In our New Testament lesson this morning, we are going to meet Peter. Yet, as we do so, it is important to remember that in the gospels, Peter, is just another name for the church. So, this story isn’t just about a man that lived two thousand years ago. It is a story about the church, and every person in the church. I hope you will hear the story in that way, as I begin reading from the first chapter of John, beginning at the 35th verse. Listen now for the Word of God.
He couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t waiting, hoping and praying for the day to come. Would it be today, Simon wondered, as he lifted the nets out of the hull of his boat? It had been a long night out on the lake. The sky had been clear, filled with the radiance of the moon’s glow, and the waters had remained calm most of the evening. That in itself, made the night more bearable. But, the catch, well that was something else. It certainly wasn’t his greatest night of fishing, though it might just be enough for a day’s wage. The only problem was that it took all night. Simon smiled despite the aches in his back. He could remember the times when only a few hours work brought it enough fish for two days wages. Last night, however, used up every hour. It didn’t take Simon long to clean and repair his nets. It was a well used routine, and with routine came efficiency. He could do it without thinking, which was good, because Simon couldn’t stop thinking about his grandmother, and the stories she used to tell around the evening dinner table. “One day,” she would say, “he is going to deliver us.” She never actually said God’s name. That was an act too reverent for the dinner table. Instead, she gestured to the sky and everyone around that table knew who she was talking about. “He didn’t forsake us in the land of Egypt,” she went on, “when the Pharaoh murdered our babies. He delivered us and brought us forth in victory.” Simon had heard Exodus stories before during Saturday School at the Synagogue. Yet, he never got tired of hearing them again, especially when his grandmother told them. Little by little, Simon’s grandmother began to get excited and the pace of her story would quicken. She talked about the time in the wilderness, how God fed his people and kept them alive. From there, her story took them into the Promised Land, and then back out into exile, only to return home once again. She reminded them of the words of the prophets, the same words Simon had heard read by the Rabbi at Synagogue every Saturday evening. “He didn’t forsake us then and he won’t forsake us now,” she concluded. Then she stopped and one by one looked into the face of each person around the table. She wanted to be sure that they were paying attention and listening, especially to the last part. Then she leaned in close and with almost a whisper she said, “He will send his Messiah, and he will deliver us.” She didn’t have to say what it was that they needed to be delivered from; because, they all knew. It was those cursed Romans. “Simon!” She would speak his name quite suddenly causing Simon to jump in his seat. He looked up at his grandmother, his heart thumping in his chest, that feeling of fear creeping into his eyes as it did every time he was singled out and called to attention. But, his grandmother’s eyes were gentle and slowly a smile began to draw itself over her face. “Keep your eyes on the horizon,” she would say, “so that when he comes you will find him.” With that memory unfolded in his mind, Simon stood up and stretched. Then as his grandmother had told him, he looked to the horizon. He saw the people, milling around, doing their chores, working their jobs, raising their families, getting on with life as usual, but no Messiah. How long had he been looking to the horizon, twenty years, thirty years. Actually it was more like forty years. Simon thought once more about his grandmother and then in a whisper that only he could hear, he said, “Maybe it is time for the next generation to start looking.” With that, he picked up his folded nets and began walking home. Simon arrived at his house and was putting his nets in the shed when suddenly he heard a voice calling out his name. “Simon, where have you been?” That little twinge of fear shot up through Simon’s spine when he turned around and realized that it as his brother Andrew. “What do you mean where have I been. Where do you think I was? I was out on the lake, fishing. You know, it’s what we do. It’s called work. The question is, where were you? You are supposed to be helping me.” For a moment, Andrew didn’t know what to say. He knew Simon had a quick temper and the last thing Andrew wanted to do was upset Simon even more. “I was with John. You know, the baptizer,” Andrew said in a very quiet voice. Simon took a deep breath. He couldn’t fault Andrew for wanting to listen to John. After all, if Simon had his choice, that is what he would be doing. They hadn’t had a prophet in years and John was a fireball, kept telling the people to repent and get ready because the Messiah was coming. Just like what Grandmother used to say, thought Simon. “Simon,” Andrew said, snapping Simon out of his momentary reflection, “we found him.” “You found who?” “Him, the one, the Messiah, we found him.” “What do you mean you found him? How do you know.” “Well, we were with John, like I said; and, this man walked by. Well, immediately John pointed to the man and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God.’ Who else could be talking about except the Messiah. He is the one.” Peter could not believe what his ears were hearing. Could this finally be the day. “Hold on,” Peter said lifting up his hand. “How did John know that this one was the Messiah?” “Well, John told us about that as well. It turns out that when John was baptizing this man, his name is Jesus by the way. Anyway, when he was baptizing Jesus, John said that he saw the Spirit come down and remain on Jesus.” Andrew finished with the confident look of someone who knew what he was talking about. “Wait a minute,” Simon said with a look of contempt. “Are you trying to tell me that the Messiah was baptized?” “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Look,” said Andrew, “I’ll tell you all about that later and what it means; but, for now, you need to come and meet him. We met him. We followed him and he invited us to come and stay with him. We spent the whole day and night with him, listening to everything that he was saying. And, I’m telling you, he is the one. Simon you have to come and meet him.” With that Andrew started to turn, but he lifted up his arm as if to say come on, we’ll go together. Simon had to admit he was getting excited. So many years of waiting, so many years of searching. Could it be that he was finally going to find the Messiah, the one he had been looking for, for so long. Andrew and Simon made their way across the village, dodging the people, and weaving in and out between the houses and shops. When they finally arrived at the place where Jesus was staying, they walked in and Jesus stood up to greet them. “Jesus, this is my brother Simon. Simon, this is Jesus.” Simon wasn’t sure what he was expected in a Messiah. It had never occurred to him to think about what the Messiah might look like. As far as Simon was concerned, Jesus looked just like anyone else that he might meet on the road. “Simon, I am so glad I finally found you,” Jesus said with a great big smile on his face. “Do you mind if I call you Peter? You look more like a Peter to me.” Simon, or Peter, was dumbfounded. He just didn’t know what to say. He knew that Andrew was right; this was the Messiah; but, what do you say to the Messiah. So many thoughts and ideas were flying around inside of Peter’s head. Finally he caught one and with that he found his voice. “Excuse me,” Peter said, “Did you just say you were glad you found me.” “Yes I did, and yes, I am glad I found you.” “But, I’ve been looking for you, for a long time.” “Yes, that’s true; but, Peter. Maybe you better sit down. This is going to be hard for you to understand right now, and that’s ok. You don’t have to understand it all right now; but, you see, I have been looking for much longer than you have been looking for me.” “How long,” Peter asked with a great look of puzzlement on his face. “Since before you were born. Before the stars were even in the sky, Peter, I knew you. But you have been lost to me for so long. Yet all of that is changed now, because now I have found you.” “So, that’s it. I’m found, everything is taken care of.” “Well, not exactly,” said Jesus. “There is still work to be done.” “Of course,” Peter said, nodding his head knowingly. “You need to destroy the Romans.” “No Peter, I am not here to destroy the Romans. Let me let you in on a little secret. Don’t worry about the Romans. As a matter of fact, don’t worry about all those things you think you need to worry about in life. Don’t worry about your job, or your looks, or who likes and who doesn’t like you.” There is something so much more important to worry about. “I am here to take care of this,” Jesus said, placing his hand on Peter’s chest. “Your here to take care of my tunic.” “No,” Jesus said with a smile. “I’m here to take care of your heart.” “What’s wrong with my heart?” “It is not right with God. There is sin here?” “Yeah, but I take my lamb to be sacrificed every year.” “That’s true, but then you sin again.” “I know,” Peter said, casting his eyes to the ground. His grandmother had reminded him often about sin. “It’s all our sinning that keeps the Messiah away,” she would say. “If we just stop sinning and start living right, then the Messiah would come.” Peter was pretty sure that they hadn’t stopped sinning, and yet, the Messiah was here.” “Listen,” said Jesus, “I’m here to take care of this once and for all. I am going to make things right again between God and his people.” “Well, how are you going to do that,” asked Peter. “Do you remember what John said about me to your brother Andrew?” “Sure, John said you were the Lamb of God.” “Do you know why John called me the Lamb of God,” asked Jesus?” Peter didn’t want to answer, it was too painful a thought. “Peter, what happens to the Lamb that you take to the Temple each year.” “It’s sacrificed for my sins.” Jesus just shook his head as if to say, “That’s right.” “You going to be sacrificed for my sins.” “The whole world Peter. This is for all God’s people. So that, all God’s people can be found.” “You’re here to find all God’s people,” asked Peter? “Of course,” replied Jesus. “You didn’t think I was only coming to find you did you?” “Well, no, but, you make it sound like lots of people. I just figured you were coming for a few of us. Maybe a couple of hundred or a thousand.” “Try several billion,” Jesus replied. “I’m just one of several billion,” Peter said with a look of hurt disbelief on his face. “No, your not just one of several billion. You are one of God’s children; but, so are the rest of them. Can you imagine if even one of your children was lost. Wouldn’t you want them back as well.” “Sure, I can understand that,” answered Peter. “Good,” Jesus said, “because you are going to help me.” “I am?” “Of course. You are going to be my follower aren’t you,” asked Jesus. “Absolutely,” Peter said with authority! “Then you need to do what I am doing. You need to search for and find God’s people.” “But, I don’t know what to say,” said Peter. “Don’t worry, I know what to say, and I will always be with you to help you and guide you.” Peter was quiet for a moment. There was so much to take in. Yet, in the back of his mind there was a nagging thought. “Wait a minute, you said billions, but that would include Gentiles.” Jesus just looked at Peter. “I’m going to help you find Gentiles?” “Yes!” “But I don’t like Gentiles.” “Who said you had to like them?” “You mean I don’t have to like Gentiles?” “Nope, you just have to love them.” “Oh well, that is much easier.” “Actually it is,” said Jesus, “and if you allow me, I will teach you how. I will teach you how to love everyone, including your enemies. After all, love is the only way you are going to find God’s people. It is the only way that you are going to be able to invite them to come and see.” “So, how long to I have to search,” asked Peter? “For the rest of your life.” “I had a feeling you were going to say that.” “Just one more thing Peter. I know that I am taking a big risk placing this responsibility in your hands. However, I know you can do it. That is why I have decided to call you the Peter, which means rock. So, be strong, and don’t let me down.
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All That Needs to be Said
December 25, 2016