Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sermon: St. Peter's Day

Lord, you are in this place:
Fill us with your power.
Cover us with your peace.
Show us your presence.

Lord, help us to know:
We are in your hands.
We are under your protection.
We are covered by your love.

Lord, we ask you today:
To deliver us from evil.
To guide us in our decisions.
To defend us from all harm.

Lord, give us now:
Eyes to see you.
Ears to hear your call.
Hands to do your work.
And hearts to respond to your love. Amen.
[Morning Prayer by David Adam]

Today we celebrate our patron saint, St. Peter. Often we think of St. Peter with our jokes of heaven and the pearly gates. But St. Peter’s life and witness can speak to us about our own discipleship today. So let us think about the life of St. Peter:

-ordinary fisherman, called to Jesus along with his brother Andrew
-Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (the Messiah), he is the 1st.
-part of the inner circle: Peter, James and John
-he is called Satan because he rebukes Jesus for talking about his sacrifice and death.
-he denies he knows Jesus at his trial

He makes lots of mistakes, but is still Peter, the rock, on whom the Church is built and is a leader in the early Church along with James and Paul. When we consider his life, it tares down the first myth of a saint, that saints don't sin or make mistakes. Peter did not always understand the ministry of Jesus. Peter whose faith sometimes waivered; I think of Peter who tried to walk on water, took a couple of steps and began to sink, Jesus helped him up and asked why he doubted.

From his simple roots as a fisherman, he does follow Jesus through his doubts and he continues that ministry far beyond the death of Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles has many stories of his ministry. In today's reading from the Gospel of John the risen Jesus gives him his next assignment. After Peter answers him three times (much like his denial three times) that he loves Jesus, Jesus tells him to feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. From Peter’s love for Jesus, Jesus asks him to feed, to shelter, to love the sheep, those whom God has created in God’s image.

The ministry of Jesus is now his ministry and the disciples. As Leo the Great once put it,
“Although it was primarily to Peter that he said: Feed my sheep, yet the one Lord guides all the pastors in the discharge of their office and leads to rich and fertile pastures all those who come to the rock… There is no counting the sheep who are nourished with his abundant love, but it is not only the martyrs (the martyrs Peter and Paul) who share in his passion by their glorious courage; the same is true, by faith, of all who are reborn through baptism.”
Leo the Great’s words remind us that it is all the baptized that are called by faith, for we all share in Christ’s passion, we all share in that call to feed the sheep. Elisa & Jeff are feeding their little lamb this morning as their daughter Ryanne will be baptized this morning. We who are baptized, who live as the Body of Christ now, are the disciples, making our confession of who Jesus is by our lives. Each of us is called to minister using his or her gifts, to feed the sheep by what we say and do. And we do it, building on the foundation of Peter and the other apostles through the faith they taught, lived, and died for.

There is a legend that while in Rome, and hearing about Nero's attempt to arrest and crucify him, Peter walked outside the city gate, to leave, only to have a vision of Christ before him. He asked Jesus, domine quo vadis? That is, Lord where do you go? Jesus answered I go to be crucified again. After the vision ended, Peter understood the message to stay in Rome and continue Christ’s ministry. He is arrested and in year 64 he was crucified by Nero. Feeling unworthy to die like Jesus, he requests and is crucified upside down.

Peter is often called the Prince of the Apostles. This same Peter, a simple fisherman, who made the right confession, lived his life of faith and doubts, and in the end, followed Christ’s call even to his death. Peter's call to discipleship, is like our own call to discipleship. And like Peter, we will do it well and we will fumble a bit too. For Christ's calls us all through baptism to be his disciples, to feed his sheep.

The question we need to ask, is domine quo vadis? Lord, where do you go? And when Jesus answers us, we need to follow where he is leading the way. Amen.

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