“The Samaritan Woman” Lent 3

May God use my words to feed your sons and daughters with your wisdom and compassion.

Amen

Jesus was a bit of a jokester in my opinion, or maybe just creative inventing the style of a counselor’s use, by answering questions with phrasing things in a way we answer them ourselves.

You know the “how does that make you feel?” or “is that what you think?”

So, to say that Jesus was creative on how he interacted with people would be an understatement. But Still …

It amazes me at how some people think that Jesus spent much of his time ministering in the Temple at the time. Temple like church is today meaning that it being the building to some people.

He spent most of the week out wandering the streets and interacting with the sinners and like the Samarian woman at the well. He would find the sinners, call them out on their sins, and then point them in the right direction. The majority of the people went off happily and partially because I believe they felt renewed and partly because they were simply respected by anyone let alone the Son of God!

It may have been the healing miracles that most people stand up and notice, but Jesus has showed us how by his love and compassion for all people that we were truly brothers and sisters and not strangers. He showed us that miracles can be simply giving someone hope or faith by a smile or a hug. He never withheld his example of loving and caring of his sons and daughters from anyone and he was kind to all even if they were thieves or adulterers.

Again, the Samarian woman was not a straight arrow, but when Jesus showed her compassion she went off and made her life right by proclaiming his ability to forgive and fix her brokenness.

We are all sinners and yet we have the capability not to sin and even forgive. We learned from Jesus that humanity as flawed as we can be, are not able to absolve sins but we can forgive! What a miraculous thing that is small in the scope of things, but more profound than almost any other act we know and one of the most effective cures for the soul are alongside of prayer.

Jesus would meet others failures with encouragement and guidance. You might call these not only learning moments but hugging moments as well. He would not fix your problem for you but he would steer you in the right direction.

Jesus is like the rain when the sun has beat down a flower from the heat until it starts to wither away bringing a renewal of strength and a renewal of life.

God is wise, in order to be used as the best context a human can understand, and he shows us hope and life in our everyday surroundings by using the trees, water and the earth that the natural beauty that acts like therapy to the soul.

So much like the inspiration and rejuvenation we get, starts in the word we receive in church each Sunday. So let it spread and blossom into our lives with every step we take all the way home and then back each week as we return to be watered and to be helped in  preventing our brothers and sisters from withering away in the sun.

“Love our neighbors as ourselves”

Amen

Advertisements

“God to Abraham: ‘You’re Not Dead Yet.'” Lent 2

Last week we spoke of Adam. This week we move on to Abraham, “What then shall we say about Abraham?” Let’s dig in shall we?

“Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

When I first think of this statement by Paul – I think of the faith of Abraham who was willing to trust God to the point of sacrificing Isaac – the Son of the Promise.

I remember one time when my dad and I were talking about this – and not normally one to emote, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “How could a father ever be willing o do that to his son?”

(I can barely talk about this incident without tearing up myself.)

Abraham was so convinced of God’s promises by this point that he know that if God wanted his Son sacrificed, he would somehow bring him back to life – anything to fulfill his promise to Abraham of making him a great nation.

But this is too late in the story of Abraham to be the incident St. Paul references–at this point he had already seen and experienced God many times. He even felt comfortable enough with God to try to talk God down from his wrath against Sodom.

Actually St. Paul’s reference point here is Abraham’s response to God before anything took place.

Right before our lesson today, we get the “generations of Terah,” Abraham’s father.

St. Stephen in Acts tells us that Terah, though in the line of Shem Noah’s good son, knew nothing of God – he was a pagan.

So when God came to Abraham – Abraham at that point – he knew nothing of God either.

But the Lord came to him and said, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”And to his credit, “Abraham went as the Lord told him.”

At this point in his life Abraham was 75 years old – that is he was well on his way in life. He was established  75 is not normally the age in which one forsakes everything to follow a God he had never met. Yet that is exactly what happens.

