Dear St. Peter,
Can I borrow your ear for a minute?
Sorry, I didn’t mean anything by that. But I will say, when you swung that sword at that soldier’s head when he was arresting Jesus, I'm glad you only got his ear and not the whole enchilada. That could’ve gone much worse. But this brings me to what’s on my mind. I’ve been feeling irritable about you thinking at numerous points that Jesus was one more thing to be defended from outsiders.
The Kingdom’s keys were given to you, Peter. What an honor! But you seemed to forget that those keys are to a Kingdom that, as Jesus once said in your presence, belongs to children—those seemingly least apt, least able to guarantee a win, whatever the hell that means. Peter, if you have the keys it’s because you’re expected to show up first to unlock doors, to get the lights on, to open everything up for others regardless of whether those folks suit your personal tastes or meet your requirements.
Peter, I loved your sermon at Pentecost. That day took grit and inspiration. But then later you cast off both your grit and your inspiration and chose the comfort and safety of pandering to your “heritage.” Man that set things back. Those sorts of setbacks are still felt today, many church services still being the most segregated hour and all that. There are still folks who call themselves followers of Jesus who think some people’s seat at the table should be in the other room for little more reason than their genes. I hope when St. Paul, the We-Are-All-One-Blood guy, called out your hypocrisy for catering to your own ethnicity and culture because it’s easier, that you took it well. I hope when he swung for your head he at least got your ears. He’s not gotten many of ours.
Simon Peter, son of Jonah. Your dad was named after a guy who wouldn't go speak divine Love to those damned Ninevites because the only good Ninevite is a dead Ninevite. He had to have a fish swallow him and take him to people he’d already written off for their birthplace. When Jesus helped you—the son of Jonah—catch those fish in your nets did you even notice how nonspecific his invitation to become a fisher of men was? I know you were pretty caught up in the thrill of inclusion in that moment, but did you even notice that your figurative net would not be able to select species? Did you even consider that all a net can do is include whatever is in its path?
Peter, the Rock who sank in those waters—did you realize then or later that you are one of the fish? That we’re all fish, in one sea, but that our experiences in this sea are not the same? Did you realize then or later that trying to walk on water was an admirable act of faith that may very well inspire some people but trying to stay on top of what so many are submerged in will end up drowning us all?
I heard you chose to be crucified upside down, in order that your crucifixion might not be confused with Jesus's in scope or meaning. I'm sorry that happened to you, Pete. But I also hope that you understood you were being murdered by the very brand of power you wanted to share in. A power—a dominance—that always tramples and never saves, not even itself. I hope any remaining longing to be the boot rather than the neck bled out of you in those final moments, so that you would see, like I hope I someday fully do, that a desire to have power requires a desire that others might be under it. I hope your solidarity with those under that kind of power was made complete in your last breaths.
St. Peter, I don't know if those jokes that always begin with you working the gates of Heaven have any truth to them. I don't know why Heaven would have a gate in the first place. But I hope if it's like that, and you work there at that post, that it's for the sheer irony of it, like those digital clocks that are shaped like sun dials. I hope that walls and gates and passwords and entrance exams and screenings are a extinct vestige of the past and you, Peter, will be the first person we see celebrating that those pearly gates don’t have any locks or hinges but are there just to remind us what fools we used to be.
Things are tough right now in the US, Peter, and so much of it seems to be the very uneven slab the church sits on. It’s been this way for a long, long time but many of us were slow to see it. I’m not trying to blame you, but I wanted to get this stuff off my chest because so much of it has come down on people’s heads. I’m wondering if there was anything you could do to set right what has, for so many people for such a long time, been set wrong. Perhaps when it comes to addressing structure I shouldn’t be making my complaint to a fisherman in the first place. I suppose I’d be better off talking to a carpenter.