When did you last chew on a piece of rock at the seaside? I’ve always been intrigued by the sticks of rock in shop windows, the vivid colours, stripes and letters, each stick bearing a little photo of the local seaside. As a kid I knew to avoid the pink minty sticks when making my choice! Rock making is very skilful, especially when it comes to putting in the letters - letters that are still there at every bite. Apparently sweet makers could train for 10 years to do that properly. Apart from flavourings, and colour, the only ingredient in rock is sugar – no wonder it’s so popular. What better than to sit on a rock at the seaside chewing on a stick of rock.

In Matthew’s gospel Jesus tells Peter that he is the rock on which the church will be built. The name Peter links to Petra, Greek for rock. A rock of course provides a solid foundation for a building. Jesus tells elsewhere of the wise man who built his house on a rock and the foolish man who built his house on sand, the strongest building being the one on the rock. Although Peter was likened to a rock, Peter was a person. The foundation for Christ’s church was a person, albeit an apostle. Peter was to be a strong foundation for the church. The church is not a building. It is a body of faithful people, following in the footsteps of Peter and all the apostles.

If we are to grow a church that is worthy of being called God’s church we can look to Peter as an example of discipleship, for we are all disciples. Peter loved the Lord, he tried hard to understand Jesus’ teaching, he made mistakes but he worked at it. Over time he became a strong witness to the faith and a wonderful encourager in the faith. It does take time, like the time needed to learn to put letters into a stick of seaside rock. Those sticks are often six feet or more in length when the letters are inserted. They are then chopped up to make the small sticks that are sent out for sale.

I wonder if that would be a good illustration of the church. Over time as church people we become more skilled at discipleship and eventually confident to ‘send out’ our faith. The message I think is that we must keep learning about our faith, keep grappling with the issues, keep talking about it. We all have our faults, as did Peter, but we can do no better than to walk in his way. And the way of all the apostles.

If you get to the seaside this summer do bring back a stick of rock to share 😊