Sermons & Scripture

Sermon | Peter & Paul

2 swifts sitting on a cable, backdrop of blue sky

Sermon for St Edward’s, St Peter and St Paul, July 2024

Readings: Matthew 16:13-19, Acts 12:1-11, Psalm 125

This morning we are recognising the feast of St Peter and Paul, transferred from last week.

Peter and Paul are remembered as 2 titans of the early church, Peter, Jesus even said:  you are the rock on which I will build my church (Peter from Cephas meaning rock) as we heard in our Matthew reading. He became the first Pope, the Bishop of Rome. And Paul helped found the early church and wrote the majority of the NT.

They both had key roles in evangelising and in growing the church in those early years.

Both faced persecution, we read today about Peter being put in prison and an angel setting him free. and we’ve heard in our Acts series about persecution that Paul faced.

We know that Peter and Paul met, and interestingly whilst their goal was the same they were clearly at odds with each other at least some of the time. Paul writes in Galatians that he ‘opposed Peter to his face because he was clearly wrong!’ (NABRE).

This all came about because Paul as we know had a real calling to the gentiles, but some early Christians believed you had to be a Jew or Jewish converts before committing to Christ. Paul thought Peter was being swayed by Jewish Christians around him.

Despite this we do know Peter recognised the work of Paul, and the gift God had given him (Gal 2:9)

You know the thing that stands out for me for them both is God’s redemption in them both. Despite their mistakes it was them that God called to build the church.

Peter, I love Peter, always getting things wrong, an over excited puppy at times who didn’t always get it. And his biggest mistake – I am sure remember how Peter denied Jesus 3 times before the cock crowed, after Jesus had been arrested. Even though Jesus warned Peter it would happen and Peter denied it vehemently. It is exactly what happened.

We read in Mark that Peter broke down and wept when he realised what he’d done. I can’t begin to imagine how he felt in that moment.

And yet it was Peter who God called to build the church. Jesus redeemed him. 

In John 21 we read how Jesus tells him to look after his sheep – 3 times – redeeming Peter in an echo of his 3 denials. It was an act of redemption.

Paul as we heard a few weeks ago was struck blind and later enabled to see miraculously as he had his conversion experience, when Jesus asked him ‘why do you persecute me?’

Paul had been a murderous thug, killing and persecuting Christians and yet God worked in him, turned his life around and called him to share the gospel. And specifically to the gentiles. (Acts 22:21)

These two are such unlikely church leaders aren’t they? And yet God took them and all their sin and brokenness, and said I will use you. I have a purpose and a plan for you.

Let me tell you a little about my owm calling. I grew up going to church but I never really had a faith of my own. I dabbled with it and there were times I explored what it meant to be a Christian. 

But in my younger years I walked away from God, I had really low self esteem. I explored different spiritualities, I got into drink and drugs and lived a party lifestyle. I ended up pregnant, thousands of miles from home, in Australia, and by myself. 

Having my daughter changed my life but I was not happy. I look back now and I know I was searching for what God could give me, I just didn’t know it then. 

A few years later and to cut a long story short, a builder came to work on our house who was a committed Christian, he shared his story with me, which was one of dramatic conversion, and it got through to me. I became a Christian and have never looked back.

And you know a few weeks after I made that choice, I felt God calling me into ministry. And honestly I thought I was going mad. I thought maybe everyone feels like this when they become a Christian (they don’t!), I couldn’t tell anyone. I just thought why would God call someone like me, with a misspent path and a string of bad decisions and mistakes behind me?

That was a real barrier to me exploring what God was saying, for so long. I couldn’t get beyond how I had lived before. Until others started to see the calling in me and encouraging me. And I was able to see that God might actually be able to take this broken woman and use her for the kingdom. 

Like Peter and Paul I had to get beyond the barriers I put in my life. I had to say yes to listening to God and be open to the path God had for me. God redeemed all that had gone before.

And there have been so many times when I have seen God use my past to build the kingdom. I feel drawn to those on the margins, those who society frowns upon, perhaps because I was once that person being frowned upon. The single parent on benefits. The person throwing up in the street from too much alcohol. 

In my past role I worked with the homeless and addicts and felt a connection to them – that could have been me. I’d been there, living in a tent, stoned or high, not knowing what my future held.

I want to come alongside and encourage people to be all God has made them to me, because so many overlooked me, thought I’d amount to nothing, but the few that encouraged me made all the difference.

God redeemed my past. Because that’s what God does.

God takes our barriers and uses them as building blocks for the kingdom. Paul’s persecution of Christians made his testimony all the more powerful. His knowledge and education learned as pharisee meant he could connect to Jews in powerful positions and argue for Christ as the messiah.

Peter is an example to so many of us that we don’t have to be perfect, we can make mistakes and God will still use us. He is an encouragement to us all.

And I feel like this is what God wants to say to us this morning. What are the barriers in our life? What things have we put in the way of stepping into God’s call on our lives whatever that may be. What is God saying to you and are you listening?

How can God use your barriers to build the kingdom?

Lead into quiet and reflection for a moment…..

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