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September 23, 2018, 12:00 AM

Persecuted like a Prophet

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you... I am not feeling like being persecuted today, maybe tomorrow will be different. Oh and about the utterance of all kinds of evil against me falsely... that also is something I can do without. And, have you ever thought about a passage like the one that says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” and thought, “but I want it now.” and little consolation is it that “they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” I don't want to take comfort in knowing that they have been persecuting people like me since the beginning of time and what kind of people are those but people who simple tell the truth, people who do the right thing, people who try to be kind. Why I ask you do they persecute the prophets? Why does the world prosecute the truth tellers? Why does the world work so hard against those who simply want to be kind?

In my experience it is really very simple. In my experience those who tell the truth and I am not talking about those who harshly tell everyone every detail, but instead those who refuse to speak lies and embellish and make things more than they are. Those people who tell the truth bring a kind of judgment on those who don't. Yes, simply in you being who you are and in the fact that we (ever since eating a piece of fruit in a garden all those thousands of years ago) have the knowledge of good and evil or if you prefer because we have the ability to discern right from wrong, people who are not truth tellers experience a kind of judgment on their actions when they are around people who are truth tellers.

Likewise, I think that those who are kind and gentle are truly challenging to a world which values strength, courage and tends toward brash. I have witnessed on a number of occasions when I chose not to react to someone who is behaving aggressively, especially when that aggression is designed to move me to a different belief or action, I have experienced them becoming more aggressive as they try harder and harder and harder to get me to become like they are. And then, if you hold your ground, they get to a point where they have blown themselves out, they may turn and walk away or they may suddenly become calm and have the ability to speak and work through the problem to a mutually acceptable solution. First however, they have to try and get you to become like they are and that means puffing up and becoming more aggressive, because if you become aggressive in return, you validate their way of being and who does not want their way of being validated.

We were not put on this earth to validate the other person. We, as Christians, are told not to conform to this world. We as Christians are asked to behave and act according to the teachings of Jesus, whether or not those around us choose to do the same.

We have an example of this in our first lesson today. Joseph, whose brothers were so jealous that they sold him into slavery, now finds himself in Egypt. Joseph remains loyal to God and the ways of God and even those around him understand that he is blessed. So, he ends up as overseer of much of the household, he was a trusted servant. He was apparently also a rather handsome servant we come to find out and Pharaoh's wife fancied a roll in the hay with him.

Pharaoh's wife we read came on to him pretty directly. Joseph being a person of honor and integrity said no, because he was a person of  integrity and lived by the rules God had laid out for his people. Joseph did the right thing by the person he was serving, even as slave in the house. God honored that in Joseph. God honored his right behavior and Joseph stuck to his guns. Eventually, the wife traps him. We are not given all the details but my imagination says she was coming on to him and he realized that this would not end well if he stayed in the room. It really did not matter whether he slept with her or not, if he stayed in the room it was a problem, so he left with “all due haste.” In his haste to leave she apparently had her hands on his clothes and so the garment got left behind.

Next we see that Joseph finds himself in jail. He is never given opportunity to defend himself. Pharaoh's wife seems to suffer no ill consequences for her actions. And again is that not all to often the truth, when you suffer for being a person of truth and integrity, the other does not suffer any consequence. You suffer some negative, often less than jail but either way you do the right thing and someone else traps you, thus you suffer a consequence that is not truly just and they suffer no consequence at all. So, Joseph finds himself in jail and sets about doing what he always does, being a person of integrity and honor, doing what he knows is right, and this gives him favor in the sight of God and thus he prospers within that environment.

I want to be really clear here because this is not the truth we want, but in my experience, it is often how things work. A faithful person, who maintains their honor and integrity throughout the situation, does well within the situation. It may not however get us removed from the situation. Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph set about to do the right things, it did not make him any the less a slave, no he is still a slave instead of the free man he was. Within the environment of slavery Joseph thrived as much as a slave can. Then in a moment of, the world against Joseph, even as he tries to do the right thing, he ends up in jail. We read nothing to indicate that he got out of jail, no he is in jail and within that environment he flourished. Within the environment he found himself he did right, he maintained honor and integrity and that did not remove him to a new better place but instead it made the place he found himself in a better place.

