CONFESSION OF SAINT PETER January 18
Lord It Belongs Not to My Care
1 Lord, it belongs not to my care whether I die or live: to love and serve thee is my share, and this thy grace must give.
2 Christ leads me through no darker rooms than he went through before; he that into God's kingdom comes must enter by this door.
3 Come, Lord, when grace hath made me meet thy blessed face to see; for if thy work on earth be sweet, what will thy glory be!
4 Then shall I end my sad complaints and weary, sinful days, and join with the triumphant saints that sing my Saviour's praise.
5 My knowledge of that life is small, the eye of faith is dim; but 'tis enough that Christ knows all, and I shall be with him.
Text: Richard Baxter (1615-1691) Tune: St. Agnes or St. Hugh
Peter, the Apostle, is a paradigmatic Christian. Eager and deeply committed to the Lord, but also deeply flawed. Mostly by his enthusiasm. He is the first off the boat, the one leading the charge, but also the one who is wrong, often rather spectacularly wrong. We note it especially in his confession of Jesus as Messiah and moments later urging him not to talk crucifixion. This earns him a rebuke from Jesus we all might consider: “Get behind me, Satan.” And then of course his denial of Christ during the confusion and terror of Holy Thursday night when Jesus is before the Sanhedrin. A living image of the church he is credited with founding. His bones are said to be buried under the Vatican where he is venerated as the first Pope in the basilica towering over him.
Thus, also, the heartbreaking and loving scene on the beach after the resurrection when the risen Christ asks Peter three times whether he loves him. Peter is, per usual, eager to confirm that he does, but is grieved by Jesus’ asking him three times, as though he is doubting him. Actually, the three times make us think of a kind of erasure of his three denials. And Jesus’ command to him to Feed my sheep.
What Jesus is teaching Peter and all of us that we must not get out ahead of him but follow him. Get behind me so you will find the way. I am the light, not you. And feed my sheep what I have to give, not what you have.
The early church told the story that Peter’s denial so affected him that for the rest of his life he could not hear a cock crow in the morning without being plunged into grief. Since he lived at a time when there were roosters all about, he really never escaped the memory of what Jesus had told him before that terrible night on Holy Thursday. Every morning to be reminded of your sins. Now of course he knew he was forgiven and could rejoice in that, but the memory of it convicted him every morning.
Maybe a good way for us all to begin the day: weeping with repentance for our sins and asking our Lord to forgive us. We can be sure that we are forgiven and that God has removed our sins from his memory as far as the east is from the west, so we don’t have to keep reminding him of our old sin—that is forgiven and forgotten. Our memory of it should remind us of more recent sins that call for repentance and amendment of life. We should confess those and move on in the glory of his grace.
Peter went forth as an apostle who brought the gospel wherever he was. History says he was crucified upside down in Rome, not wanting to be share any similarity in his death with his Lord and Master. His symbol are the Keys that Jesus gave him.
Richard Baxter is one of the great English devotional writers. The quiet resignation of the hymn and its trust in the Lord is expertly crafted into common meter CM, one of the most popular forms in English poetry and especially hymnody. Baxter took Holy Orders in 1640 during a very difficult time in English history. He served with Cromwell’s army as chaplain. Because of his poor health he took time off. During that time he wrote his work Saints’ Everlasting rest. After the Restoration, he became Chaplain to Charles II. When the Act of Uniformity 1662 was made law, he refused ordination into the Historic Episcopate and later became a Nonconformist minister. He wrote many prose works and poems, some of which became hymns, the most famous and beloved is this one.
Choir of Schola Cantorum of St. Peter in the Loop, Chicago
Now is a good time to order the Hymns of the Passion for use during Lent. They are Iceland's greatest literary treasure after the Eddas, and central to Icelandic Lenten observations. Fifty hymns on the passion of Jesus's from Gethsemane to the resurrection.