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Key to discipleship – The Revd Canon Maggie McLean

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As I’ve discovered in recent months, all around York there are images of crossed keys.

This is most common around the Minster and connects with the Cathedral’s dedication.

Looking down on us from the East End is the carved figure of Peter, blessing the city. His symbol the keys which give access to heaven.

All of this is here because of the words heard in our Gospel today.

Jesus gives Peter a special role; the Church came to understand Peter as its first leader; and York’s dedication is seen to be linked to the first church here, founded by Peter’s successor the Pope.

Peter connects York to Rome and Rome is connected to Peter, who takes us to Jesus.

For some Christians the physical links of history matter a lot.

For other Christians this is less significant, and it is the Bible that first and foremost connects us with faith.

Perhaps, when it comes to Jesus, the route we take perhaps doesn’t matter too much, so long as the journey brings us to a living faith.

In the Gospels the disciples don’t all reach the same conclusions at the same time. None of us do.

We aren’t all the same and faith develops at its own pace.

In responding to Jesus’s question it’s Peter who takes the plunge.

He isn’t tentative; hesitant or vague. He makes his declaration without qualification. ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God’.

Perhaps we tend to think about this passage as revealing about Jesus. But of course it’s very revealing about Peter.

We see in this exchange that Peter puts his full commitment behind his faith.

Peter is a rock of conviction; the disciple who commits his life.

As we go on to see, he is not without moments of doubt and disowning, but he remains fundamentally committed to Jesus – learning from his mistakes as much as his moments of triumph.

We all come to faith in different ways. In Peter we see that discipleship isn’t for the perfect but for the loving and the committed.

The followers of Jesus don’t have to get everything right but we are asked to learn from our mistakes.

Perhaps the pandemic has brought us new questions and maybe even doubts. It can be hard having less contact with our brothers and sisters in faith. We might feel that the way we shared our faith has changed or that in some way we’ve not lived as we hoped we would.

The example of Peter should bring us some comfort.

There will be days when we get it spectacularly right and days when everything seems to go wrong.

Days when we feel close to Christ and days when we wonder where our faith is leading.

Faith finds its own way.

From top disciple to being called Satan;

from unshakable faith to a skulking figure by the fire, denying Jesus time after time.

If Peter can get through so can we.

Let’s not pretend we’re better than we are. It’s Peter’s honesty and open failure that make him dear to Jesus.

In this example of an imperfect person, full of faith – failing, but always coming back to Jesus – we find the key to discipleship.

And in that, we should all feel encouraged to continue in our lives in the company of Jesus.

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