We are told in our gospel lesson that we may well do like Joseph and say and do the right things but not be honored for it. We may we be a person of truth and integrity and find ourselves persecuted. We will do the right things because they are the right things and that may not move us to a new estate. We may not suddenly find that we are being moved from the situation that we don't want to be in. We may continue to find ourselves needing to work within the situation we really want leave. We may continue to find ourselves in a place, which we associate with persecution, but within that environment we will find ourselves flourishing. I read this morning the account of the man who bought the London Bridge and moved it to Arizona. He took a piece of desert and a small lake and worked with it to make it something anazing. Now it sees millions of tourists every year. He certainly had a flock of naysayers who thought this was a kooky idea but he made it work. I am sure that early on Einstein had people around him say there is no way that energy or light if you prefer and matter are related and yet we know now they are. The church persecuted many of the early scientists like Galileo, Copernicus and Darwin, who we now know were right but they were not doing what those around them wanted them to do, they were doing what was right and the world had to start by trying to drag them back to where they, the world, were.

So, no I don't want to be persecuted and reviled but if that is the price I pay for sticking to what I know is right then so be it. If it gets me reduced to a lower estate, I know that God will help me to flourish within that state. It is some comfort to know that through the course of history, being a person of honor, and integrity, being a person who sticks to what is right, has been a persecuted position. So, while I may not want to, I will take solace in knowing that I am right with God. And thus I want to encourage you to continue in the right even when it is difficult. I want you to encourage you to make the most of the situation you are in, whether God moves you to a different one or not. I want to encourage you like the Gospel writer would, to keep up the good fight, knowing that God will bless you for it.

September 16, 2018, 12:00 AM

What is God calling you to do?

How far are you willing to go in serving God? Would you walk away from the family home? Would you walk away from a good job? Would you sell it all to finance the journey? What are the limits you would place upon the requests of God? At what point would you simply say, “No God I am not willing to do that.” At what point would you not be able to believe that it was God's plan because it is just too far outside your comfort zone.

As I look at the story of Abram, God was asking him to do something pretty drastic. God asked the 75 year old Abram to leave his ancestral home and “Go to one he will be shown.” This is a big ask on the part of God. Not only is Abram being asked to leave his ancestral home at 75 but he is also not being told where he is going. So, are we willing to follow if we think God is calling but not giving us all the details.

Let me tell you in a very general way that my experience is. The more faith you have, the more challenging the ask is from God. You were willing to quit the job and go without visible means of support, thank you and I have a new opportunity for you. You were willing to go to the middle of nowhere, as a city person, I have a new opportunity for you. You were willing to sell it all to finance the mission journey of a life time and that allowed you to do what you always thought you wanted to and you love what you are doing, lets take you in a new direction.

Abram we read today packed up all his things and then he and Lot and their families and all that they had left Haran. And what by the way must Sarai have been saying this whole time. Was Sarai cheering on Abram say, “How great it is that God has chosen you to for this honor.” or Was Sarai saying, “Of all the hair brain schemes you have ever dreamed up this is definitely the kookiest.” And then Lot decides that this is a great idea and decides to join his uncle on the journey. Hey Mom and Dad, Uncle Abram is going to see the world and so I think I am going to join him.

There was no phone system to keep in touch with those you left. There was no postal system to send a letter home. Other than if someone passed by, who happened to be going where you needed to send a message, there were no messages going back and forth. No, I am leaving means, I expect not to talk with Dad and Mom and whomever else is living in my ancestral home. That could be overwhelming and leave you paralyzed and deciding that, “Maybe it wasn't God but a bad piece of meat last night at supper.“

I will tell you some other things that might make one feel overwhelmed and like there is no way that God is calling me to work on that: typhoons that kill 30 people, hurricanes that kill twelve people, and political gridlock in a country of 325 million people. Add to that if you feel the political system is rigged or that if you left your job for a few days to go help a hurricane victim,  you might not have a job when you get back. What about none of your neighbors gets up on Sunday morning to go to church and you have been hearing the ridicule of those who do go to church in the community, maybe not even directly, so you ask, “Is God really asking me to attend weekly?” I will remind you that church attendance may be the simplest way today to start fulfilling the gospel command that we are to go into all the world with the good news.

