Such a day of celebration would normally be accompanied by anthems, handshakes, hugs and cake at the very least, but not this one.
It was just a plain, said service to comply with Covid 19 regulations, but a joyful one nontheless.
As we go forward we are working on lifting the mood with music. Regulations now allow us to have a small choir, so bit by bit we'll be building on that plain beginning and taking on a "New Normal" as it grows.
This Sunday we had the passage from Matthew 16: 21-28.
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Just before this, there was that beautiful moment when Jesus asked Peter “Who do you say I am?”
The answer: “The Christ, Son of the living God” showed Peter in tune with God’s spirit and open to his word.
“It’s my Father who has made this known to you” Jesus said “You are Peter and on this rock will I build my church”.
Such a special moment when Peter recognised the Son of the Living God right there standing next to him. There was another such moment just before Jesus first called Peter, after the miraculous catch of fish when Peter recognised that Jesus was sent by God and he saw his own imperfection, his need for repentance.
So “From that time on ….”. From the time they understood who he was, he began to explain to them what God’s plan is for his Christ.
But then Peter reverts to type, telling Jesus he mustn’t let them kill him in Jerusalem.
Oh Peter, Peter, Peter.
That’s like saying “No, God’s got it wrong!” or “No, you may be the Christ, but I know better than you”
I know he’s loving and trying to protect Jesus, but he’s back to thinking like a human being again. Jesus makes life so good, he’s living the life, attracting the crowds, there are miracles, the excitement, wonder and amazement, the conversions, the proclamation of God’s Kingdom, the drama. Just being with Jesus feels good, there’s something about him. Peter loves him. Where would it all go if Jesus died? What would be left but grief if Jesus died, just to mourn and to lose it all.
It mustn’t happen.
Forget for a moment that we know how it goes, imagine Peter at that moment being told that the bottom will drop out of his world, that Jesus who he’d come to love would die.
But Jesus told him that by letting go, by not valuing earthly life more than God, by taking on the tough bits, by letting go of the best of times at God’s calling, he would find something greater and eternal. He would see the victory.
The death of Jesus would lead to resurrection and the glory of God’s Kingdom would be revealed to him.
Now it might not compare to the greater loss that Peter has to consider, but at this moment in time, I can identify in some way with that leaving behind the wonderful life we had, to go into a new way of being that might seem to be a bit dull and empty.
I think we did that when we moved from a full church life to doing email church, now for those able to come, there’s a new layer of going from a full church life to a Sunday service without the singing, and where the social aspect is minimal on Sundays and non-existent between Sundays.
Where the traditional community events can’t happen.
We will one day get it all back, but for now we’re adding in bits of music to break the sound of talking and add in bits of feeling. We will learn how to lift the Service in church so our hearts can get back to a sense of worship.
But worship of God doesn’t rely on how we feel. Even though it might be hard when it’s so plain, it’s still heard by God.
The “New Normal” is just a seed for now, but it will grow. Like Peter, we need to let go of how things used to be and be ready to take hold of what they will become and let God take the lead in growing our future.
Because when Jesus was tempted to save his own life, but chose to put that temptation behind him, he set out on the path that opened up to us the way to God.