Sunday, August 10, 2014

walking on water

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

I wonder which of the the things that he got wrong in his life St Peter regretted most; something that if he could have gone back and changed just it, just that one thing, and done it all differently, which one would he have picked? Now admittedly, we know very little about St Peter, just what we have in the gospels, as well as some fairly well attested traditions, such as the one about returning to Rome to face his martyrdom and asking to be crucified upside down, feeling himself unworthy to be treated in the same way as his Lord. There are also some mentions in Acts, St Paul's letters, and of course his own. But all these really add to what the Gospels tell us is his concern for orthodox teaching and practice within the early Church.

So we'll look at the Gospels only. Would he have chosen not to run that night in Gethsemane, when he abandoned Jesus to the thugs who came to arrest him? Would it have been denying him three times as he skulked in the courtyard while Jesus was on trial, brave enough to be there, but not brave enough to admit he was a disciple? Would it have been his attempt to argue with Jesus when he told them that he was going to suffer and die, and for which he received the stinging rebuke of 'Get thee behind me Satan!' Or would it have been something smaller, something of seeming less consequence such as the brief loss of faith he suffered as he walked across the waves to Jesus and as a result began to sink?

For my own part, I think it is the smaller things I got wrong that loom largest in my mind. I've lived a rather varied life and there are plenty of decisions I made that if I had chosen differently would have been potentially life changing. There were a few property deals that I could have gotten involved with but didn't that ended up being very lucrative; career choices that would have taken me on a very different path which offered a life of excitement and adventure. But as I am more than content with the place where my life choices have brought me to, I find it difficult to regret too much those big choices.

But there are a few small ones that I think about. One of them is about a night when I was 16 and I went with a bunch of mates to a RoryGallagher concert in the Arcadia in Cork. It was New Year's eve 1978 and going off for the night was a very big deal, one of the first really grown up things I did. When we got into town, the doors of the Arc didn't open for an hour or so and rather than wait outside in the cold we went into a bar across from Kent station just down the road – my very first time, might I add, going into a bar without my parents or some other grown-up relative. In the bar were some friends of one of our group – one of whom was over 18 – and they offered to buy us a drink. Now I had never had more than a coke or a red lemonade in a bar before, but all the others said yes and I didn't have the moral courage to say no, so I said I'd have a beer. What kind, I was asked? Well my dad drank Bass so I asked for that. I drank it, didn't especially enjoy it, and we headed for the Arc. And not long after I got there I began to feel terrible; I felt nauseous as if I was going to throw up and I felt that way for the rest of the evening. I remember the night vividly – I can tell you what I was wearing – jeans, cowboy boots, a brown check shirt, and my fake leather bomber jacket with its fake fur collar - what the Arc looked like – dingy with many old wooden galleries, and creaking floor board - even details of what Rory looked like on stage – he was was wearing jeans and a check shirt too, but his was blue. But can I recall one thing about what the man who is certainly the greatest blues guitarist this country has ever produced, and one of the finest in the world, sounded like on the night? Not at all. I know it was loud, but feeling ill as I did, it merely made my head hurt.

So the much anticipated concert was for me a complete washout. And not being a great concert goer, that turned out to be my only chance to see Rory Gallagher live. Which in hindsight is a great pity, because my father-in-law, who passed away before I met my wife, was the manager of the Impact show-band, which some of you may know was the group in which Rory started his professional career. And I would love to be able to share some personal memories with my children of what the great guitarist that their grandfather helped get started sounded like live. But I cannot. All because of one foolish decision in a bar one night.

But hopefully we learn from our mistakes. I learned that beer didn't agree with me and didn't touch it again for years. What did Peter learn from his unceremonious dunking in front of all his fellow disciples, and more importantly in front of his Lord? Did loosing faith in Christ even as Christ stood before him on the water teach him anything? Did he look back on the time he was sinking beneath the waves and remember how he had cried out for help and the Lord at once took him by the hand and saved him? Perhaps that moment of divine grace and mercy more than made up for him losing out on the bragging rights of being able to casually mention to folk the time he went walking with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee; instead he was able to recount to them how he learned how Jesus will reach out to those who call on him, even when, and perhaps especially when, we doubt and think we can no longer go on. Worth a dunking. And perhaps not something to regret at all.

To him who is the shepherd and guardian of our souls, by whose wounds we are healed and who is with us always until the end of the ages, be glory now and forever. Amen


  1. That's cool that your father-in-law managed the Impact. You should hunt around the old attic to see if there's any memorabilia from that time.

  2. Thanks, Milo. Alas, the metaphorical 'attic' was raided already and the few bits and pieces found sold to collectors.