We are nearing the end of our Year Of Mark! We will be taking the week off for Pentecost and Children’s Day and then will pick it up again on June 16th – Father’s Day. This week was Peter’s Denial. I talked about what it means that Jesus called the Church into being and how we can use this space to hold ourselves accountable to who we are, as people of faith, and who God is calling us to be. Enjoy!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
June 2, 2019
Stop And Remember
I was talking to someone in the office this week and I told them that it was Communion Sunday, Choir Sunday and New Member Sunday and I said, “Coincidentally, it is also Short Sermon Sunday.”
So let’s not waste any time getting into it, shall we?
This morning we heard the story of Peter’s denial. You remember from last week that Peter was the only of the 12 disciples that followed Jesus after he was arrested and taken away before the Council. Peter stood at a distance while Jesus was questioned, warming himself by the fire.
In the story we just heard, Peter was spotted and identified as one of Jesus’ followers. Peter denied these allegations, something Jesus had told him he was going to do. When Peter realized that Jesus’ predictions have come true, he broke down and wept.
The challenge of preaching this text – and really, the Passion Narrative in general – is that the story is so tragically human. And while we may wish that, perhaps, the disciples (particularly Judas, who betrayed Jesus and Peter, who denied Jesus) had made different choices, to some extent the story had to play out the way that it did in order for us to be where we are today. So it is hard, but necessary.
Yet we still have so much to learn from their stories.
So who is Peter?
Peter was the first disciple that Jesus ever called (his name appears first as Simon in Mark 1:16), with his brother Andrew. He was part of that inner circle – Peter, James and John – that Jesus brought to the healing of Jairus’ daughter, to the transfiguration and to pray with him in Gethsemane.
After Jesus had shared the Passover with his disciples, he told them they were all going to desert him, which Peter vehemently denied (no pun intended). Jesus told Peter that Peter would not only desert him, but that on that night, before the rooster crowed twice, Peter would deny Jesus three times. Peter said, “I will not deny you.”
And now here we are. And it happened just like Jesus said it would.
“Hey, you were with Jesus, right? Jesus, from Nazareth?”
“I do not know what you are talking about.”
The rooster crowed.
“He is one of them.”
“No I am not.”
“You HAVE to be one of them – you are Galilean!”
“I do NOT know who you are talking about.”
The rooster crowed.
Instantly – Peter remembered what Jesus had said and realized that Jesus had been right. Peter did exactly what Jesus said he was going to. Then Peter broke down and he wept.
For me, the most powerful and gut-wrenching part of this story comes in the 72ndverse right after the rooster crowed for the second time:
Then Peter remembered.
Because we have all been there, right? We have all had those moments where, in an instant, we realize that we have done something wrong, taken something too far, or said something that we should not have. We have all, at some point throughout our lives, gotten so caught up in the moment only to have the fantasy or the security of that moment or that world we were living in unravel and suddenly we come crashing down to reality.
You can justify bad choices for a long time, but it really only ever takes a moment to realize the gravity and the consequences of your choices.
Then Peter remembered.
No wonder Peter broke down.
I could be wrong, but I really do not think Peter meant to do what he did; I think he just got caught up in the moment. He saw that Jesus was on trial, he heard them sentence Jesus to death and now the very same people that had the authority to crucify Jesus were asking Peter if he was associated with Jesus.
What would you have said?
Then Peter remembered.
I think if there is one thing that we can learn from this passage it is that we need to intentionally stop and remember before we get so far that we cannot turn back. We have to stop and remember what is important and what our faith teaches us. We have to stop and remember what Jesus did in his life and the Good News that we, now carry into our lives. We have to stop and remember what we want to do in this world and what we want our legacies to be. We have to stop and remember who we are and who God is calling us to be. We have to stop and remember so that we can make good and faithful choices as we travel forward on our journeys.
And I kind of think that this is why Jesus called us to be the Church. Because it is here that we can stop and remember.
It is here where we say together words of confession; words that perhaps we were not literally guilty of throughout the week, but that nonetheless force us to stop and remember the things that we were guilty of throughout the week.
It is here where we gather around a table of extravagant welcome; where we stop and remember Jesus’ body and blood, broken and poured out for us for the forgiveness of sins and the fullness of grace. It is here where we stop and share the Sacrament of Holy communion and remember that Jesus called us to sit down with our friends and our enemies and break bread together.
It is here where we welcome children; where we stop and sometimes let chaos ensue, remembering that everything we do and say in this space is shaping our children’s understanding about who God is.
It is here where we listen to the ancient words of scripture and then interpret them together; where we stop and remember the stories, the laws, the songs and the letter that have defined and shaped God’s creating history. It is here where we read the bible and stop and remember how these words are still relevant in our lives today.
It is here where we open up a time for people to share the concerns and celebrations that are on their hearts; where we stop and remember those in our community whose joys we share and whose sufferings we pray for.
It is here where we dedicate a time for you to give back; to stop and remember, not only the financial needs of this church, but the ways in which we, as a church, can transform our offerings and extend them further out into the world.
Church is by no means perfect, but it does give us this beautiful time and space and opportunity to stop and remember, week after week, as we seek to be Jesus’ disciples the world we are living in today.
So that maybe when the moment arises, we won’t deny Jesus; we will proclaim the Good News of God’s light, love and grace.
This is easier said than done, because sometimes it means leaving what is safe or what is familiar to us and oftentimes it means it stepping outside of the busyness of the worlds that we live in.
But the beauty of church is that we are all doing it together. Together we stop; together we remember.
Summer is coming; next week is Children’s Day, which signals the end of our program year. The following week – Father’s Day, June 16th– worship moves to 9AM.
Don’t disappear for the summer. I know everyone has a lot going on. I know it’s easy to fall out of the habit. I know it gets warm in the sanctuary. I know you would rather be in the garden or at the beach or doing something else outside. But don’t disappear for the summer. Because it is here, week after week, where we stop and remember; it is here, in our community worship space where we stop and remember who we are, who God is calling us to be and what God is calling us to do in the world.
Stop and remember.
Thanks be to God!