APRIL 19, 2020
What relevance is there for us in spending time considering Easter right now? Who cares about Peter and his challenges that first Easter! We have challenges of our own to deal with! Our lives were going so well for so long, but now….especially during this pandemic when there is so much despair – so much fear – so much hopelessness and anxiety – everything has blown up and we are overwhelmed right now!
Odd as it may seem however, as different as our situations may seem from Peter’s, we sound a whole lot like him in our mindset! Peter had been riding the wave of Christ’s ministry for three years – the things he had seen and done! The way it felt to be included in something so much bigger than himself but now….his Leader had been crucified, buried and gone missing – only to appear in a way beyond his limited human understanding! Christ was risen – the Lord is risen indeed! There was a sense of relief mixed with fear at the sight of the risen Lord.
What would happen when he was face to face with the risen Lord and had a literal ‘come to Jesus’ meeting over all the ways he had failed His Lord?
Before meeting Jesus, Simon (Peter’s name before he met Christ) had a fairly successful and predicable life. He had a wife and mother-in-law; we don’t know if he had children. He and his little brother, Andrew, were successful fishermen – in partnership with other fishermen, Zebedee and his sons, James and John. Life was as good as could be expected for the times.
He was a natural leader – a man whose character was one of strength and tenacity – of compassion and decisiveness – aggressive in his desire to protect those in his circle.
All these traits would seem to have made Simon the obvious poster child for the perfect disciple, right? I mean, Jesus even renamed the man, calling him ‘Peter’ or ‘Cephas’ and said He was going to build His church on Simon Peter’s faith. But pay close attention to the distinction Jesus made in giving Simon the name Peter: Jesus would build on the man’s faith – not on the man himself!
Christ is the foundation of the church – not any man, any woman, any priest, any king. Christ alone. But Christ has chosen to use the faith of His followers to grow the church to infill and enfold the world! So that the entire world might be given the opportunity receive the love of Christ, the forgiveness of Christ, the hope and opportunity for new beginnings that Christ offers!
And that’s distinction is a good thing, because left to his own humanity, Peter was a trainwreck!
When you have the time – and right now we all have a whole lot of time – search your Bible or Google biblegateway.com – a great tool for such Bible searches. Some of what you will find is located in the glossary. Peter’s actions during Jesus’ 3 year ministry and the 40 days immediately following the Lord’s resurrection, show Peter, as not only a man who was faith-filled, enthusiastic and courageous but also a man full of doubts, and overwhelmed by circumstances he couldn’t control.
Peter had said and done things that he was devastated by. What if the Lord wouldn’t forgive him? What if the Lord would now choose not to use him? Was he no longer the Rock? Sure, Jesus was all about forgiveness and new life – but really? After how he had behaved?
Peter’s fears were misplaced. Read John 21:15-19. Peter was loved, forgiven, and able to begin again in the work Christ was calling him to do.
True Christ-centered forgiveness begins in love – the foundation of every relationship, every new life – and that is where Christ began again with Peter. No judgment, no rehashing of the past – just love, forgiveness, and trust that Peter’s faith would still be the rock on which Christ would build His church.
Peter was a flawed human being, like all other humans. Yet, he was a beloved, teachable human being. A human being who was strong enough to ask for forgiveness when he was wrong, humble enough to receive forgiveness when it was offered, and wise enough to know that – because he was forgiven, he could forgive others as well. Christ had not chosen a perfect human but a perfectly faithful and willing follower – one that would be able to be a source of encouragement to us in our own times of challenge.
I believe the lessons of Simon Peter’s life in Christ are especially important for us to hear right now during this pandemic.
Life as we know it has come to a halt. Everything is upside down and our flawed humanity is on display for all to see: nerves are frayed – we are tired of staying home – we long to get away from the folks we are cooped up with – if we are alone, we are anxious to get out of our enforced solitude and back out in the world – creative cooking with supplies on hand has become highly overrated – we are bored out of our minds and that job we have always complained about in the past is looking really good right now. We have become hoarders of life’s essentials to the point that some have a surplus of items while others have little if anything. Some panicked hoarders have even taken to reselling items at a huge profit!
We feel hopeless, fearful and angry; overwhelmed and totally out of control – embarrassed by our behaviors and thoughts, and irritated and angry by the behaviors and what we perceive to be the malevolent mindsets of others. It is has become something out of a bad ‘Survivor’ episode! Not only that, during times of high anxiety and challenge, old wounds that have festered come bubbling to the top and erupt in the most surprising and unhealthy ways and that has happened to some of us as well!
We may have tried our best to stay above the fray, but in truth, we are a train headed for a wreck! When we see these behaviors in ourselves it seems unforgivable. We are Christians after all – and never thought we would never behave this way toward our families and toward those in need! AND we never thought others would behave this badly toward us as well!
Perhaps we need a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting ourselves – perhaps we can learn a thing or two if we reflect on Peter’s life. How?
We can claim responsibility for ‘those things which we have done and those things which we ought not to have done’ to others during this time of high anxiety. Perhaps we can take this time to not hide in the mindless cute pet videos and binge watching of Hulu and Netflix and instead talk things out with each other and spend time in prayer with Christ– much as Peter did. It takes humility – but we can do it through the power of the risen Christ Whom we profess to believe.
AND perhaps, during this time we can offer forgiveness to others for any of the ways we feel have been offended – and do it all done without judgment, a recitation of past wrongs, or any need to shame and be shamed.
We keep saying this has been an Easter season like none other – in the words of Jean-Luc Picard – “make it so!” as we come together as flawed human beings offering and receiving love, forgiveness, reconciliation and new beginnings. It takes strength and compassion – but, again, we can do this! Through Christ!
Can you imagine if this pandemic became a vehicle for sharing Christ with the world – just because of how we have handled it in our interactions with each other? And just imagine – as we live this way, we, too, become building blocks on which Christ will continue to build His church.
And to God be the glory! AMEN.