Today’s Kalendar commemorates Saints Peter and Paul together as apostles (ones who are sent). In the first generation of missionaries after the life of Jesus, Peter and Paul stood out as the most influential, inspiring and supporting converts from Palestine and beyond, ultimately traveling to martyrdom all the way to Rome.
They were by no means perfect. Peter at first bumbled as a disciple, misunderstanding Jesus and denying Him at the time of His arrest. Paul at first persecuted the earliest followers of Jesus and in later life most likely was not a winsome dinner companion. Yet in spite of their flaws God was able to use Peter and Paul in proclaiming God’s Good News to the whole world, as they knew it then. They were well aware of their limitations. As Paul said in writing to the newly established Church in Corinth (2 Cor. 4.7) “But we have this treasure in clay jars so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” A sense of unworthiness to be “sent” goes back in our Judeo-Christian heritage all the way to Moses, who said in response to God’s call to confront the ruler of Egypt: “Since I am unskilled in speech, why would Pharaoh listen to me?” (Ex. 6.30)
You and I are not perfect either. Yet God calls us today to join our forebears in apostolic witness. Why would anyone listen to us? What could we say, or do? Our tradition very consistently shows God as a great risk-taker, entrusting to fallible humans the office of proclaiming God’s Good News by word and deed in each successive generation of new witnesses. It doesn’t matter that we are the most ordinary of recruits for mission. Even clay jars can bear God’s treasure. In fact, that’s the point. Apostles are sent forth as clay jars so that it’s clear that the treasure they carry is God’s, not their own.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington