6/29/2014 Peter and Paul, Apostles The text for today’s sermon is John 21:15-19, Acts 12:1-11
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
As I read through today’s lessons, a thought popped into my mind. Now, that thought, I must admit, wasn’t very theological. It was about my first Border Terrier – Buster, to be exact – who had a way of humbling me every now and then – especially at agility class. For those of you who don’t know what agility is, it is an obstacle course for dogs in which they go up steeply pitched A-frames, cross dog walks, jump through tires, run through tunnels, weave through poles and lay down on tables – all as directed and commanded by a handler…who in this case, was me. Now, Buster was pretty good at agility, even when I gave him a wrong command…but one week, Buster’s performance was far from stellar.
As instructed, I left Buster sitting in front of the first obstacle, stood near the second and gave him the go command. And off he went – over the first, through the second, around the third, through the fourth and then, in a fit of inspiration, off into the woods to see if he could find some critters. Needless to say, he was a little fleeter of foot than I, so all I could do was call to him to come. But, he was so distracted by his own adventure, that no matter how much I called and how loud I became (and some of you know how loud that can be!), he never heard me. He was off doing his own thing without me, leaving me in the unenviable position of chasing him down while screaming the recall. After what seemed like a good 15 minutes, I finally found him and pinned him down by a pile of animal dung in which he had decided to bury his face. Yuck…no dog kisses that night!
Why would this experience pop into my head as I read through the lessons? Maybe it is because the call of Jesus and our response to that call is so similar. Jesus calls us to follow his way, and we may actually listen and follow for a time. Then some bright idea pops into our heads and we turn a deaf ear to the voice of the one who is calling us. We’re off and running, doing our own thing, with Jesus chasing us down – screaming our name, finding us and then pulling our heads out of a pie of dung in which we have buried them. Now isn’t that a striking image?
But, Jesus will do whatever is necessary to get our attention. Jesus has a way of getting us where we need to be – whether we are a Peter or a Paul or a Jennifer or a Jon or a Jason or a Kolu or even a Gloria. Jesus will chase us down, open doors, unlock chains and set us free for the mission he has in store for us. Jesus doesn’t give up on us even if we run away, do our own thing and turn a deaf ear. Jesus knows that he isn’t calling and recalling perfect people. Instead, Jesus makes perfect the people he calls.
On the surface, Paul seems to be the least likely of candidates for ministry. He is a zealot with one thing and one thing only on his mind – ridding the world of the followers of Jesus. In order for Jesus to get his attention, Jesus has to do something dramatic, and as a two by four might not be effective in this case, Jesus decides to show himself to Saul and strike him blind. It is when Saul is blinded by the vision of the risen Lord that he is finally still enough to begin to listen, to listen to the voice of the one who is calling him out of the darkness and into the light. And when the darkness is lifted, the converted Saul, now known as Paul, actually begins to follow the voice of his Master.
As it turns out, Paul is given an appropriate mission to the Jews and Gentiles. His task is “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light.” For the guiding light, which was announced by Isaiah (42:3), carries the promise of God’s salvation for all people. Of course this mission also involves opening the eyes of faith to those blinded by their own ambition so that they too may see the light and be given vision through Christ. But in order for Paul to begin his ministry, Jesus first has to get Paul’s attention away from the excitement of his own mission so that he can respond to the ministry that the Master has in store for him.
And then there is Peter. Good ole Peter – the one who answers the call of Jesus at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. This Peter is the rock, the one who proclaims he has nowhere else to go but to Jesus, and yet, when Jesus is arrested, Peter is anything but a rock. He follows at a distance, denies Jesus three times, and after his Master’s death, wanders off.
Perhaps the stress of Jesus’ death causes such great doubt, fear and disbelieve that Peter turns a deaf ear to the voice of the one who has called him from the beginning. Or maybe it is the shame of his denial and non-intervention that causes Peter to flatten his ears to Jesus’ voice and walk away from the Lord like a puppy with its tail between its legs. But whatever the reason, soon after Jesus’ death, Peter falls back to his old ways. He throws away the mission given to him by Jesus and does what he did years ago. Peter goes fishing.
But, Jesus has a way to getting our attention and getting us to where we need to be – whether we are a Peter or a Paul or a Dick or a George or a Ginnie or a Subah, or a Leo or even a Gloria. Jesus chases us down, opens doors, unlocks chains and sets us free for the ministry he has in store for us. For Peter, that means Jesus has to call and recall him again and again and pull him out the dung heap more than once. And when Peter is imprisoned and scheduled for execution, when all seems lost for the continuation of his ministry, Jesus frees him and sends him once more to feed God’s people with word and service.
My friends, whether we realize it or not, by virtue of our baptism, we too share in Peter’s ministry – to spread the good news in word and deed. Maybe we were too young when the call was given and we didn’t understand it. Maybe we were too busy doing our own thing like Paul, and we didn’t hear it. Maybe we heard the call and like Peter, we became enthusiastic and followed for a while, only to turn a deaf ear when we thought Jesus wasn’t watching. Like Peter, we may have jumped into the water with our clothes on and like Peter we may have found ourselves mired in the muck of life and in need of a recall. Most certainly, like Peter and Paul, we’ve heard Jesus’ message. We’ve broken bread with Jesus at his table. We have experienced the cross with all its disillusionment and pain. And we have been filled with the joy and hope of the resurrection. Like Peter and Paul, if we look back and reflect on all the difficult times in our lives we can see that Jesus has been with us, sustaining us, seeing us through, calling us, chasing us down, and pulling our heads out of the muck and darkness in which we have buried them into the light of his promises.
So, yes, my friends, this means that there is a little Peter and a little Paul in each of us. Like Paul, we may become enthusiastic and blinded by our own goals and ambitions. Like Peter, we may wander away and turn a deaf ear. But, we have a Lord and Savior who doesn’t give up on us. Jesus calls us again and again, shouting aloud our name. Jesus does and will do whatever is necessary to get our attention in order that we follow him in love and feed his people in word and deed.
So listen, my friends…listen, Jesus is calling! He is inviting you with the words, “follow me.” Listen, my friends, Jesus is calling you! He is inviting you to come to him and obey your Master. Listen, my friends, Jesus is calling! He is calling to you, be you a Peter or a Paul or an Arlene or an Alyce or an Everett or even a Gloria…Jesus is calling in order to pull us out of the muck of this world into the light of his salvation.
May you hear his voice, answer his call, and may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.