There are many problems in the world and any number of them that seem likely candidates for things that God would be asking us to do. Some because we are to care for our neighbor and we know that really means every human being. Some because they count among the groups of people we were asked to care for as Christians like widows, orphans, incarcerated persons, or the sick. Some because we know that God left us to be stewards of this globe and so anything that amounts to caring for the earth is God's work. Some maybe for no more reason than they seem to be within the scope of problems listed as places God works in the bible. There are many problems in the world for which it seems likely God is calling someone to do something and thus are likely candidates for things to which God might be calling us. What about the smaller more mundane things that God might call us to do? How do we sort between the call of God and a bad piece of meat.

Let me tell you the story of Bridges to Community, a non profit building houses in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. A couple of pastors had connections in Nicaragua and wanted to do some good and so went down to build a house. That led to another house. When they were back in the US, they told the story of being down their and building the house. A few other people said that was really cool and wanted to be included in the work and so pretty quickly it got beyond a couple of people building houses in Nicaragua. They have now built over  900 homes in Nicaragua, plus the homes they are building or repairing in the Dominican Republic, plus the school rooms, school kitchens, churches, public health facilities, micro loans for farmers, latrines, and, and, and. And knowing one of the original pastors, I feel confident telling you that they never set out to do anything this big, at the outset they intended to build a couple of houses every year in a community near Masaya in Nicaragua, where they had contacts. So, sometimes we need to stop looking at the whole of the problem and simply look for the little piece of good that we can do.

Yes problems can be overwhelming if we think that we need to solve the whole thing. The reality is that we need to be open to letting God direct us and usually it will start small like, build one house, change one mind, do one thing and then tell the story. Use the story of the work that you did to show how God called you to it and what positive impact it had in the community. If someone says, “That is awesome, how can I help?” bring them along and do it again. You might be surprised how much gets done. Sometimes you find out that a whole floor can be torn out and replaced, other times you know that one homeless person did not suffer hunger today and on occasion without intending to you create a 501c3 that builds 70+ homes every year.

So, what is the big overwhelming problem that God is calling you to work on now at this juncture in your life. Or maybe the better question is what one small thing is God calling you to do today? What call did God put on your life, which simply seems like it is just to much. Is God calling you out of your comfort zone? Good, God believes you are ready to grow. Is God calling you to something that you can not conceive of how you can do it? Good, God is ready to show you that God can when you can't. Is God calling you to what seems like an inconsequential action? Good, because inconsequential actions done hundreds or thousands of times change the world. God is calling you and I am suggesting that if like Abram you will listen and follow, God will do amazing things through you.

September 9, 2018, 12:00 AM

The Greatest Servant

Grace and Peace to you from God, our creator, our redeemer and our guide. May the words on my lips and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

The reality is that my best thinking can get me in trouble. It is not like I am going out as an axe murderer because of my thinking but what I conceive of is not necessarily the best plan. Our texts today remind us of this truth. Our texts remind us that it is far better to seek inspiration from and guidance from God.

Take our gospel text today. Just before the part we read and the reason the disciples were upset is that the two sons of Zebedee who were disciples came before Jesus with their mother. Mom then asked Jesus to give her sons the promise that they would be seated at his right and left hand. Now this would have been a great honor since the chief counselors of the new King would likely be seated in those spots. And as a parent I know that we, and especially the mothers, have no reservation asking on behalf of our child for the things we think they deserve. And lets face it, our children, well at least my children, deserve the world handed to them on a silver platter and deserve to have all the places of honor.

