Sunday, April 22, 2018

A New Day

Given at Palms Westminster Presbyterian Church
Psalm 23; Acts 4:5-12

I can see a new day
A new day soon to be
When the storm clouds are all passed
And the sun shines on a world that is free (Pete Seeger).

Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift!
If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed
By the fine, fine wind that takes its course through the
chaos of the world
Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted;
If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge
Driven by invisible blows.
The rock will split, we shall come at the wonder…. 
(D.H. Lawrence - from Song of a Man Who Has Come Through)

 I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
      your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
      your old men shall dream dreams,
      and your young men shall see visions.
      Even on the male and female slaves,
      in those days, I will pour out my spirit (Joel 2.28-29).

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is
      ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
      it has become the cornerstone.’ 

Peter was the man of the hour.
The man who had denied the Christ.

I don’t know him, said Peter.
Not once.
Not twice.
But thrice, I don’t know him.

And then … of a sudden,
In the hubbub and noise.
Jesus catches Peter’s eye.
The cock crows for the rising of the sun.
Darkness fills Peter’s soul.

A horrible recognition:
Why did I do it?
Why was I so cowardly?
Why couldn’t I speak the truth?

I DO know him.
He called me from the boats.
To be a fisherman … of people.

For three years, I labored with him.
Walked and talked with him.
Learned from him.
Watched him carefully.
Promised to be faithful to him.

And in a heartbeat, I threw it all away.
I don’t know the man, said I:
To the servant girls.
And to the bystanders.

And to the mess I was making, I added a curse.
Just to make it clear, to make my point, drive it home:
By heaven, by God, by all that’s holy,
I don’t know the man.

It’s what Jesus said I’d do.
He was right.
Jesus knew me well.
All too well.
Better than I could know myself.

The Bible says that Peter went out and wept.

But all is not lost.
It never is with God.

In the early morning hours, on the shores of Galilee
Jesus, with a fire, and some fish.

The disciples are doing what they knew best:

While the disciples turn the boat shoreward, 
Peter, always in a hurry, leaps into the sea and swims to shore.
And there they have breakfast.

As Anthony Bourdain puts it:

In one of the great moments of the story:
Jesus speaks to Peter.
No intent to harm or shame.
Never a sense of “I told you so.”

With kindness and mercy:
Do you love me Peter?
Do you love me more than you love these fish?
These boats, and their nets?
This beautiful place?
This glorious sea of Galilee?
The morning breeze and the evening cool?
The challenge and the chores.
The work and the weariness.
Your family, your friends?
Do you love me Peter?

Three times Jesus asks Peter.
Three times Peter affirms his love.

Jesus undoes the three denials.
It’s Jesus who moves the hand of the clock.
The clock was stuck at the hour of the cock crowing.
The clock was stuck at the moment of Peter’s denial.

Peter was stuck in time.

Stuck in regret.
Resigned to the fact that he’d better get back to fishing.
To the boats, to the nets.
Nothing else left for him.
He was a failure and a flop.
He made big promises.
But it was all hot air.

Jesus gets the clock going again.
Not backward.
Not even God can do that.
But forward.
Forward to a new day.

Jesus gives Peter another chance.
A moment of grace.
A new lease on life.

A restoration to the work that lay at hand.
And what a work it was to be:
To change the world.

With the good news of God’s great love.
A love incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth.
A love that never ever gets stuck in the past.
A love moving forward.
Upward and onward.

To the new day.
To the wonders at hand.
To the tasks of life:
Tasks of love, hope and peace.

And now in Jerusalem,
With a new lease on life:
Peter speaks.

With courage.
No holding back.
No longer giving in to fear.

Kill me if you will.
You’ve already killed my LORD.
So, kill me, too, if you have to.

But rest assured.
Love cannot be killed.
Goodness and kindness cannot be killed.
They live.
No matter what happens.

Love lives on.
Love endures.
Love never ends.

Peter was brave that day.
Ready for the work.
He speaks clearly and with kindness.
He speaks truth to power.

And power doesn’t like it.
Power doesn’t like truth.

Whether it be Peter before the high priest.
Martin Luther before the Holy Roman Emperor.
Martin Luther King, Jr. before an Alabama sheriff at the end of the bridge.
Parkland students, Emma Gonzales and David Hogg speaking to the powerful gun lobby.

Power doesn’t like truth.
Power needs lies to stay in power.

The powers that be … 

  • Racial powers: tell the lie that some lives really don’t matter, or to confuse the issue, cry out: “All lives matter,” which is like saying, “All weather is weather,” or “All food is food.” In the simple declaration of “All lives matter,” a lie is being told, to cover up the reality that for many people, some lives don’t matter at all.
  • Economic powers: tell the lie that poor people are lazy, and should be punished for their poverty.
  • National powers: tell the lie of god-ordained superiority which guarantees the right of nation to run roughshod over others, and by force of arms, if needed, to dictate policy for nations.
  • Religious powers: tell the lie that all other religions are wrong, and those who believe differently will go to hell.
  • Male gender powers tell the lie that men are superior; women are unable to handle serious decisions and moral questions, and women, of course, surely don’t deserve equal pay.

Peter speaks truth to power.
The powers-that-be don’t like it.
But the powers retreat a wee bit.

They let Peter go.
With a warning, of course.
But they let Peter go.

To tell the story:
The story of Jesus and his love.
The story of a new world.
A new day.
A new way of life better than all the lies.

A new way that doesn’t require selfishness and ego.
A new way, kind and generous.
A new way of sharing with one other, so that everyone had enough … no one had too little, and no one had too much.

A new way of life that doesn’t build  walls, because walls are just plain silly … the walls of Rome, the walls of East Germany, the walls of Israel, and the walls some would build on our border with Mexico … 

Peter speaks of a new way of life … 
A new kind of power:

The power that gives away its power … the power of self-denial, the power of self-giving, the power of laying down a life for the sake of another … the power of taking up the cross and following in the footsteps of Christ.

That day, Peter speaks up and he speaks out.
The way.
The truth, and,
The life.

All because on a Galilee beach, early one morning, Jesus made breakfast, and gave Peter one more chance.

Dear friends,
God never gives up you.
So don’t ever give up on yourself.
And, for heaven’s sake, never give up on one another.

Be kind.
Be generous.
Be gentle.

Read your Bible.
Live your faith.
Pour out your love.
Speak truth to power.

And to God be the glory … Amen and Amen!