He took his wife, his nephew Lot (who was to be his heir) and all their possessions and moved them over 500 miles away. He had no more safety net – he was all in at that point. All in on merely the promises of God – a God whom he has just met.

This is the faith St. Paul builds up. Abraham seemingly at the end of his life faced certain death in a land of uncertainty. Yet, St. Paul says. “Our God is one who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.”

God eventually proved himself faithful plus more to the promises he made to Abraham, but Abraham did not know this at the outset – he just placed his trust, took a deep breath, and took the plunge.

Today we would call this impulsive and probably chastise Abraham for taking such a chance.

But 1) Scripture is sadly silent on the theophany Abraham received when God introduced himself. I imagine it left some with little doubt of the reality of God and 2) we normally play things too safe.

“Why take risks? We are well established and we have done it this way for a long time.”

The problem with this statement is that it fails to recognize that at one point there was a time when this could not be said – a point when risks had to be taken. Institutions that no longer take risks are already dead — they just haven’t yet run out of money.

This is what Jesus paints out to Nicodemus when he comes to Jesus for advice. “That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is Spirit.” If at any point churches back off pushing forward — they have cut themselves off from life in the Spirit and are coasting on the man-non of the flesh.

I say this about the church, but it also applies to our lives as well. Abraham was 75 when he packed up everything to move to Canaan, “The Promise Land.” This is proof enough that whenever God calls us to follow, we are never old enough to say no. At any age individually or institutionally we can always gather our possessions and follow where God wants to lead us.

“You Have My Permission To Sin” Lent 1

Today is the day that we get to beat up on Adam.

He had one rule: of all the trees in the garden he couldn’t eat of the one — Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil.

And yet he ate.

Now I’m  sure that prior to that bite it looked like it would be the best tasting fruit ever.

-Maybe the light always hit it just right.

-Maybe it always had the perfect amount of moisture on it.

-Maybe it was a fragrant fruit that always seemed to catch the breeze and make his mouth water.

*Remember there was no such thing as death & Decay in the Garden, so it would always have these characteristics.

Now maybe this was only in Adam’s mind.

He would be going about keeping the Garden and guarding it from whatever it was that he was to be guarding it from and there it was, like a bad penny that keeps turning up – there it would be when he least expected it.

-There in its perfection – it would taunt him.

Then the Serpent tempted him, he was really just giving license. I’m sure that this encounter was merely the tip of the ice berg.

I can see him, when Adam wasn’t looking,

-with a spray bottle, perfectly misting.

-adjusting it so that it was perfectly lit.

-and fanning it so that the smell would drift his way and – then sneaking over to tap him on the shoulder to bring his attention to it. So that like Willie says, “You are always on my mind.”

When Adam finally did succumb, he found out that it was just fruit. – Nothing particularly tasty about it. – It was just a piece of fruit Yet that piece of fruit almost brought about the destruction of mankind. – Almost.

It seems to me that God, if this apple was so destructive should have made an impenetrable fortress around it to protect it? – Because he knew that man would one day eat of it.

Why did he not do this? Because it was man’s testing ground. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, “God allows evil to happen in order to bring greater good therefrom.”

In fact the saints speak of this incident as the “Happy Fault.”

Seems strange. This was almost the destruction of man and yet the saints call it a good thing.

St. Ambrose say, “Innocence made me arrogant, transgression made me humble.”

A toddler pulling on a stack of books that will result in something heavy falling on their head, learns more by actually being hot on the head then from an adult stepping in to protect it.

-innocence means I can do whatever I want.

-transgression means there are consequences to my actions.

The fault of Adam caused the need for a redeemer. Our redeemer not only brought about our redemption from sin but also, through his unification with us, brought us up to him. Now we are sons & daughters of God – a status higher ever then the angels.

So our present status is now higher then it would have been had God stepped in an prevented Adam from eating the apple.

Now let’s spin that forward to out Lenten observance now.

Whatever you gave up for Lent has the ability to own you.