Having told Mom and the two sons that they are asking for something he can not give and questioning whether they really want all that goes with the request, we now read in today's lesson that those around them are angry with them for asking. I can definitely hear that conversation, “How dare you ask for that. You should feel honored simply to have been selected to be a disciple.” and at some level those saying this are most upset really that they did not think to ask first. They are also thinking, simultaneously, if they are anything like me, “Phew, I am glad I did not ask first since, I would not want to have the embarrassment of having been told publicly, No.” They may also be wondering, “Would Jesus have given me a different answer?” because each of us know that we are special.

Jesus being his usual self then takes this as a teaching moment. We read, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Mat 20:25-28

So, these two disciples have asked for special positions of power in the new kingdom and Jesus comes back with a teaching on how his kingdom is to be different. The people who utilize worldly ways seek power so that they can tell others how it is to be done, is what I read. The worldly way is to seek power so that you can control others. The worldly way is to become a ruler so that you have power. And Jesus goes on to say his way is different. In this new kingdom those who wish to be great must serve the others. Actually the wording is a little stronger than that in that it says if we wish to be great we must become the servants of the other and if we wish to be at the absolute top of the heap we must not just be servants but we must be slaves.

In the United States where we value individual freedom, especially for the freedom not to have another lord it over us or tell us how we must live this is important information. We also all to often get the message that we are special and deserve to have everything just the way we want it. We deserve the society is telling us all the special places of power. And I am reminded of the adage, to many chiefs and not enough Indians or too many cooks spoil the soup. There need to be worker bees and there need to be sous chefs or the food is not ask good and the work never actually gets done. And Jesus goes one step further to say not only should you take your place as a worker among workers but if you truly aspire to greatness, learn to serve your sisters and brothers, learn to be a servant or a slave to the betterment of others.

I saw among my friends Facebook posts this week one that suggested we in the church were making a great mistake. We as the church have been promoting leadership schools and leadership skills, most of which are based on the worldly ways. We know that Jesus has a different way, the way of the servant and slave therefore maybe we need to be running schools on how to become a servant. Maybe we need to be running schools on how to serve your neighbor. Maybe we need to be running school on how to asses the needs of the other and then how to fulfill those needs.

Our first lesson today speaks of the truth of God's desire for our lives in a little different way. God scatters the people and confuses their language we read. God saw that if this were not done, nothing would be impossible for these people. The problem if you were is that the people were capable of become God like and that is the one thing we are not to strive for. We saw that last week when Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden. We see that in confusing the language, scattering people and banishing from the Garden of Eden, God seeks to protect us from our own tendancy to believe we can do anything if we set our mind to it. God seeks to protect us from our belief that we should be in control. God  will in our lives, if we will create the space for it to happen, do as God did here and try to protect us from that which we are not supposed to be doing.

We are not supposed to be trying to become all powerful. We are not supposed to be accumulating power for ourselves. We are not supposed to be about telling others how to live their lives. And yet the world certainly tells us those things are correct. The world around us does a great job of encouraging us to accumulate stuff and titles and opportunities to tell others how to live. The world raises up leaders on a regular basis who don't ask the people around them or the general populous but instead the world lifts up leaders who are strong and have all the answers. Our way as Christians is different. Our way as Christians or little Christs is to ask others what they need. Our way as Christians is to seek to serve others and to recognize others for the service they are performing.

We know how we are to  live and as I look around this congregation we do a pretty fair job of it most of the time. That is good news and I want to encourage you to continue to seek our God's will not your will. I want to encourage you to continue serving the other.

There are two final things I want to suggest to you. If we truly believe in servant leadership then we need people to serve and so one of the gifts we can give and one of the ways we can serve the other is allowing them to serve us. This can be one of the ways we serve as we become less able. Creating a space that allows others to serve us is one of the hardest bits of servitude for many of us hear. We are used to service being an active role focused on the other and what I am suggesting is that sometimes we need to actively serve the other by actively allowing them to serve us. The second thing I am going to suggest is that we are in an election year and we have the opportunity to mold and shape the world around us. Is it possible to hold up this as the litmus test for those we are voting into office. Would we be well served to look at which people are not seeking power but which people are looking to serve the needs of the world. I know that at some level all of them are seeking power but maybe, just maybe one or two of the available options are more inclined to encourage service or see themselves not as power brokers but models of public service. So, when you consider you options at the polls maybe that is the best test.

