The patron saint of the parish I am serving is St. Peter, the Apostle. I wake up every morning giving thanks to God for the call to serve this community as its pastor. Chiefly, that thanksgiving is due to the relationships I have found in the people who call this parish their home. They are a passionate and compassionate bunch. Many churches speak about how "friendly" they are, and many live up to that appellation. This parish, however, works hard to surpass it. Come to church on a Sunday, visit the Thrift Shop or attend a service in midweek, drop in to the Community Supper or check out the Food Pantry. Come by the parish office.... Please....you will be amazed. People are welcomed, warmly and grace-fully. There is no artifice behind that welcome. It just, well....is.
On top of that welcoming spirit, the people of St. Peter's work. They work hard. They give their time in volunteering for the mission of the Church, for the care and maintenance of the grounds and buildings and for the nurture of people seeking to deepen their experience and formation in the life of Christ.
Lastly, perhaps the quintessential element of their beauty as members of the Body of Christ, they are forthright and honest. When something needs to be said, they say it. When truth needs to be spoken, it is. We sometimes experience that as conflict, but more often than not, truth is received in and with the grace it is offered: without filter and without much regret.
That is not to say we are all "sunshine and lollipops." When we argue, it is based and founded in the same passions that draw us together. When we disagree, we struggle to see the other person's perspective. When we feel things changing faster than we find comfortable, we hesitate and in some cases pull back even when we know that the better course is to forge ahead. We know fear, even as we know hope. We know regret, even as we know forgiveness--both how to (sometimes, sadly) withhold it, give it and receive it.
We are all that....you know....human. And Peter, that beautiful, blurty, struggling, wise, faithful, broken and healed man of God who threw down his nets as a fisherman for a new life as a disciple of Christ, is our patron. The man who confessed Jesus as the Christ before the evidence was completely laid out and the jury was back is our patron. The man who denied Jesus three times on that terrible night before the cockerel crowed the dawn is our patron. The man who leapt into the sea when he saw the risen Lord on the bank, and who was told three times to feed, tend, and feed the Lord's sheep is our patron.
When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Matthew 16: 13-19
To have a patron saint, a parish is opening itself to an intimate relationship with that one who in faith and in life has gone before us. Peter is our patron, our model and our inspiration in that respect. He may not get it right on the first try, or the second....or even on the third....but he keeps coming back to the source, to a hope and faith in his friend and companion, Jesus.
He is our patron.
And the 18th is the day we mark as the commemoration of his confession, before Jesus and everybody, that he was willing to say what others only hoped....that this One is the Messiah, the one coming into the world....the Son of God.
Yes, it's a Monday...so make it count. What better way to start the week, than to remember whose name is on the front stoop...and whose legacy we follow as we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, even as he did in his day.
Peter, son of Jonah, fisherman, disciple, apostle, teacher, leader...he is our patron.