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Monday, 27 June 2016

Discover & explore - St Peter

Today's Discover & explore service at St Stephen Walbrook was the last in the current series. I reflected on the life and thought of St Peter using a poem by Malcolm Guite and a meditation by Alan Stewart. The service featured the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields singing:
  • Introit - Duruflé, Tu es Petrus
  • Anthem - Britten, A Hymn of St Peter
  • Anthem - Bairstow, The King of Love my Shepherd is
  • Closing - Palestrina, Agnus Dei (I & II) from Missa ‘Tu es Petrus’
In my reflection I said:

The Singing Detective is a TV drama serial by Dennis Potter that was first shown in the 1980s. The story is about Philip Marlow, a writer of detective novelettes in the style of Raymond Chandler including one called ‘The Singing Detective’. At the beginning of the series Marlow is confined to a hospital bed because of the psoriasis which has affected every part of his body.

Marlow’s situation is that his childhood beliefs and commitments to God and to his parents have been betrayed through key incidents such as his seeing his mother’s adultery and his allowing another schoolboy, Mark Binney, to be punished for something that Marlow himself had done. His inability to face these betrayals has led him into a lifestyle where he abused and betrayed those he loved and it is only as he is stripped by his illness that he can begin to face these memories, come to accept who he is and move beyond these abusive relationships and The Singing Detective shows us how this happens.

The story is about the way in which Marlow faces up to the key events in his past. He has to re-inhabit his past, almost re-live it, in order that he comes to feel sorrow for the way in which he betrayed Mark Binney. It is only at the point that he re-lives that experience and feels sorrow for what he did that he is able to get up from his bed and walk again.

I mention this, because what Marlow experiences in The Singing Detective is very similar to what Peter experiences in our Bible reading (John 21. 12 - 19). Peter betrayed Jesus by denying him three times. Since the crucifixion Peter would have been in agony in his conscience over the way in which he failed Jesus at Jesus’ moment of need. The agonies that Philip Marlow experiences in The Singing Detective help us to flesh out this story as it is told in the Bible and to understand a little more of what Peter would have felt at the time.

When Peter meets Jesus by Lake Tiberias, Jesus forces Peter to re-live that experience of betrayal. That is why Jesus asks Peter three times, ‘Do you love me?’ These three questions mirror Peter’s three denials and take him back into that experience. Like Marlow, Peter has to re-inhabit his past in order to move on from it. As Jesus questions Peter, his sense of remorse for what he had done would have been immense.

Peter denied Jesus three times and so Jesus asks Peter three times, ‘Do you love me?’ When they have finished re-living the experience of his denial, Peter finds that he has three affirmations that counter-balance his three denials. By taking him back into the experience of denial Jesus turns Peter’s denials into affirmations and he turns Peter’s memory of the denial from a negative memory into a positive one. The denial happened, Peter would never have forgotten that but then he was given the opportunity to turn it into a positive affirmation of his love for Jesus and that would have been the memory that he carried forward with him.

Like Peter and like Philip Marlow we can carry around with us the memory of bad events that have happened to us – things that we did to others or things that others did to us. If we are not careful the memory of these events from the past will twist and harm our life now, in the present. The way to be released from the harm and hurt of these memories is, with the help of others, to go back into those memories, to re-live them, feeling sorrow what the wrong that we did and finding positive ways in which we can show that sorrow and repair the hurt that we have done or which has been done to us.

If that is your situation then put yourself in Peter’s place now as you read a meditation written by Revd. Alan Stewart based on this passage:

I am the one who ran away when I said I never would
I didn’t believe you when you said
‘the sheep will scatter’

I am the one who sat in the shadows avoiding eyes
I never believed I’d disown you like this
Not once, but three times

I am the one who wasn’t there while you died that death
I couldn’t believe that this was how
The story ends

‘do you love me?’ he later asked
‘I love you’ I replied
‘feed my lambs’

I am the one who hid in an upstairs room
I wanted to run but there was no longer
anywhere to go

I am the one who could find no solace nowhere
I wanted to open my eyes and see him there

I am the one who wept my heart raw with regret
I wanted to tell him ‘I’m sorry…
I do love you.’

‘do you love me?’ he asked again
‘I do love you’ I replied
‘take care of my sheep’

I am the one who woke to the sound of women’s voices
I longed to believe they’d seen you, but hope
Was still on its knees

I am the one who ran to where they lay your body down
I longed to destroy the rumours
Before they destroyed me

I am the one who saw you arrive like a ghost
I longed to reach out and touch you, but I couldn’t
even look at you

‘do you love me?’ he asked for a third time
looking into my eyes
and my heart tore within me

‘you know that I love you’ I replied
‘then feed my sheep’

(Revd. Alan Stewart)

The next series of Discover & explore services will explore themes of stewardship & finance:
  • Monday 3rd October: Time 
  • Monday 10th October: Talents 
  • Monday 17th October: Treasure/Gold 
  • Monday 24th October: Guidance 
  • Monday 31st October: Promises (All Souls Day) 
  • Monday 7th November: Safety 
  • Monday 14th November: Money 
  • Monday 21st November: Security


Maurice Duruflé - Tu Est Petrus.

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