Saturday, February 29, 2020

In their own words. Day 4

Day 4 - Matt 16.22

Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This [death] must never happen to you.’

This passage comes immediately after the one we looked at yesterday, in which Peter made a huge statement of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.
But now Jesus has started to talk about the fact that he must go to Jerusalem where he will face opposition and  arrest and will be killed because of the message he is preaching.
Peter is horrified. How can he think that God would let his Messiah suffer and die like this?
Jesus answers bluntly, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Satan” meant “accuser” in Hebrew - like the prosecution counsel in a trial. Peter’s words, though probably intended to support Jesus, actually risk undermining his resolve to take this brave, but frightening, course of action.

·         Have there been times when someone’s good intention to support you had actually made you feel worse? Have you done this to others?

Friday, February 28, 2020

In their own words. Day 3

Day 3 - Matt 16.16

Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’

Jesus asks the disciples who people say that he is. John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets, are the answers they give.  “But who do you say that I am?” he asks them.
Peter is the only one who says what the others might be thinking, that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus’ replies that Peter is  “the rock on which I will build my church.“ Many Christians take this as evidence that Jesus intended Peter to lead the Church. Roman Catholic Popes take their authority from their descent from Peter, who they see as the first Bishop of Rome, though he was never called that in the Bible.  Whatever status you might give to Peter, these words certainly reflect the importance the early Church had come to place on Peter and his ministry by the time they were written down in around 80AD.

·         What do you think Peter saw in Jesus that made him think he really was God’s chosen one, his Messiah? How would you answer Jesus’ question “Who do you say that I am?

Thursday, February 27, 2020

In their own words. Day 2

Day 2 - Matt 14.28
Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’

One evening, after Jesus has been teaching the crowds by the lakeside, he tells the disciples to go back across the lake in their boat, leaving him behind to pray. A storm blows up during the night and the boat starts to flounder. The disciples are getting desperate, when they see a figure walking on the water towards them. Peter realises it is Jesus. He asks Jesus to command him to walk on water too. At first he is able to do so, but then realises how strong the wind is and how rough the sea, and, beginning to panic, he starts to sink. “Lord, save me!” he calls out, and Jesus comes to him, reaches out his hand and pulls him up.
As they get into the boat, the storm stops.
“You of little faith – why did you doubt?” he says to the disciples. “Truly you are the son of God,” they answer, aware that only God has power over the wind and the waves. (There’s a fine depiction of this story in one of our stained glass windows in church.)

·         Why do you think Peter wants to walk on the water? Would you want to, or would you prefer to stay in the boat?

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

In their own words. Introduction and Day One


This series of forty daily reflections to take us through Lent focus on our church’s Patron Saints, Peter and Paul. The first twenty reflections follow St Peter’s story through the Gospel and the Book of Acts, and the second twenty are words from the seven letters attributed to Paul in the New Testament which are generally regarded as authentically written by him. There will be more on St Paul at the beginning of the second part of these reflections in twenty days time, but we start with an introduction to St Peter. Scroll down past that for the first of the daily reflections.

It’s a slight cheat to call these first twenty reflections the “words” of St Peter, because they are actually words which the writers of the Gospels and Acts have put into his mouth. (There are two letters attributed to Peter in the New Testament but, for a variety of reasons, the majority of academic theologians don’t consider it likely that they are by him. They are too late to be his work, and the Greek they’re written in seems too sophisticated to be the work of a Galilean fisherman. They were probably, therefore, the work of someone who was inspired by Peter.

Peter was one of the closest disciples of Jesus, originally from Bethsaida, but, by the time we meet him, living in, and fishing from, the lakeside town of Capernaum. Jesus heals his mother-in-law, so he must have been married, though his wife isn’t mentioned (Luke 4.38). According to John’s Gospel, his brother, Andrew, also a fisherman, introduced him to Jesus, though the other Gospels have different accounts of their first meeting.

Peter often seems like the “spokesperson” of the disciples, the one who is first to leap in with a response to Jesus’ questions. Is he brave or impulsive? It’s left to us to decide! Originally called Simon, Jesus gave him a new nickname, Peter (Cephas in Aramaic), which means “Rock”, and said to him “on this Rock I will build my church”. (Matthew 16.18). He is given the “keys of the kingdom” because Jesus calls him to open the way for people to come into a new sort of relationship with God and one another. That’s why his symbol is usually a pair of keys. Famously, though, when Jesus is arrested, he denies knowing him – his courage fails him - but after Jesus’ resurrection he discovers that Jesus has forgiven him, and calls him to lead his fledgling group of followers.

The Bible doesn’t tell us about his death, but early traditions say that he was executed in Rome, probably around 64 AD, during the persecution of Christians under the Emperor Nero.

