The skyline over Redhill is full of cranes, The town centre has become a series of building sites where familiar shops and offices have been flattened. Scaffolding surrounds many of our structures which are either earmarked for demolition or part of a grand regeneration programme.
My friends this is our home, our parish and our community.
The other morning when I was walking down to church – a huge crane was literally hanging over the Cromwell Estate and bore in its jaws a great pile of concrete slabs as if ready to drop them on the roof tops and houses below.
From a distance it seemed that if the crane took a big enough swing – it could quite easily crash its contents into the spire of this church.
As I drew closer, the long rope and pulley was dangling rather worryingly over the road at the back entrance of The Belfry as if ready to lift the little pillar box away from its moorings or raise some speeding car clean into the air as a punishment for breaking the limit.
New foundations are being laid all over our town and its not a pretty sight. The work is unsightly, disruptive and day by day – well, it doesn’t appear as if much progress is being made.
Last week we read how Jesus took his disciples to the far distant towns of Tyre and Sidon – there to change the lives of one woman and her daughter – but in so doing, also to signal that this Gospel of His was one designed to change the lives of everyone. Not just the deserving or those with the right birthmark, but in Him, even those full of blemishes and bruises – might find their heaven.
Last week Jesus told us who we truly are – His people.
This week in another out of the way place He tells us who He is – Our God.
Peter’s confession might have seemed a break through moment as suddenly he points the finger at Jesus and exclaims – You are the Christ!
But Peter still had a warped idea of what this Christ might look like and what this Christ might do.
How he and the others must have puffed out their chests to begin with. Imagining their part in a victory march upon Jerusalem – the ousting of those in control and Jesus, their Jesus taking his seat upon thrones in both temple and palace.
And it was surely not too much to hope that they might bask in his glory just a little.
But no sooner than this moment of confession is out of Peter’s mouth, then Jesus’s language changes. They are going to Jerusalem – but for Jesus this will involve suffering and death.
And understandably Peter and the others are up in arms at the prospect of this.
Then Jesus is saying that Peter’s recognition is just the beginning of His involvement. He will become the rock like foundation upon which this strange kingdom is going to be built.
A foundation which is going to change the spiritual and political landscape of the entire world.
Indeed laying foundations is a messy business whether you are in out of the way Caesarea Phillipi, the temples of Jerusalem or down town Redhill, and the disruption and the unsightliness will have most followers running for the hills.
For the second week running, we have inspiring words to read from the prophet Isaiah.
Here he says to those who listen – be they in that long ago exile period or here today.
Look here, remember the rock from which you were hewn, the quarry from which you were taken.
Remember that you are not just any old person in any old place at any old time.
Remember that you are hewn from the rock that is the very being of God and is it not time you took this calling a bit more seriously.
We instinctively shrink from this because the reality for Jesus was that on the cross it would appear as if this rock like promise had been reduced to rubble, that the strong fortress of his kingdom as a place for all had become a heap of stones. And He looked as if he was going to take his friends down with Him.
I think we have to learn that rock like foundations are not what we thought they were. That for every expression of love that is born out of strength there is one that is born of gentleness. For every show of power that is muscular and dominant there is another that is compassionate and humble.
If we are to embrace this balance in our own lives – we will soon know what it is to be knocked down and dismantled by the rage of others, and we will soon know what it is to be built anew by hands impregnated with nails.
The scene around Redhill Town Centre is a bit of a parable for today. What we see going on around us is a mirror on so many aspects of our lives at present. The destination in which we are headed as we seek to control the virus. The dreadful explosion in Beirut. The groups of desperate migrants in boats across the channel or on long desert marches. The dissolving of great ice mounds in Canada. Wondering if anyone is capable of leading us with honesty and integrity. Concern for our own families and the legacy for future generations. Those who continue to queue at this door for food.
Complete demolition until there is nothing or the clearing for fresh foundations.
At the turn of every page in the Gospel the story of Jesus suggests the latter.
But we cannot hide in the promise, for we are called to become the foundations on which something new is built, that Kingdom which we hear about every time we come here.
I stood in front of the Everest Spice restaurant just round the corner and watched that great crane swinging perilously about with its power to crush and destroy or lay something new and strong and then I looked across to St Matthew’s and I never thought until then of the connection between crane on one hand and church on the other.