On this rock

Every year, the village of Hemsby has a rock n roll weekend, when hundreds of people with DA haircuts, bobby socks and zephyr and zodiac cars converge on the Seacroft holiday camp.  One year a couple got married at my church in the middle of it.  The next day, one of the performers came with them to church, with his guitar, and asked if I would like him to play. We were blessing a lifeboat that day and had quite a packed service already, so I asked what he might play, and he offered to play a Presley song called I believe in the man in the sky. 'Great',  I said, 'we’ll have it after the creed'. I was the cause of much derision (for which read envy) among my priest friends.

I believe in the man in the sky

I believe with his help I'll get by

My footsteps may falter

My eyes may grow dim

But he's my Gibraltar

I'm trusting in him.

Today as we honour Peter and Paul, the great apostles, we are reminded of the solid foundations of the church.

The church needs to be built on a firm foundation, and it is built on the firm foundations of the apostles. Every week we say that we believe in an apostolic church, a church built on the apostles, the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself. While Jesus was in this world he had to plan for when he would not be; the apostles saw the work he did and continued it. It was the apostles who received the instructions at the Last Supper to remember Jesus in bread and wine, and who received the eloquent power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

The traditions of the apostles are handed on to us. The church keeps and hands on the teachings of the apostles, the practice of the early church. When the church seeks to renew itself it often tries to get back to the practice of the early church, as happened at the Second Vatican Council. Through these apostolic traditions we remain united with Christ.

The work of the apostles is continued in our bishops, assisted by the priests. The bishops are the successors of the apostles in their pastoral office and should be teachers, who instruct and strenghen us in the faith.

Our faith is our rock, a firm foundation on which to build. St Paul, in the first letter to the Corinthians, without modesty, says that through the grace God had given him, he laid a foundation as an expert builder,  he founded churches all around the Mediterrnaean. The foundation he laid was Jesus Christ himself. Paul warns of the foolishness of building on any foundations which are not Christ.

Jesus himself warned of the folly of building on poor foundations; he compared the man who built on sand to the man who built on rock, both men’s houses were exposed to the same extreme weather, but it was the house that was built on rock that weathered the storm, the one built on sand collapsed, and great was the fall.

What is the foundation on which your life stands?  Is it wealth, acquiring enough money to be well off, though we are told that the love of money is the root of all evil? Is it the accumulation of possessions, but do we possess them, or do they possess and control us? Is it striving to be popular? If so  we may risk  being false, telling people what they want to hear rather than what they need to know. As Christians we are taught that the only firm foundation is Christ, because with Christ we live for others and for him, and not just for oursleves. A life built on Christ is one built charity and love, that strives to be faithful. 

Who can we rely on in life? Can we trust and depend upon other people? We are indeed blessed if we can answer 'yes' to that question. We can all depend on Christ if he is the foundation on which we build our lives. He can change lives, while we can rest assured that he himself does not change.

Fear is a paralyzing emotion; faith drives out fear. Peter and Paul were fearless in faith.  Peter, about to follow the fate of James, in prison, miraculously leaves prison unharmed and undaunted. Paul lists the succession of harships, beatings and disasters he had to go through, but carried on preaching Christ. 

God is for us a rock, a sure foundation. With God at the base, we cannot go on sinking, no matter what may befall us. God is there at the bottom. How blessed is the one who seeks refuge in him. Though my steps may falter he’s my Gibraltar!