Day 1 - Luke 5.8

When Simon Peter saw [the nets full of fish], he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’

Luke’s account of the calling of Simon Peter says that he first met Jesus when Jesus asked to borrow his boat as a “floating pulpit” so he could speak to the crowds on the shore more easily.  After Jesus had finished speaking to them, (Simon had had to listen, whether wanted to or not!), Jesus tells him to take the boat out into the deep water. Simon protests that they have “fished all night but caught nothing” but he does as Jesus asks him. The catch of fish is so huge, that the nets begin to break and Simon has to ask for help to bring them in. Simon is overwhelmed, not just with fish, but with amazement at what has happened. His response to Jesus, above, shows that he recognises that he is in the presence of someone holy. His reaction, at first, is one of fear, but Jesus tells him not to be afraid and calls him to follow him.

How would you have felt if you were Simon Peter in this story? What would your response have been?

Monday, February 24, 2020

Messy Church for our Patron Saints

We had a good Messy Church yesterday, exploring the lives of our Patron Saints, Peter and Paul, (who are the theme of our Lent groups and reflections this Lent - more here).

Here are some photos.

St Peter was a fisherman, so we made some beautiful fish.

St Peter was originally called Simon. Jesus gave him his new name, Peter. Petros, the Greek word we translate as Peter, means Rock, so we made some rock cakes (there were no real rocks in them, though!)

And then we ate the rock cakes for tea. They were delicious.

We made wobbly boats. You can't see the wobbly mechanism in this photo, but the picture is mounted on a piece of stiff plastic tape, so it wobbles at the slightest touch, like a boat at sea. 
St Paul gathered people together into churches wherever he went. He encouraged them to love one another, even though they were very different from each other. We made chains of paper people, and decorated them so that they were all different, with different hair, skin, clothes, abilities and disabilities. Everyone is important in the family of God, and has their own gifts to give!

Jenny made a paper wheelchair for one of her paper people, which was very clever!
St Paul wrote letters to the churches he founded to encourage them and help them to grow in faith. We made cards to send to people who might need to know that we were thinking of them. 

Here's Ali with her card!
Peter and Paul are both thought of as founders of the church. Often they are pictured holding a church between them - see below.So we made junk model churches.

This church has splendid battlements.

This church is open to the elements. A cool church for a hot climate!

Ana's church is full of detail. There are even gravestones in the churchyard, and a plant in a pot.

Here are some more details about the stories of St Peter and St Paul from the handout we took away from our Messy Church.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Messy Church tomorrow

Come and join us for Messy Church tomorrow afternoon.

Ash Wednesday

"In their own words" Lent Daily Reflections

Join us this Lent for forty daily reflections focusing on our church's Patron Saints, Peter and Paul. 

The first twenty reflections follow St Peter’s story through the Gospel and the Book of Acts, and the second twenty are words from the seven letters attributed to Paul in the New Testament which are generally regarded as authentically written by him.

The reflections will appear here day by day from Ash Wednesday (Feb 26) , or you can pick up a booklet in church or download one here .

For more information about Lent at Seal Church, including our Lent Groups, on Monday evenings at 8pm or Wednesday mornings at 10.30pm, which will explore stories in Peter and Paul's life, our "Friends on the Journey", and two trips to the V& A to explore the way in which the stories of the saints have been important to past generations, see here. 

Lent at Seal Church - an introduction

“Friends on the journey”

This year’s Lent groups at Seal Church will be exploring the stories of our Patron Saints, Peter and Paul, and thinking about the ways in which saints can be “friends on the journey” for us, encouraging and inspiring us.
Everyone’s welcome to join our Lent Groups on:

Monday evenings 8 – 9.30pm from March 2
Or Wednesday morning 10.30 – 12 noon from March 4
(but not Wed March 18)

There will be four sessions, and both groups will cover the same material.
Venue: Seal Vicarage   Leader: Anne Le Bas

Places are limited to 14 per group, so reserve your place as soon as possible, by signing the list in church or emailing Anne Le Bas (

“In their own words”, exploring Peter and Paul through the words the Bible records as their own.
From Ash Wednesday (Feb 26)  on this blog and on Facebook and Twitter. There is also a printed version in church, and it can be downloaded here. 

Lent Outing – Exploring the saints at the V & A museum

Thursday March 19th,
Saturday March 28th

Join us for a trip to the V & A museum to look at their wealth of exhibits which tell the stories of how Christians have expressed and experience their sense of the saints as “friends on the journey”. I’ll be telling some of the stories of the saints as we go around, and talking about some of the exhibits.

The two trips will be identical, so don’t book in for both! Anyone is welcome, whether or not they come to one of the Lent Groups, and while I won’t specifically be aiming it at children, they are very welcome to come along too if you think they will enjoy it.