You give up chocolate – all of a sudden all you want is chocolate.

You give up Facebook it seems as though it is always lurking needing to be clicked.

You give up curse, yet that is the first thing that jump onto your lips.

When we sin, we have two options – we can ignore it and let it consume us or we can acknowledge it & learn from it.

Whatever we give up pales in comparison to what we are taking on.

We are taking our spiritual discipline to be able to live as what we are sons & daughters of God. We are taking our life lived to the fullest.

When we give in and indulge ourselves in whatever it is that we gave up – we know exactly what it will happen

-chocolate will always taste like chocolate.

-Facebook will always waste your time and make you upset.

-cursing out people will always just make need.

We know exactly what it is because we experience it everyday. The Mundane.

But when we sin and realize that it isn’t anything we haven’t already experienced before and choose instead for greater unity with God – that is an experience that is never the same and always getting better – because it isn’t limited by the mundane.

So this Lent, I am giving you license to sin. But as you sin – realize that you’ve already done it before. You know exactly how you will feel after, and that actually, like any drug high won’t be as high this time. As you sin allow it to be your own happy fault that allows you to break the hold it has on you. This will then free you to progress in your spiritual life. Happy fault, indeed!

In the name of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit

Amen

Epiphany VII, Year A, “It’s An Odd Life.”

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.” This is actually a quote from Flannery O’Connor – noted 20th century author and Roman Catholic. But in my head, I attribute it to a priest friend who was the Chaplain to Canterbury at Baylor. – Not many sermons are often short-lived in my brain.

I tend to hear them, take a bit and then dumb all the information. I don’t feel particularity bad about it, because for the most part, I do this to my own sermons as well.

But for some reason, this quote from this person has always stuck with me. The same guy preached at my wedding, but do I remember one word be said there? No, I think the quote sticks with me because it rings so true about the Christian experience.

Take this weeks Gospel lesson-one in my opinion that is one of the harder saying of Jesus.

He starts with the easier portion from the Old Testament. From Exodus 21:22-25

22 When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. 23 If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

This is revolutionary-why because it requires us to keep our emotions in check and stop at justice.

Because when something bad is done to use, what is our natural desire? To get the person back… with interest. The Chicago way – one of theirs pulls a knife, you pull a gun. One of theirs puts yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue.

But this stops prior to that, it stops at justice. When Exodus expands on this, it shows that the emotion is supposed to get them out of it so that justice prevails. Justice is meted out eye for eye, tooth for tooth.

This is understandable to me, it is balancing the scales of justice, and while we get in trouble for unbalancing them, at least it always gets back to level.

Now comes Jesus who takes this standard and raises it. Now granted Jesus is speaking hyperbole here. Does he really want us to look at the person who punches us in the face and say “I’m sorry you could get the other side too – I’d hate to look unbalanced?”

Because if this is the case, then it seems like going back to the model of vengeance but in reverse – Make your assailants happier by making yourself feel worse, or maybe make them pity you to the point of stopping.

No, here he is talking about deescalating the situation. It is about seeing the person and why they are doing this.

Why is this person mad enough to punch you in the face? Would it make you feel better to get the other cheek too? I’m sorry why are you stealing from me? Is it because you are hungry or cold? Here have this shirt I have in the truck and let me help you get to a place that can actually help you.

This is about going beyond just ourselves and seeking to see the other person as a whom God made with as much love as he  made us.

This is the hard part. It is easy to write off these with whom you have issue as ignorant or wicked, or all the other adjectives I see people call each other on Facebook and Twitter. It is easy to do that because we know our own story and how our beliefs fall into it.

But it is much harder to look at someone with whom we disgrace and attempt to understand their point of view – maybe even to see points of validity in them. But even beyond that, to see them as a person whom Jesus died for.

Jesus tells u s to be perfect as Our Heavenly Father is perfect. IN the Old Testament lesson we get the saying from God: “You shall be Holy; for I the Lord your God am Holy.” Holy is set apart for the sole use of God.

