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Rev. Edwin Johnson's Sermon March 4, 2012

Challenging Authority, Asking The Dumb Question

“And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”

Good Morning Saints. It feels like forever since I’ve seen most of you. As most of you know I spent the week before last in Costa Rica on Spiritual Pilgrimage with others from St. James’s and Christ Church in Waltham. It was an incredible journey for us that you will hear about in the coming months, but not yet. Today, I wanted to take some time to talk with you about our Gospel in Mark. I had the opportunity to read it over a few times and  I’ve had some new things revealed to me. Seeing as we are in this season where the community preaches together I look forward to hearing what God has revealed to some of you in your hearing of this Gospel today, or your reflection on it this week. For now, please join me in experiencing the story again from the standpoint of Simon Peter.

            Peter, his fellow disciples and other followers of Jesus hear Jesus foretell his death and resurrection for the first time. Upon hearing of the suffering and death that the young and new-to-ministry Jesus was foretelling for himself Peter decides that he must confront Jesus about this immediately. Peter pulls Jesus aside and lets him know that this is not a good idea. Jesus, making sure to get the attention of the disciples and followers there around responds saying “get behind me Satan. For you are setting your mind not on Divine things but on human things.” Peter is shocked, embarrassed and a bit hurt. Confused, he figures that he better listen to whatever Jesus has to say now given that he clearly has no clue about anything. Jesus explains that his followers must take up their cross and follow him; that those who want to save their life will lose it and those who lose their life for his sake and the sake of the Gospel will save it. At this point Peter might be wondering if he’s hanging with the right guy but figures its been a good ride, so he continues along with them in the journey.

            Looking at it this way, I doubt that Peter was alone in his thinking. Mark’s Gospel narrative this is the first time that Jesus mentions his death or resurrection. They have spent the past 6 months to a year with Jesus, seeing him perform marvelous signs, witnessing him healing countless people, feeding countless people. Through his life and ministry I am sure that all of the disciples saw their greatest hopes for their community, for the people of Israel, for the world perhaps being realized through what they envisioned as a long and productive ministry on Earth for Jesus. Furthermore, Peter and his fellow disciples loved Jesus and loved Jesus deeply.

            With this in mind I imagine that when Peter spoke up to question Jesus on what he was saying, when he tried to convince him otherwise, he was speaking to a concern, a question, or fear that was on the minds and hearts of most, if not all of his fellow disciples. Jesus, knowing this, made the decision to rebuke him for the hearing of all so that they could understand the need to take a more long-term or God-term view on things. So you see, in this, his disciples, his other followers and the rest of us have learned a valuable lesson about the need to deeply consider how certain events are unfolding as part of God’s will. Through this all followers of Jesus are reminded that our reality is more than we can see, feel and understand and that it is important to embrace the truth as God reveals it to us.

            This is good news, and all of this was made possible because Peter took a risk to challenge Jesus. I have definitely been in situations when I wanted to question or challenge some one in authority, some one I deeply respected and I did not for fear of being rebuked, or humiliated, or rejected. Thinking about what Peter did in the context of this Lenten season where many prepare themselves for Baptism, when many more do important spiritual work so that we may spring forth into Easter living our Baptism more deeply. It occurs to me that there is a call here to ask the dumb question, challenge the idea of some one with authority, and otherwise answer a call in your heart to speak up. Like Peter, when doing this there is certainly a chance that we may be wrong, a chance that we may be a little embarrassed with the outcome. Nonetheless, taking that opportunity, an opportunity will follow to learn, to grow, to understand more fully and to help those around you understand more fully as well. To play with Jesus’ words a bit, one could say that those who want to save their pride, their image, or their sense of wisdom will lose it. And those who lose their pride, image or sense of wisdom for Christ’s sake and the sake of the Gospel will save it for themselves and those around them. I pray that this Lenten Season could be a time where we all step out a bit, take a risk at asking the dumb question or saying the wrong thing so that we may all learn and grow as Peter and his disciples did on that day.  

            It is in this spirit of risk-taking that I invite you all now, after some time of silence to respond briefly, on how reflection on this Gospel has impacted you. Thankfully, in this space, you need not worry of rebuke, rather, know that your reflection will be held be all.  

Rev. Edwin Johnson Sermon 3/4/12