Well as they, “Denial isn’t just a big river in Egypt.”
There are two Peters offered us throughout the gospel: there’s the rock of stability, the pillar of faith, who sees the truth about Jesus and speaks it boldly … and then there’s the stumbling block, the well-meaning, shortsighted buffoon who, again and again, stands in Jesus’ way. And the two Peters are one guy … and there’s something for us all to learn from that. We belong to a church proud to identify with Peter the rock. We are so ready to embrace the solidity of Peter’s office but that very firmness of foundation makes it so easy to become Satan, Accuser of the faithful, an obstacle to the brave and foolish Jesus who walks a way to Jerusalem which only idiots can travel. The rock become the stumbling block. Much easier to remember the confidence Jesus placed in Peter and forget the repeated denials. But Peter was one man, not two. And we are one church. And Peter kept on changing. God always managed to get underneath his most stubborn denial and set his feet back on the path.
Ah but denial is much underrated. I’m in denial this weekend. You may have met Paul, my brother Jesuit, who’s been coming to church here over the last year. I’ve been walking with Paul, listening to his life with God through the year, sharing faith and breakfast at Bette’s diner from time to time, and marvelling at how God can surprise and delight and transform someone. His particular transformation has been a call, an invitation … a call to leave the Jesuits, the Company of Jesus as we call ourselves, and walk a road in company with Jesus along another path. And I’ve been blessed by sharing that journey with him, I’ve done my best to bless and support him in it, but yesterday when we said goodbye I felt more than anything that I couldn’t feel what I was feeling. I had followed the path with him but completely denied—in here—that it was diverging from my own. … So embraces made, gifts exchanged, promises spoken, I sat at my computer torn between denial and tears—and desperately not wanting to be alone.
No better tool of denial than the telephone! I try one good Jesuit friend—away doing a wedding. Blast! Auto-dial. Auto-denial! Try another companion of the heart! Away doing a retreat. OK! Last resort! The guy who’s been standing behind me for the last hour: “Jesus? Where the hell are you? Why do you give me limbs and then saw them off.” … And a surprising and clear reply: “Talk to Peter!”
Well denial is hard work! For eight hours I cleaned the fireplace, cleaned the bathroom, surfed the net, answered my mail, even read some theology. Oh did the laundry too. Then, at last, gave in and found Peter. Peter in tears.
“Hey Peter, big boys don’t cry!”
Add comment August 29th, 1999