This is why that quote from Flannery O’Connor hits home with me so much.

Because the knowledge of what Jesus did for me and what he does for all, that blood that redeemed my sins also set me apart which requires me to live a life set apart-one different from the standards the world sets for me.

He requires more from us because he gives more to us and the life set apart he expects us to live perfectly. A very tall order – but one he never relaxes.

He doesn’t relax it, but he does provide his spirit to empower us to achieve it.

St. Paul tells us that the wisdom of the world is fully with God.

God  calls us beyond the settlement of allowing our base nature to see justice at wrong doing. We are called to the love that God has for all.

This is the truth, and if properly carried out it will indeed make us odd – but we will be all the better in our oddity.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Amen

 

All is Vanity

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

No one likes being called a fool. It’s just not nice. Unless you are intentionally acting like a fool—then I guess it is ok. But in the normal course of life, no one likes being called a fool for things they are not meaning to do. Take King Solomon. We was given wisdom from God that surpassed everyone in his day. Yet in our Gospel lesson today, he is called a Fool by the same God who gave him that wisdom.

Solomon had it all in his day. He was king of God’s Chosen People which had a lot going for it during his day. Solomon’s father David had united the 12 Tribes of Israel under one banner after ridding the land of all its enemies. He was given a peaceful kingdom in which he didn’t have to focus on defense so he was freed to pursue whatever he chose. Many travelers brought him exotic gifts and so he could fully pursue the background of his gifts. “Oh wow that is a really cool animal. I want to know everything there is about animals.” And then, he had the freedom to do so. He was not restrained by time or money, so he could (and did) pursue a PhD in Biology just to satisfy his curiosity. And then when he finished that, something else would pique his interest, and he would go find out everything there was about that subject as well.

But he was not just a person who amassed a great wealth of knowledge—he had the freedom to pursue anything that tickled his fancy. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Not counting all the tributes coming from explorers, or merchants, or even that coming from kings to the west, nor from the governors of his own lands, Solomon had an ANNUAL income of 666 talents of gold. I did a little research, and in today’s market, that is roughly 1.1 BILLION dollars a year! According to some sources, his peak net worth was an estimated 2.2 TRILLION dollars. The bible tells us that during his reign, gold and silver were as common as stones. He was so rich that he didn’t even value silver—he had too much of it. Even his drinking cup were made of gold. He seemingly had everything.

But we are given a glimpse into his thinking in out OT lesson today. The book of Ecclesiastes is Solomon toward the end of his life providing wisdom to be passed down. And he says of all of this: “I have seen everything that is done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and a striving after the wind.” All of this wealth and he considered it worthless. (O that I had his problem.) Solomon after all had divine wisdom that enabled him to see that there was something missing.

Jesus makes a comment about such an amasser of wealth in our Gospel lesson today. A man is upset with his brother because he would not share his father’s wealth with him, and he asks Jesus to intervene. Jesus, of course wants none of it, but he does speak to the man’s inner desire. “Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” At which point, Solomon chimes in, “Tell me about it.”

Jesus goes on to demonstrate what he means to the man through a parable. “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully…” Notice here, Jesus lays the praise for the bumper crop, not on the man’s ability to farm the land, but on the land itself—thus making it come from God, the creator of the land.

Yet notice also the man’s mentality. “And he said to himself, ‘What shall I do; for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for you for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” The man uses “I” six times, “my” five times, and he is so wrapped up in himself that he talks to himself, and then, within that internal monologue he has to create a whole other character that is also himself! Guess who he gives credit to for the bumper crop?

Jesus goes on to call this man “Fool!” Now calling someone fool has a very specific meaning here. In the OT the word indicates one who rebels against God, or has forgotten him. He forgot that it was not he who was the force beneath the crops forcing them skyward. It was not he that sent forth the rain to water the crops. The man did some work probably, maybe he was just the landowner and other people did all the work, but he took all the credit for himself. God gave him an opportunity, but all he saw was a windfall for himself. Solomon calls this vanity.