On both days we will meet at Sevenoaks Station at 9.15 am (9.29 train to Charing Cross, then tube from Embankment to South Kensington) We will set off on the return journey from the V & A at about 2pm. Bring a packed lunch, or buy something there.
If you would like to meet us there, you are welcome to travel independently. We aim to start the tour at 11 am. You will need to buy your own train tickets. Admission to the V & A is free.
 Please sign the list in church or let me know by email if you would like to come. Places are limited to 12 for each trip, so please sign up early!

Friends on the Journey

You may remember that I spent some of last year on sabbatical, researching the way communities celebrate their saints, and inevitably that made me think of our own Patron saints, Peter and Paul. That’s why, this year, our Lent courses are going to look at the lives of these two founding fathers of the Christian faith.

I’ve discovered that dedications to Peter and Paul are common in this part of the world. There are 17 churches with this dedication, by my count, in the Diocese of Rochester, second only in number to those dedicated to Mary. There’s a reason for that. The church in the south east of England was re-founded in 597 by St Augustine, who’d been sent from Rome by Pope Gregory. He brought with him a particular devotion to Saints Peter and Paul because they were the patron saints of Rome itself. According to ancient tradition, both had been martyred there around 64 AD, killed by the emperor Nero. Some stories say St Peter was crucified, upside down, while others say that he was burned to death, along with many other Christians who had been rounded up after Nero blamed them for a fire which had destroyed much of the city. St Paul was traditionally said to have been beheaded – he was a Roman citizen and therefore entitled to this swifter death – which is why his symbol is a sword. His head was said to have bounced three times, and three springs allegedly welled up on the spots where it struck the ground, now commemorated at the church of San Paolo alle Tre Fontane – St Paul of the Three Fountains. Believe it if you will! When the Roman Empire eventually embraced Christianity many centuries later, its leaders looked around for suitable saints to replace their two pagan founders, Romulus and Remus, and Peter and Paul seemed an obvious choice – not twins, but brothers in faith. Maybe they were even an improvement. After all, Romulus had killed Remus. Peter and Paul didn’t always agree, but had never, as far as we know, come to blows!

They had both started their lives far from Rome, though, and had very different journeys of faith. Peter, originally called Simon, a Galilean fisherman, had been one of Jesus’ closest friends. Jesus had told him that he would be given the “keys of the kingdom of heaven”, the authority to open the gates to others who wanted to share in this new community. That’s why he is very often pictured with keys, his saintly symbol. Paul had never known Jesus personally at all, and had been violently opposed to the new movement that had arisen after his crucifixion, which proclaimed that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. It seemed like dangerous nonsense to him. But, on a mission to root out another Christian “cell” he’d heard of in Damascus, he’d been thrown to the ground by a bright light and had heard the voice of Jesus speaking to him.  Much to his surprise, having come to the conclusion that he’d got it completely wrong about Jesus, he was forgiven and accepted by the Christians he had been persecuting, and spent his life travelling around the Mediterranean drawing together groups of believers into small house churches, writing letters, some of which survive and are included in the Bible.

Peter and Paul were very different in background, in outlook, and often in their opinions. In the few stories we have of them meeting, they argue fiercely about the form this new community of faith should take, and yet both ended up being honoured and respected. They are often pictured embracing, as above, or holding a church between them – sometimes rather uneasily! Despite, or perhaps because of their differences, they were both important. In a world where we often struggle to live with diversity, where compromise can be a dirty word, these are excellent patron saints for us to learn from, people who argued their positions robustly, but clung equally strongly to the message they had received from Jesus that every person is beloved of God, God’s child, with differing gifts that the whole body needs if it is to thrive. Come and join us at our Lent groups, or follow the daily posts which will focus on what they tell us about themselves “In their own words,” and let Peter and Paul become “Friends on the Journey” for you this Lent.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday - Feb 26 this year. We will be marking it with our Ash Wednesday Communion service at 8pm, when we will have the opportunity to receive the sign of the cross in ash on our foreheads, as a sign of our mortality and fallibility.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Tomorrow evenings Evensong (Feb 9) cancelled

Owing to the apocalyptic weather forecast for the afternoon and evening of this Sunday, Feb 9, I have decided to CANCEL the 6.30pm Evensong service.

The 10 am morning service will take place, but please don't take any risks to come, even if you are on the rota to do somethingWe will manage!

I don't want anyone to take the risk of travelling to the evening service, however, and I know that some people will be determined to do so if the service is on! (This simple, said service using the lovely old words of the Book of Common Prayer is a beautiful end to the day - if you've never tried it, come along and join us on any other 2nd, 4th or 5th Sunday evening!)

Here's one of the prayers from the evening service to use as the wind howls around us, remembering especially those who may have no option but to be outside in the storm; those who are homeless, the emergency services and those whose travel is essential.

Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Stay safe!
Canon Anne Le Bas (vicar) 

Friday, February 07, 2020