Luke 5:8
The words of St Peter in today’s gospel:
“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord”

And we know, of course, that Our Lord did not depart from Peter.

Since Christmas the church’s liturgy has led us on a journey through the gospel readings. The Sundays have gone from the birth of Jesus, to the Epiphany, to His Baptism, to his 1st miracle at the wedding at Cana, to his appearance & teaching in the synagogue, to his bing cast out from another synagogue.

Now, today, we come to the calling of the apostles. And here we see the significance of St Peter. For he is to be the leader of the 12. We only have to look at the shrine of St Peter to see that the impulsive fisherman, who knows his sinfulness, becomes the chief of the apostles, now enthroned with the papal tiara!

So today’s gospel is a significant turning point in Jesus’ ministry. Today is also significant as the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty’s accession to the throne.

If we consider this wonderful jubilee within the church’s calendar, we find a royal theme running through:
+ Last Sunday was the commemoration of Kings Charles the Martyr – the 373rd anniversary of his death.
+ Today = Her Majesty’s Accession – & the gospel is about Peter being designated Prince of the Apostles.
+ In exactly 5 months time, on July 6th, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the restoration of devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham – who is Queen of Heaven.

Royalty everywhere we look this year!

But pre-eminently, here today we come to worship Him, who is King of Kings & Lord of Lords!
Soon we will be in the royal presence of Our Lord jesus Christ – & He will be enthroned on a throne unlike that of Her Majesty or St Peter………for Jesus will be enthroned on an altar of sacrifice, AND in our hearts.

As the traditional prayers says: Blessed be Jesus Christ on His throne of glory, & in the most holy sacrament of the altar.

Both Her Majesty & St Peter have been examples of faithful service to the King of Kings – though in different situations & times, of course.

Perhaps the big difference is between Her Majesty’s faithfulness & her British fortitude in the face of troubles, & St Peter’s tempestuous & weakness – factors culminating in his denial of Jesus on Maundy Thursday.

St Augustine, commenting on Peter walking ion the water, says:
“Notice the man, Peter, who was the symbolic representative of us all.
Now he’s trusting, now he’s tottering. One moment he’s acknowledging Christ to be immortal, the next he’s afraid of Christ dying.”
St Augustine is right about Peter’s dual nature being a symbolic representative of us all.

Her Majesty is also a representative person – seen in the values of faithfulness, courtesy, commitment & graciousness…….going right back to her 21st birthday, when she said:
“My whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service”.

Of course, we might wish that she would have been more Anglocatholic in the expression of her faith – but we are in no doubt that her Christian faith is real, and has sustained her – as borne out in her annual Christmas message.

By contrast, Her Majesty does not reflect the paradox of St Peter. In the passage I quoted from St Augustine, he goes on to say:
“In that one apostle, Peter, 1st & chief in the ranks of the apostles, in whom the Church was symbolised, each kind of member had to be symbolised, too. That is to say, the strong & the weak. Because without the one or the other, there is no church”.

St Augustine gives us the paradox of Peter’s strength in weakness – which is the paradox of Jesus himself.
Jesus is the all-powerful Son of God – yet he suffers at the hands of men and dies in weakness on the cross. This paradox of Jesus climaxes on the cross, when Jesus’ life & ministry is consummated at the moment of His greatest weakness.

So the Cross is the ideal of Christian leadership & kingship.
Christ is a servant king who not only is an example for His people – but also takes responsibility for His people, even for their sins.

This is the meaning of the crown of thorns, which is the royal crown; of the reed, which is the royal sceptre; of the seamless robe, which is the royal alb.
3 symbols of service, sacrifice and redemptive suffering.

In the coronation of 1953 they were symbolically used as part fo the rite & its vesture. In this way the explicit Christian aspect of the British monarchy is declared within the rites of the Church of England. And it emphasises that at our baptism we were all given the vocation to be prophet, priest & king – as the prayer of anointing declares.

This connection extends to the coronation, where Her Majesty was anointed with the gift of the Holy Spirit to enable her new ministry as monarch. Nor to forget that she was vested in the Dalmatic – the symbol of service.

Let me concluder with the final paradox of St Peter.
After the Resurrection there is that wonderful scene where Jesus asks Peter 3 times, “Do you love me”. It mirrors Peter’s 3-fold denial of Jesus, of course. Each time Jesus says: Feed my lambs; Look after my sheep; Feed my sheep.

There can be no better example of loving God by following these commands than in the life of her, whose accession to the throne we celebrate with thanksgiving today.