On this rock 

If you look up, in St Peter’s in Rome, at the dome above the high altar you will see written in letters six feet high the words of Jesus to Peter in Matthew 16, ‘Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram …’ (You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven).

Source: On this rock – The Zimbabwean

Different Christian communities interpret these words in different ways. The Catholic Church bases her communion with the pope on them. Other churches see them more broadly as an expression of the rock of faith. But whatever our interpretation we can all agree that a rock is something solid.

Sailors have known this from the day the first boat was launched. You do not mess with rocks. The Cape of Good Hope is also the cape of wrecks. And when we build our houses we either build them on rock or we build our own concrete rock as a foundation.

Many in our generation have either abandoned faith or never known it. They are fortunate if they have another foundation to their lives in tradition or culture. But many have also abandoned these and the result can be a deep hollow in their lives where there seems to be nothing except their own self.  There are good reasons why people have come to this. In my life time (I am now ancient) people have moved from reliance on exterior authority – family, church, elders, government – to a more personal inner authority. They have claimed their own lives and sought to ‘do it my way’, to quote the old song.

This is undoubtedly a good thing as every artist has shown us down the ages. Yet sooner or later we discover that ‘no man is an island’ and we need other people and that inevitably means that we share common values. All external authority has tried to do, when it has been or is at its best, is to express this authority in acceptable ways which give a community a sense of security and direction. The problem comes when the external authority fails to listen to individuals who are trying to follow their inner authority but find the inner and outer (external) do not harmonise.  That is what is happening in Zimbabwe today. There is an outer authority which is totally out of tune with people’s inner authority. The result is frustration, unhappiness and stunted growth.

Until those who exercise outer authority make an effort to listen to the inner authority of the people they are simply building on sand.

23 August 2020          Sunday 21 A   Isaiah 22:19-23   Romans 11:33-36    Matt 16: 13-20