SO, the lesson for today is an long standing one for Christians. How do we serve our neighbor. And in addition to how do we serve we get not seeking the highest places or the places of power. We also read that we are not to seek to become all powerful like God, we are not to try to become capable of just about anything but instead remain humble servants of God and of our fellow.

September 2, 2018, 12:00 AM

Hearing God and Covenant Keeping

Good Morning, Grace and Peace to you from God, our Creator, our Redeemer and our Sustainer. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

I am sorry we were not able to read the whole of the passage about Noah this morning and had to skip large sections but I am reminded that they have made full length movies out of the whole passage and so reading the parts we did will have to suffice. I must admit that while Bill Cosby has since been disgraced his skit on Noah and God talking about this still rings in my head. We had it on a record at home when I was a child. Noah saying to God; Who are you? Where are you? What is an ark? What is a cubit? It just all makes so much sense that we as humans would question God in this way. Questioning God's command makes a good bit of sense and so I want to explore look at why God chose Noah, and the covenant between God and humanity that we read of toward the end of the text.

There are two interesting side notes on this story. The first is that in the commentary they were looking at the word we translate as ark and musing about where it came from and the closest locally available word was in Egyptian and translates to box.  The second is what speaks to the likelihood that an event of this nature occurred in that area of the world. Almost every ancient culture from that part of the world has a flood story. So, something happened where to their way of thinking the whole world was flooded and someone managed to get out alive. Also, remember God saying go into the whole world and collect two of every animal would have for a person stuck on a camel probably meant go into a 500 mile radius and collect two of every animal, which would about get you to Tallahassee. So, Noah found favor with God and thus God instructed him to build an ark, so that he and the animals collected would be saved when the time came for the flood.

I want to be the first maybe to point out that Noah being sure that Noah heard God meant that Noah and God were in regular communication. And my experience is that when you are in regular communication with God it is much easier to know whether God is speaking to you or not. So, maybe the first lesson we can draw from this text is that we should be in regular communication with God, if only so that when God asks us to do something, we can be reasonably sure that it is God speaking in our lives. The text we read says, “Noah walked with God.” which I can only assume would also mean that Noah and God were in regular communication thus when God starts speaking with Noah it was not what we heard from Bill Cosby's skit but much more an immediate understanding that God was talking to Noah and it was time for Noah to listen.

So, when Noah was 600 years young, he had “done all that God had commanded” in other words he had finished the ark, collected animals, stored food and now it was time to embark on the next step in the journey. We did not read it today but the story tells us that the waters swelled for forty days and until they covered the mighty mountains. In fact the story says that the tops of the tallest mountains were more than 20 feet under water. Now in South Florida that might only take 25 feet of water but if Mt Ararat was involved, which is the historically believe area it may have occurred in that was more like 17,000 feet of water. Whatever it looked like there was a lot of water and everything not on the ark perished. And then God remembers Noah and so starts to dry up the water. Floods in my experience are both destructive and cleansing and so is the case with this flood. I provided an opportunity to restart but in so doing destroyed almost everything.

In one of those other odd little details we read that Noah sent out the Raven and the Raven went to a fro over the earth drying up the water. I find this whole section to be interesting. We have the traditional peace symbol of the Dove with an Olive Leaf and yes the text says one leaf. Can I simply point out the suspension of reality that we apply to this, the same as we would a movie or TV show. Three to four months after the tops of the mountains showed again we have an olive leaf and according to the oliveoilsource web site they do best with long, warm, dry summers.  But I digress.

And then we read, “God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”” Gen 9:8-11 Now what we did not read is the part where we are not to eat blood but that the flesh of any animal is ok. So there are two side to the covenant ours which is not to eat blood and God's which is not to destroy everything.

Then we get that part we all love to read where God puts a rainbow in the sky. And yes it is that reminder to us that God made a covenant and will never again destroy the whole earth. More importantly though it serves as a reminder to God to remember what happened and the covenant that was made with all humanity.

