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Love Yourself
March 4, 2018, 12:00 AM

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.