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I am not (one of His)

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Third Sunday of Lent – March 4, 2018

John 18:12-27 and Psalm 17:1-7

“Growing up in the Philippines, the crowing of roosters every morning is an expectation. It was their daily signal that a new day is about to start. If for some reason they don’t crow, chances are we’d be late for school” our friend Sam relates.

He goes on to say, “Roosters, or chickens for that matter, are backyard ‘pets’ that often turn into sumptuous dinners. Many of the people in the Philippines in small villages raise chickens.  Most of them are free-range.  They are a source of eggs and meat for their family.  Usually there are several hens and one or two roosters.” I laughed as Sam retold a story he’d heard from his uncle about a certain rooster.

Uncle Jonathan said, “One day I was playing with my slingshot. Like most kids, I couldn’t afford a BB gun. A sling shot was much cheaper and they were great because you could hide it in your pocket. For some reason, I thought that particular day that it was a good idea to try my aim on a rooster. Well, I proved myself a perfect marksman and brought down the rooster.”  Apparently Uncle Jonathan’s triumph would only be dampened by the scolding he got from his mother for shooting the backyard pet. On the other hand he was also later buoyed up by a delicious chicken dinner.

When this uncle became a Pastor, a crowing rooster was not only part of the story he would speak about at Lent and Easter, but it would always remind him of his great hunting days.

In today’s message, the crowing of a rooster plays a significant role. It’s part of the story where Peter denies being a disciple of Jesus. “You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” they asked him. And not once, but three times, he gave the same answer “I am not.” He slipped into the place of denying any association with Jesus. Three times Peter was tempted and three times, he gave in.

How many of us, like Peter, are tempted to deny our relationship with Jesus? We tend to be afraid of acknowledging that we are one of Jesus’ disciples. One wants to ask “but how is that possible that a person – a church-going person – can actually say ‘No’ to the question whether he or she belongs to Jesus. This was in fact what Peter, of all people, one of Jesus’ closest disciples was saying when asked about where he stands in his relationship with Jesus.

I myself have fallen many times into the same place.  I’ll always remember the time I was on holidays and visiting with my in-laws as just a young minister. Their neighbour came for a visit. He’d been widowed and dropped by at their place quite a bit. I had this thing when I was on vacation, sometimes I just wanted to stay incognito so that I could rest a bit from my daily responsibilities of a minister, not only when on holidays, even when I’m in general public. At some point this man in the vacation asked me, “So Heinrich, what do you do for a living?” Trying to duck away from acknowledging that I was a church minister, I said, “I farm… with sheep.” He became interested and asked “what type of sheep?” I said, “Well, all sorts of breeds.” He then questioned further and wanted to know how large the operation was. By then I knew I had dug myself into more trouble than anything else. I just had to come out, laughing and say, “I am a minister at a church.”

We’ve all been tempted. In fact, this scripture reading is more relatable than many. At times like me in the story I just told, it’s just easier to be silent.  If we see injustices being done, we fear what will happen if we get involved. It could simply be times when someone is being bullied in our presence and we just look the other way. Or perhaps a racist remark is made and it’s more convenient to stay out of it.

Then there are times we are tempted in a different way, we simply want to stay in our own comfort zone.  We want to do the ministries or activities that we are most familiar with.  If we are asked to or see some more challenging opportunities to help or assist, we just back away. One woman I knew was worried about visiting older people in the congregation who were unable to go out of their homes any more.  This gal was afraid of not knowing what to say and do and simply being uncomfortable. One day she decided to sign up for this task and she later told me that the amount of joy and appreciation that person showed to her was unexpected.  Over time they actually grew to be good friends that enjoyed each others’ company.

Another pitfall that is common: we are tempted to look the other way if it does not affect us directly. I could bring relief to a homeless person, but the comfort of my own home could be too much to sacrifice. I may shy away from helping a person that has depression issues because I cannot relate.  I don’t understand depression and it hasn’t affected me personally.

In our passage we find that Peter hides his attachment to Jesus. Annas hides his actions. They want to go off the record. Jesus stays on the record. I think that matters. How transparent are we with our beliefs and actions?

In the story about Peter, the rooster crows to remind us to turn in our ways, or start on a fresh path. The rooster crows to remind us that we have been redeemed by Jesus and that we have been given a chance to start a new life of bold choices and firm opinions.

 

Copyright 2018 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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