Now Paul chimes in on the poor Fool and tells him, “Put to death what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Put to death those things which distract or even draw you away from God, O Fool. Put on instead, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another, and…forgiving each other. And Above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Paul counsels the Fool, be thankful. Combat covetousness by giving generously. That is the best way to prevent the I, me, my mentality of the Fool. When God blesses you with something, be equally generous back with praise to God and then pass it on to those whom he loves—namely everyone he created. When God blesses you with something, even something you worked especially hard for—unlike the Fool—give back to God as a remedy against the mentality of the Fool, he who forgets God. It’s hard to forget someone whom you regularly honestly thank, even for such things as daily bread and a regular paycheck.

Paul says, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Back to Solomon. This thanksgiving is that Solomon neglected and it cost him dearly. When God gave him his gift of wisdom, he told him, that this was a conditional gift. “If you walk in my ways, keeping my commandments and statutes, then this will remain with you.” But as he piled up more and more wealth, he forgot God and he ceased having God’s wisdom which caused him to lose everything God had given him. His great wealth became as nothing to him—all is vanity. His wives and concubines took him away from God. He even built altars to foreign gods—even gods who required child sacrifice—within eyesight of God’s Temple in Jerusalem.

Fool! Jesus calls him. He who lays up treasure for himself and forgets God forgets that it is God who has the authority over your soul which is greater than all the wealth even that Solomon was able to accumulate.

Beloved, you are not Fools. So give generously that you may remember God and that you may not find him calling you Fool when your soul is required of you.

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

Jesus to a Helicopter Society: If You Love Them, Let Them Grow

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

As we prepare next week for Mother’s Day, this week, Jesus gives us an example of being a good parent.

In the life of the Church, we are preparing for the departure of Jesus prior to Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit who is to guide and govern the Church until Jesus comes again. In our Gospel lesson, Jesus is at the Last Supper with his disciples and he is preparing them for his absence. “You have heard me say, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe.” This, understandably, is going to shake them. But in order for them to truly take this on, they need to be on their own.

Jesus is going through what every parent has to go through in the stages of raising children: preparing them for life on their own. The inevitable truth about raising children is that they will one day leave your house and be outside of your direct influence and protection. It is scary. Some people handle it better than others. But it is a reality. Eventually they grow up and have to make it on their own.

So the responsible parent takes steps early to prepare the child, to make sure they can handle the experience. (And from what I know now, so the parent can handle it as well.) First step: Can I take my eyes off you. This is a very hard step. I remember the first night we had Kate. It was a hard thing to allow the nurses to take her out of the room. But eventually, thankfully, the need for a few hours of uninterrupted sleep takes over and the baby needs the shots anyway, so you call the nurse and have her taken out of the room. But you breathe all the more when she is returned, safe and sound with a new Band-Aid on her heel (and it doesn’t hurt that you actually got some sleep either).

Then after the child has grown up a bit, then next step: Can I leave the room? So you start in baby steps. Turn on their favorite movie, and when they don’t notice, you slip out to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee and try to make it back before they have even noticed you are gone. And then the times you can leave are longer and longer. And the question is always in the back of the parent’s mind: Can my child be trusted to be on their own? You leave, but you ear is always on what you left. What is a parent’s worst fear at this moment? Silence. Silence means either something happened, or the child is up to something. Or it means that your child is simply engrossed in whatever activity they are enjoying and your worries are unfounded.

And this time away gets longer and longer. Ok, now I can get ready. Ok now I can take a nap. Then the next stage of fright: can I leave the house for an errand? Yes? How about an afternoon? An evening? All day? All night? All weekend? For college? For life? The ultimate question is can I trust you on your own not to burn down the house? Can I trust you follow the rules and make good decisions in my absence?