Noah continued to be in communication with God. Noah continued to worship God. Noah immediately after disembarking from the Ark, set up an altar and made a sacrifice to God. And Noak was confident that he had heard correctly when he heard God speaking. Many of us want to know what God's word for us is, what God is calling us to do, what God wants us to about. How often do you communicate with God. My experience is that those who communicate with God on a regular basis are pretty clear about it when God is speaking. Now they check the answer and make sure it is God and when the requst is big they often ask God to repeat the command so that they are sure they are getting it correct but they are clear that God is speaking and they need to listen. So, if you speak to God regularly, then I encourage you to continue. If you struggle to know when God is speaking either you need to spend more time talking with God through prayer and learning the nature and character of God or you may simply need to have God repeat the command.

The second part of the story is the covenant between God and humanity and God made covenant with Abraham and God made a covenant through Moses and God made a covenant through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. All of these share the truth that God made promises and that there are expectations on how we are going to lead our lives. Covenant is two parts one is the demand upon us, usually for some show of fidelity to God and then the promises of God made to us for that show of fidelity.

God is still speaking and Gods covenants are still true so the questions are whether we are listening and holding up our end of the bargain.

March 4, 2018, 12:00 AM

Love Yourself

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our salvation. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

What are you afraid of people finding out? What are you afraid will change? These are the questions that popped into my mind as I read this morning's text.

Let us start with the second question. What are you afraid will change? When you look around, there is so very much happening for most of us. When you look around, you will no doubt see that some things are changing. When you look around, what are those things that you, knowing we are in a time of constant change, worry or fret will change? I know for some people I have met along the way they are afraid of the culture around us changing. I know for some people I have met along the way they are afraid that their favorite food will no longer be available. I know that for some I have met they are good with all those changes so long as their church, the anchor that holds them, does not change.

As I look at the questions of change I am reminded of how many people have bemoaned what has already changed. Some look at our culture and think of a day when in their memory there were fewer problems. Some look at our culture and remember a day when in their memory everyone had a good job. Some look at our culture and remember a day when everyone they knew thought about things in the same way. Some look at our culture and remember the good old days. The problem is that the good old days were not good for all. We tend to gloss over the detail of the number of black people who were disenfranchised. We tend to gloss over the detail that there were great pockets of poverty even in the midst of widespread sharing of wealth. And yet for so very many it was a good time and thus it seems that all was ok then and all is going poorly now we want to know what is different.

This of course glosses over those people who are sitting thinking how much better things are for them today than they were 40 years ago. Maybe 40 years ago they lived in a family that had newly immigrated to this country and spoke no English and therefore had limited economic opportunity. Maybe 40 years ago they lived in a family with limited education and therefore had limited economic opportunity. Maybe 40 years ago they were still living in the old homeland, under a brutal dictator or maybe just in a place with an economy that had tanked.

Thus we see those who are better off today that are embracing many of the changes the we have seen. We are also seeing those, which in my analysis, like the temple leaders who arrested Jesus, fear the changes in the culture. In my experience those who are fearing the change of culture fear one of two things. First there is the fear of the unknown, those changes which make things less comprehensible and since familiarity breeds comfort, our fear is actually our discomfort with the unknown. Second there is the fear of loss, this is the fear most often of losing economic power, which is rooted in your privileged position in society. This second is the one I suspect most driving the temple authorities to arrest and try and thus silence Jesus.

There is a second kind of fear and that is the one we see today in Peter, the fear that something about us will be revealed to the world around us. Often we fear the revealing of some inner detail of our lives for the very same reasons that we fear changes externally. We fear that what might be revealed would lead to losses economically or socially. So, what is it that you hold deep in your in most core and pray that no one every figures out. What is the secret that you are planning never to reveal and thus you will take it to your grave. What is the inner truth that you fear if people knew it it would destroy the wealth and privilege that you enjoy. That my friends is what we see in Peter today with his denial of Jesus three times.

This fear of being revealed has been most clear to me in those I have known who are Gay, those who are Transgender and then there are the alcoholics, the drug addicts, those who embezzle, those who cheat on their spouse and those who may love their family but not their spouse. All of these people and many others have something to loose if the reality they are hiding were to come to light. The interesting thing is that much like Peter, people around us know the truth even as we are denying it. Much like Peter, there are friends who are be hurt by our denial.

