Summary: Peter and Paul Sunday is one in which we celebrate the legacies of these apostles, but they would remind us that we only that we celebrate Christ’s legacy in our lives.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Three In One who has reserved for us the crown of righteousness.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This year, over 600 students at Florida State are going to be the first people in their families to go to college. Compared to their peers, these students have a somewhat more daunting task ahead of them. They will be more likely to drop out. They will be more likely to work outside of school for over 12 hours a week. But for those that achieve a degree, they will begin a legacy in their family that has never accomplished before, a legacy that will likely affect their children and their children’s children. These students, these legacy makers, hold an indisputable place in the future of not only their families, but for our culture as a whole.
In today’s reading from St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy, Paul describes the nature of his legacy that he is handing over to young Timothy from Ephesus. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus predicts the nature of Peter’s legacy in the Christian church. Both of their stories are heroic epics of men who make part of the legacy of what we call Christianity today. Both of their stories are stories of legacy.
Yet, much like many of the first generation students at Florida State, these men had stories before they began their legacies, stories that did not seem to hint at the time of the legacy they would leave behind. Peter was a simple fisherman from the town of Galilee. He had joined with his partners Andrew and James in a fishing enterprise which Peter probably assumed would take up the majority of his story to the world. Paul was the pupil of a prominent Pharisaical rabbi named Gamaliel who probably assumed that his place in life would be to keep the strict laws of the Torah in a Jewish community for the rest of his life.
But then Jesus showed up in their lives. For Peter, as a man walking by the sea shore demanding Peter to follow Him. For Paul, a light from heaven and a voice that asked “Why are you persecuting me?” It was at that moment in these men’s lives that their legacies changed in prominent and impactful ways. Peter’s legacy was changed from that as a prominent businessman on the Galilee seashore to the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Paul’s was changed from that of a man who would have been a prominent force in orthodoxy, to the leading missionary of what was considered a heretical teaching. Because of these two men, the church is what it is today.
So what will you leave behind as your legacy? Who will remember you ten years from now? Twenty? Fifty? Some of you here are freshman just starting your academic lives at FSU. How will you change the world? How will you change this campus? How will you change this church? How will you change the church at large? Will you be known as the stalwart defender of the church? Or will you be its persecutor? Time will only tell us, but the stories of these two men, Peter and Paul, do tell us the reality of our legacies.
The reality of our legacy is that it will end. Peter is said to have been crucified upside down next to his wife. Paul was beheaded just outside of Rome. Both of these great men, as many great deeds as they did, met death and so will you. This world is not your legacy, Peter and Paul both knew that. They knew that without Jesus, their legacy was a dead body hanging upside down on two wooden planks. They knew that without Jesus, their legacy was a headless body in a pool of blood. They knew was that their legacies were tied with the legacy of the One they followed. They knew that without Christ, all that they did was worthless and dead. Do you really think that your legacy, if it is not Jesus’ legacy, will be any greater than theirs?
Sir Nicholas Winton was a stockbroker in 1938 when Hitler’s troops began to march into Czechoslovakia. In his gut he knew that something evil was underfoot. He quit his job as a stockbroker and began to charter trains, raise money, and transport Jewish children out of Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia and Poland. Because of him, 699 Jewish children escaped what would have been imminent death in Nazi prison camps.
Vera Gissing, one of the 699 children who escaped remarked, “He did not only save 699, he saved a generation. We have had children and grandchildren. Because of him, there are about 7,000 of us alive.”