Lent IV March 14, 2018 “A Sermon Dialog with Peter” Rev. John Larson & Michael Zehnder Ascension Lutheran Church, Littleton Colorado
The Sermon Dialog with Peter is delivered by Pastor Larson (P) and Michael Zehnder (R) in the role of Peter:
Crossroads. They are there for all of us. We may move along from day to day easily, walking in the sunshine, enjoying the view, feeling at peace. And then it comes. A crossroad. A choice point. There we stand, frozen to the spot. Which way now? Right? Left? Straight? What waits down each of those choices? Which way does our heart call us to go? Which makes sense? Which is God’s way?
The answers aren’t easy. A crossroad can bring daunting spiritual pain. And it can bring us to our knees. It can even bring us to destruction. Tonight we have an expert on the crossroad of declaration.
The apostle Peter is with us. Peter is famous for his choices; some he would be proud of, some not.
(Peter enters. He is dressed well or in biblical costume. He moves hesitantly.)
P Peter, we seem to know you so well. We hear of you often in the Scripture. It is good to have you with us today.
R I am here to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am his servant and follower. I think I know why I am here, and I am not pleased.
P No? I thought you would be happy to be among us with your good news.
R Yes, certainly. But I suspect you want to focus on a time when I did not make a choice to be a proud witness—a time when I failed.
P That’s what is puzzling to us and why we want to look at that event, at the time when you denied Jesus. It seems hard to understand. You were a leader of the disciples, the one who seemed to understand Jesus and what he was doing as Messiah.
R I thought I understood. Jesus even complimented me on my bold witness to who he was as God’s Messiah. He called me blessed, filled with God’s word.
P But then, even after you were warned, you denied him three times.
R If I could go back now and face that crossroad again, I would know what to do. You see, I thought I knew what Jesus was doing. In spite of the times he told us he was going to suffer and die, I still thought he would be what we hoped he would be. After all, he paraded into the city of Jerusalem in a way that said that he was the coming king. I thought we were on the way to having God’s Messiah as the king and ruler we needed. I didn’t know what all that talk of suffering was about.
P And that’s why you could not speak his name when you were in the priest’s courtyard.
R At that point, everything was going wrong. He wasn’t supposed to be arrested. I even tried to fight for him. He wasn’t supposed to be on trial. Where was his power? Where were his miracles? Where was his ability to simply walk away when they threatened him? At that point, when they accused me, I saw Jesus failing. And I failed.
P Were you afraid?
R Afraid? Yes, I guess so. But I was baffled, confused, disappointed, in despair. That’s not an excuse. It is just what happened.
P You had said you would even die with him. Didn’t you mean that?
R That was my quick mouth, another time I spoke without thinking. I just said that to impress Jesus and the others. I was looking for another compliment. It was important for me to know that Jesus respected me, thought I was worthwhile. I needed him to appreciate me and what I had done for him.
P And his warning? Didn’t you hear his warning?
R Jesus said many things I didn’t really understand at the time. I guess I just wasn’t hearing. It was easy for me, and I am sure for you too, to see myself as strong in the faith, able to speak the right words, able to be the one to stand up for Jesus, able to witness. But when I was in that situation, I could not choose the path I knew I should choose. I could not say the words I knew I needed to say. It was dark in my spirit at that moment, and I could not see, could not speak.
P A terrible time?
R More terrible than you can know. Oh, I know that all of us find ourselves at places where we know we should speak the good word. I know what it is like for you. You find yourselves among those who dirty their minds and mouths with words that hurt or shame. I know you find yourselves among those who misuse God’s name, act as though his commands don’t exist. I know you struggle in your minds with what to say and do in those situations. The questions come: Will my words of faith help? Will they be effective? Won’t what I say set me apart, make me look foolish, ruin my relationships? Isn’t it better to keep quiet or just go along? I know. You may not face a time when your words would put you in danger for your life, but certainly there are times when we all find ourselves at a crossroad that calls on us to boldly speak Jesus’ name and God’s will, and we fail.
P You know us too well. We do not speak the words that we should, when we should.
R I guess the best part of my story is that I did not finish my discipleship in tears of failure. Jesus came and found me that day on the beach, after he had risen. He loved me enough to call me back after I had turned my back on him. “Do you love me?” he asked me three times. And he sent me to feed his lambs and sheep. And here is the best part, he calls you back, too. He does not leave us in our failure. He does not turn away. He is there each day with the forgiveness we need to go on one more day, to face one more test, to stand at one more crossroad. And by his power, the power of his Holy Spirit, to be what he wants us to be, what we want to be.
P St. Paul said: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. . . (Romans 1:16). That’s our affirmation, that’s our calling. We can stand and speak the Good News because he has done all for us.
R Certainly. Most certainly so. Remember that “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 1:9). Seek his power to walk in the light.