Now related to this, I think that technology has hindered this process. It has provided us with more opportunities to learn about the world around us and provided us with the ability to extend our reach. We now can pinpoint dangers. There is a list of sex offenders with pictures and addresses available at the tap of a button. There are cameras that can be operated remotely with built in microphone, sending and receiving. Technology has retarded this natural process of letting go by informing us of the dangers and extending our reach. This creates helicopter parents and children who cannot, and in some cases will not, do things of their own.

But as with all things human, Jesus had to go through this process as well. That which is unassumed remains unredeemed. Jesus knows what it is like to have to trust those in your charge to the teaching you have provided and allow them to create on their own. Jesus knows that in order for the Church to grow, he had to leave. So he started early in his ministry giving them space. He left to go pray on his own. He sent them out on missions. He died and came back. Each time he left them, he came back and debriefed with them to see how it went. And then he prepped them for his final departure.

But like all parents, he does not leave them comfortless. He provides them with the Holy Spirit to guide the Church in during them time when he resumed his place at the right hand of the Father. Now they would have to look carefully for guidance in his absence. Now it is through prayer and inspiration that the entity that was created—the Church—is directed. Now there is an element of doubt and an element of trust.

Now the apostles have the opportunity to mess it up on their own—which they have both in the Bible and in in current times. But they also have the opportunity to grow. Right before our gospel lesson today, Jesus tells his disciples: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

If Jesus had remained physically with his disciples, they would never have risen above the status of student. They would never have grown. The Church would never have grown beyond that which Jesus could directed have influenced by his physical presence and the movement would have remained a local phenomenon. But he left and they were forced to become the masters by trying and failing.

Take Paul for example. He went around establishing new Churches through trial and error. In our first reading we see him taking what he knows and adapting it to the situation of the people to whom he is trying to minister. Yet even though he tries to adapt the message to them and their situation, they cannot get beyond belief that Paul and Barnabas are gods among them—Zeus and Hermes.

In another opportunity, Paul attempts to woo an intellectual audience with his vast intelligence—a task which failed miserably. But when that failed, he figured out the message. Jesus Christ and him crucified—folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. He learned his message and his approach. He tells the Corinthians: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied.” His eloquent words got him in trouble and did not produce the fruit he intended.

So he walked from Athens to Corinth and did what all good children do when they run into a problem after they have left the nest—Paul called home. On the way from Athens to Corinth, he prayed and listened to the Holy Spirit as to how the message should be presented. And by the time he reached Corinth, he had a new lease on life and proceeded to plant Church after Church using the message of the scandal of the cross.

This is exactly what Jesus had in mind when he told the disciples that he was leaving, yet he was sending the Holy Spirit “to teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Jesus has allowed the Church to grow into that which she was intended from her creation. He showed them how to live. He taught them all that they needed to know. He gave them room to grow. And he provided them with the ability to call home for guidance.

So what does all this teach us today? Jesus designed the Church for us to be able to use the gifts he has given us to minister as we are able. God provided each one of us with the ability and the gifts to reach specific groups of people that only we can. God charges us with this, but he also gives us the opportunity to do it in our own way. He will guide us in doing it, but we have to be the ones to do it.

Go Beloved. Take risks. This is what being on our own is all about. Doing things our way. All of creation has been preparing us for this time. Jesus has, like the good parent, given us all the tools to succeed. He has gone through all the steps it takes to release a child on their own into the world. Now we just have to take the risk and make it our own. But as we do this, Jesus provides us with the reminder that as the good parent, he is always willing to answer the phone at a moment’s notice to give wise counsel.

And so, go out. Do the work that you have been given to do. And for God’s sake, phone home every now and then. In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

What Peter Could Not See

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.”

Peter was not a cowardly man. He told Jesus that he was willing to go to prison or even die for Jesus. And he proves that he was indeed willing when he brought a sword to the Garden of Gethsemane and when the guards who came out to capture Jesus laid hands on Jesus, Peter drew a sword that he had concealed in his clothes and tried to decapitate the offender. And he would have been successful too, but he was a fisherman versus a trained soldier who ducked the blow—though at the cost of his ear.

