his Church.
Peter discovered much about broken trust and broken relationship in his encounters with Christ, not least in that agonising triplicate denial of Jesus Christ after he was arrested. Yet unlike Judas, Peter had the courage, from a place of utter brokenness to face up to himself, and amazingly was able to look into the face of the risen Christ in an extraordinary encounter in an ordinary everyday place of his life, on the shore of Lake Galilee. Peter listened to the risen Christ speak his name as, again in agonising triplicate, Peter affirmed his love for Christ. It was a place of grace, of recognised potential, of re-turning and of sending out.
It is no coincidence that Petertide is the time when ordinations take place. Last weekend when those to be ordained as new priests and deacons stood before me in our Cathedral whose dedication includes St Peter, I could hear my voice faltering as I spoke the words ‘You cannot bear the weight of this calling in your own strength but only by the grace and power of God.’ Perhaps it was because I have known the truth of this throughout my own ministry, not least in a world in which we constantly see people in leadership stumble and fall amid fractured trust and broken relationship.
Just before I spoke those big words in the ordination service, the ordinands were reminded of the greatness of what is being entrusted to them as they participate in the ministry of Christ in the particular ministries to which they have been called. Yet ordination to specific ministries is set within the context of the whole body of Christ which is why the opening words of the ordination service remind us that ‘In baptism the whole Church is summoned to witness to God’s love and to work for the coming of God’s kingdom.’ That is a calling entrusted to all followers of Christ from the youngest to the oldest, whatever their story.
As we long for a returning to a more familiar landscape in our daily lives, may we trust ever more deeply in our God who loves us, calls us by name, sees our potential, and who dares to entrust us with the mission of reconciliation. May we repeatedly re-turn to Christ as in our brokenness we continue to break bread, be fed by Christ, and be sent out to witness to God’s love in our broken world.
The words leading into the ordination prayer include the words: ‘Pray therefore that your heart may daily be enlarged … ‘. May that be our prayer this Petertide so that restored relationship with God, neighbour and creation might be a hallmark of our returning to what it means to be the Church among the people and places of our lives. It is what I am praying in the corridors of Westminster this week.