Today is the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul in both the Eastern and Western Church. They are the two most revered apostles. Peter is considered the chief of the Apostles, while Paul wrote half of the New Testament. Peter is the apostle to the Jews, and Paul to the Gentiles.
I was raised Roman Catholic, and my confirmation name was Paul, taken after St. Paul, and partially because the Pope at the time was Paul VI (honestly, I chose him as my patron saint, because as a young lad, I was a big Beatle fan, and liked Paul McCartney! I thought it was always significant that there were four Beatles, like four evangelists, and that two of them had apostle names!) Now, I am kind of a “John” man, agreeing with Bultmann that John’s Gospel is the essential gospel.
One thing to remember about both Peter and Paul is that they preached Christ, not themselves.
I have a Facebook friend, a priest, who left one Christian tradition for another. He made the comment that the first tradition, in his view, tended to “preach themselves, and not Christ.”
Another time I was visiting a Church with my friend Dan, who is a self-identified Left-wing-Charismatic- Quaker-Anabaptist. He got into a friendly debate there with a young cleric about the relative validity of each other’s traditions, and the young cleric asserted, “but we have the Apostles!” Dan retorted, “what? You got them in a drawer somewhere? Let them out, for cryin’ out loud!”
It is important to remember that the Apostles themselves, while having a high view of the Church, preached Christ:
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 3.11, NRSV
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. – 2 Corinthians 2.2, NRSV
Paul warned against sectarianism:
For when one says, ‘I belong to Paul’, and another, ‘I belong to Apollos’, are you not merely human? – 1 Corinthians 3.4, NRSV
So today when we honor the Apostles, let’s honor them for their own sake, but because they preached Christ, not themselves:
For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus'sake. – 2 Corinthians 4.5 ASV