Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

(Viking key, circa 900)

Matthew 16:13-20

"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah."

I was thinking this morning how we often see icons of St. Peter holding keys. I can't help thinking of keys without thinking of my late grandfather. He had a route of jukeboxes, pinball machines, coin operated pool tables, and, later, video games, around the Macon, MO area. One of the true blessings of my childhood was an entire shop of broken "machines," as we used to call them, that were only good for parts, and I was allowed to take apart and explore with real tools. That was pretty much how he used to babysit me. He would work in the shop and I would be happily engrossed in my own little world taking machines apart.

But there were always keys. Tons and tons of keys lying around. Some of them were master keys that opened all of one make and model of jukebox. At a very early age, I knew the taxonomy of his keys. I knew tubular keys often went to the coin drawers of jukeboxes. I could tell the keys apart that went to Williams pinball machines, as opposed to Gottlieb pinball machines. I liked having this very specialized knowledge as a child that most adults did not know.

On the other hand, a lot of those keys were useless. Many went to machines that no longer were in service. But he never threw any of them away. He used to say, "You never know what they might end up going to, someday.". Once in a while he was right. Once in a while a 20 year old key worked on a new machine he had bought, and he suddenly had a spare.

He kept all his keys in a big drawer in his desk, and there was always a big ring of his most useful ones in his station wagon that he drove on his route. Even when I was too little to be of much help on his route, he gave me a little ring of keys to some of the machines that actually worked, and I remember walking around with them in my pocket and those keys making me feel like I was able to unlock the secrets of the universe with them.

One of the things I am starting to figure out about this passage in Matthew, is that in the commissioning of Peter, he didn't just build his church upon one man. he commissioned all of us with his action. Look at the back story on this one. There is no doubt Peter was probably the most raw one of the Twelve. He was the most likely to blurt out something, the most likely to stick his foot in it, and often the last to get it. But I like to imagine the other eleven disciples were thinking the same things Peter was, but they were just too cool to blurt it out. They might even have been secretly grateful he was prone to it, and relied on him to express their confusion, also. but here's Jesus, telling the person most likely to get in trouble using those keys, and handing them to him with one admonishment--"You can use these for locking or unlocking, the choice is yours. Just keep in mind, what you lock here, will be locked in Heaven. But what you open here, will be opened in Heaven."

I think back to those keys my grandpa gave me as a child. Really, what kind of nitwit gives a seven or eight year old keys to the pinball machines in town? But I don't recall EVER using those keys to get a free game of pinball or giving my friends free songs on the jukebox. It was something about being given those keys, gave me the conscience to understand right from wrong better. It was a statement of my grandfather's love and faith in me.

When Jesus gave Peter those keys, it provided each of us with a set of our own keys through our baptismal DNA. Keys that we can use to lock things up with, or unlock things up with. These choices are ours. I'm ashamed to tell you, I've not been as responsible with Christ's keychain as I was with my grandpa's. I have probably used those keys more for locking things up than unlocking them. I forgot what a lot of them go to anymore.

But what is interesting is that God never takes the keychain away from us for irresponsible behavior. Time and life lessons give us more chances with those keys. I am learning, in my own life, that keys I thought were useless now open things I did not know existed. Keys that I thought opened one thing, actually open things I did not used to think were related. I am learning to use them for opening more than for locking, these days.

Sometimes, I just need to put my hand in my pocket and feel they are there.

God gives each of us a unique keychain made up of our individual gifts and life experiences. Think of what both this world, and the next, could be, if we simply spent some time pondering what those keys unlock in ourselves and each other!


I love this. And I think you were very lucky to have such a grandpa.

Doxy, it is hard for me to believe come this November, he will have been gone for 20 years. Yet there isn't a week go by I don't think of him. He was an angel with a crooked halo if there ever was one!



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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