Anne Currie
28th June 2015
Keys to the Kingdom

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven”.

I wonder, was that a reason for Peter to rejoice or to shake in his sandals.

Keys can be symbolic of many things…. a locking up, a setting free, gaining of responsibility, or a symbol of the burden of keeping so many secrets locked up and away from prying eyes.

How many of you have keys in your pockets? Turn them out let’s have a look!

I have many and various….. House keys, church keys…and we still celebrate 18th and 21st birthdays with the giving of a cardboard key…. the door way to adult life. This is my Mum’s 21st Birthday key…..

As you’ve just proved. These days everyone has keys of one sort or another… and increasingly, these keys are not even real in the sense that you need to put one in a lock and turn it. We are continually burdened with the making up and remembering of ingenious passwords not to mention the dreaded PIN codes, if we want to access our money, or any other aspect of daily life. You can’t even get into the church hall now without a keycode!

They can …. at first… confer a sense of importance. It’s great to have a set of church keys…. but the burden makes itself felt when you suddenly discover you are the only one at a church function with keys… you are the one who has to stay right to the end and lock up!

We have become so security conscious that keys and codes are an everyday item in our lives… we forget that once a key was something special.

Do you remember receiving your very first house key? Handed over by parents with the warning don’t lose it or else… they love you dearly but know that you haven’t quite got the hang of life yet. But as far as we were concerned it opened the way to coming home late at night after everyone had gone to bed….. or your first car key? Freedom of the open road…. how about your first room key or flat key. Opening the door to complete freedom and running your own life.

Back in the day of Jesus only the well to do had locks and keys in their houses. They locked up things like their money and spices and other costly items. Women would wear keys at their waists as a sign of authority. Look at the Martha & Mary window in the south aisle… Martha wears her household keys at her waist… but is Mary at the feet of Jesus, receiving the keys to heaven? For Jesus and his friends… keys did not loom large in their lives. They had nothing to lock away.

So This symbolic promise to Peter of the keys to the kingdom of heaven therefore was the giving of enormous responsibility and authority. It’s not recorded what he thought of that…. immense pleasure or sheer terror. Did he ever think of handing them back to Jesus… thanks but no thanks, I’m not ready for the responsibility.

Today is the day that the Church celebrates the lives of both St Peter and St. Paul. And with keys, human jailors keys locked them both up, sometimes more than once…. but they were both set free not by a key, but by divine intervention. The power of God’s love, in the form of an angel for Peter and an earthquake for Paul gave them their liberty.

The keys that Jesus gives Peter are not ‘keys’ that will unlock the great and holy lock in the pearly gates…open them up to let him in, and then to lock them again to keep out the unrighteous, or the ones whom the church considers to be ‘undesirable, or to make sure that the unworthy don’t set foot inside.

If that had been the case then Peter wouldn’t have been chosen as the recipient… Peter who was always questioning, Peter who often got it wrong, and Peter who in the end caved in to human frailty and failed the Lord in fear of his own life.

But, Like a loving parent who hands over the car keys, hoping that said youngster will remember all he has been taught… Jesus hands over those keys to Peter with the warning to use them wisely.

In a way we are all custodians of the keys to heaven… Love is the great creator and unlocker of things.

We have seen many celebrations of that love this weekend.

Most importantly, this morning Amelia… who was created in love, becomes part of the loving community of the church through Baptism. And God has loved her since the first flicker of life.

Yesterday we celebrated Martha’s ordination to Deacon… as she gives herself and her life in loving service to the lord. And along her journey we pray that she will unlock the way to Jesus for many people whom she comes into contact with. And yesterday Fr. Andrew also celebrated 30 years of loving service as a priest.

And here’s another celebration of love in action…. Rev. Rosemary and Peter mark 50 years of married life this week.

Love is a liberating gift… as Peter and Paul took up the keys of heavenly love, with all the burden and responsibility that those keys bring… and the joy, let us too freely celebrate and share that love, and with a heart full of thanksgiving embrace the task of unlocking the kingdom here on earth.

Acts 12-1.11 Matthew 16.13-19