And thus we have the paradox because if Peter had not denied his relationship with Jesus, what would have happened to Peter. Look at our text and you see the woman asking if Peter knew Jesus because he looks an awful lot like someone who was hanging out with Jesus. What is Peter's fear, that for the truth to come to light he will be persecuted with Jesus or …. What is that nebulous change that Peter fears, which he does not actually know. What is the niggle in the back of Peter's head that causes him to deny Jesus three times. What is the unknown change that would occur if Peter did not deny Jesus to those who thought they had seen him in the garden.

The temple authorities never get to see the answer that Peter comes to know. You see if all we had was the first part of Jesus' trial and the denial of Peter there might not be much room for hope but that is not the only text we read today. Our first reading today focuses on that moment, later, after Jesus has been resurrected, when he is with Peter and three times Jesus asks Peter do you love me. This time having watched Jesus die on the cross, having watched Jesus be buried in the tomb and having witnessed Jesus be resurrected from the dead Peter has a little more faith and a lot more courage. And yet is that not the way for us as well, if we have seen the right events occur we will have far more faith and courage that it will all work out in the end. And yet we also know the text from the bible that says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Often we have good reason to fear. People who live in privileged positions have watched those who have lost their status and/or their money and the lives they live do not appear to have the luxuries that have come to find as normal even needed. People who are Gay or Transgender have watched as that one little part of them, when revealed about others has led not only to financial ruin but also being ostracized by the community or worse when they are actually physically beaten up or raped for that reality. People who are alcoholics or drug addicts have watched as those who have revealed their reality are required to clean up their act, which seems like an impossibility, but must happen if they are to have to opportunity to preserve some part of their economic or social position. People who are in loveless marriages or who have had an affair, rightly fear the loss of their family situation and yet may well be slowly tearing that family situation apart for not sharing what is their reality or on their heart. And yet there is an answer and we know that answer and that answer is to return to a relationship with our God. The answer lies in the three times Jesus asks Peter do you love me, The answer lies in turning it over to the very same one who created us.

The answer to the problem lies in the answer to Jesus' question which is being asked of all of us everyday and that is, “Do you love me?” At some level this question is also, “Are you willing to entrust the whole of your life and your reality to me?” And then there is the challenge of answering yes. By saying, “Yes, Jesus I love you and I entrust my life to your way of being.” by saying this we are also accepting that the answer to our conundrum, that the salvation that awaits us, that the freedom of not hiding our reality also may involve accepting our losses and we as humans are terribly loss averse. In each of the situations I quoted above the path to freedom, the path to healing and the path to following God may also be a path that takes you places that are not labeled with “You are here.” And yet as those who have been enslaved to such realities and have come through to the other side and entrusted their lives to the very same entity that created them, the one who promises salvation and promises that if we trust it will all work out in the end, those people have found freedom just as I believe that Peter found freedom and strength by finally openly accepting what it means to follow Jesus.

And so the invitation lies before each of us today, to let go of, to put together a plan to, to figure out how to live in the light, the light that peers into the darkest corners of our soul, not to condemn us but to figure out how to heal us, to figure out how to offer us salvation, and to figure out how to help us live our truth freely. And so I am going to pause for just a moment before I finish for you to ponder the question, “What reality is Jesus calling me to start to bring to the light so that my soul might be healed?”


And so let us close in prayer. God, creator of the universe, you make us as we are, help us to understand but even more so to embrace the persons you have created each of us to be. Help us as well to embrace others, accept others as they are and to ease their journey when they are working to embrace their own reality. Finally, take our fear from us, show us how the fear of losing what we have keeps us from what we might be, even when what we might be is greater than what we have. God, what we are saying is help us to be ourselves, embrace ourselves, and tell Jesus that we love his way and will follow his lead so that we might learn to love all others from the love we have for ourselves and the love we have first known when it was shown to us in Jesus. Amen.

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