Right then a war had erupted—the first blood had been shed and Peter’s life was about to be forfeit however well-meaning he was. But Jesus stepped in and put a stop to the madness. “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” And then he healed the man’s ear simultaneously averting Peter’s war and causing Peter to lose all that courage that he mustered two minutes prior.

Peter’s world had been turned upside down. He thought he knew what Jesus was about—the overthrowing of the Roman government and re-establishing of Jewish rule only to find out that he had no clue. This is why I think in Mark’s Gospel (essentially Peter’s memoirs) the disciples come off as bumbling idiots who never get it. I think it is because of this moment—the blood freshly on the ground from Peter’s heroic slash only to be thwarted by the very man he was trying to protect. So Peter fled because he absolutely no clue what he was doing there—and the rest of the disciples followed.

It is no wonder Peter denied Jesus the three times. He was being very honest—he really DIDN’T know who Jesus was. Why did Peter go back after fleeing? Because he approached Jesus with fresh eyes, he was curious about just what in the world he meant. And when the cock crowed Peter remembered what Jesus predicted and it broke his heart. Jesus had known him down to his very nature—he knew that Peter didn’t understand what he meant about his Kingdom—and Peter never got who Jesus was even though he was supposed to be Jesus’ best friend. He believed that he was following exactly what Jesus was saying, but he had no clue.

Jesus was then led away to the cross and died there just like so many other wannabe messiahs. So Peter was left broken hearted and rudderless, and the only man who could remedy the situation and provide the answers he sought was silenced forever.

As we know this wasn’t the case, but Peter is just like many before him who devoutly followed God but never saw the end that they expected. Israel was in slavery in Egypt—not ideal. Israel was a loose confederation that was constantly being oppressed by their neighbors—no. Israel finally united and formed their own kingdom—only to have it break apart with in two generations of its formation. And then it was taken over by the Assyrians. And then the Babylonians. The Persians. The Greeks. And then the Romans. No one ever saw the promises of God fulfilled in the way they thought it should be. And they all died with this regret.

But when Jesus died, he went down to the place of the dead—Sheol in Hebrew, Hades in Greek, hell by the Apostles’ Creed because they were deprived of the vision of the God they followed in life —and preached the good news to them. Jesus was able to bring about the realization of the promises of God to those who went before. Being God, he brought them that which they had been denied in life—they saw God and he came to them with Good News—release to the captives—new life to the dead.

This was, of course, unbeknownst to Peter—Peter the hopeless. But then on Sunday morning, early in the morning, having finished his mission of giving life to the dead, just rose and proceeds to give life to the living. Notice with what haste Peter sprints to investigate the claims of Mary Magdalene, and with what courage he investigates the empty tomb. And then witness his joy as Jesus appears to the disciples and opens their minds to all that had taken place.

And then experience the inner struggle of Peter. The man who denied Jesus three times. He is joyous about Jesus’ triumph over sin and death, but ashamed at his own actions and at his own blindness. But Jesus then shows him the same comfort he showed to all those who came before Peter and restored him. Three times Peter denied Jesus—three times Jesus gives Peter the opportunity to confess his love—and don’t think for a second that he didn’t understand the significance of the three times, because he was grieved because Jesus asked him the same question three times. He knew. And then Jesus again gives Peter the command that Peter received at the beginning of their time together: Follow me.

Peter is the living embodiment of the mission of Jesus on Saturday, and I think it is no coincidence that it is in Peter’s letter that we find evidence of Jesus’ Harrowing of Hell. I think this had a tremendous impact on him and his future ministry—a ministry which is then passed on to us through him and the Apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded.

And then he gives Peter one last comfort, and again it is directed to us all, “And lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Peter now has all the strength and courage he will ever need, because now he knows without a doubt that he will never be parted from his Lord again.

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.