Summary: A midweek Lenten sermon that explores what it means for us and Jesus to let go of looking after oneself only.
In the novel The plague by Albert Camus
a North African coastal city has been hit with the bubonic plague.
They are cut off from the rest of the world.
Imagine that, living in a place where no one could get in or out.
By law no one was allowed in to the city and no one was allowed to leave.
You could almost here the worry...
Where would our food come from?
Where would our fuel come from?
As a result of this isolation small businesses popped up everywhere
to fulfil the demands and desires of this coastal town.
And not all of them legal businesses.
One enterprising family who owned some boats offered anyone who was healthy the opportunity to leave the city for a mammoth price.
And heaps of people were willing to illegally buy a ticket out of the place to avoid the plague.
When someone brought a ticket they were instructed to wait in a warehouse so they wouldn’t be infected by the disease and wait for their boat to arrive.
But you guessed it, the boats never came.
And once the plague was over they left the warehouse.
But they were too afraid to tell the authorities that they had been ripped off because not only were the boat owners acting illegally, they too were also acting illegally.
Now fortunately this is only a story,
however it highlights a problem that each of us face.
The temptation that we look after ourself at any expense.
For Peter in this evenings gospel reading it meant him denying being one of Jesus’ disciples.
Listen again to what happened reading from Matthew 26:69-75
69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.”
74 Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Now in just a few verses prior to our reading we hear how Jesus was being treated and Peter most likely was aware of this.
Reading from Matthew 26:65
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”
“He is worthy of death,” they answered.
67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?”
Now imagine if you were Peter.
What would you have done, if someone asked you are you with him?
The character who was being beaten up.
Would you have been tempted like Peter to deny Jesus,
to save yourself?
It is real temptation isn’t it?
In some places, throughout the world,
being a Christian means risking your life.
One of the refugees from Liberia in Launceston shared with me one day that she had just got news that the head usher of a church where she worked had been killed on his way home from church.
Apparently his attackers waited until the last person left the church and followed him home.
They ambushed him, sliced him up and spread his body parts around the streets of the church as a warning to others.
Would you be willing to be the last person to leave church?
Could you imagine living in that sort of situation?
In Australia we are fairly fortunate that not too many people get killed or beaten for being a Christian.
Yet we often fall for the temptation of not revealing we are one Jesus’ disciples so as to protect ourselves.
Now you might be saying hold on a moment.
I am here, I have made the extra effort to attend a Lenten service.
I have never denied Jesus or knowing him.
But think about when you are interacting with other people.
Do we always follow the commands of Jesus.
The commands to make disciples of everyone.
The command to love God and to love others.
I know of a lady who said it is hard being a Christian
because not everyone respects us.
She had some children who had drifted away from the church and thought that going to church was not that important.
Whenever they came to visit she said she it was always tempting to keep the peace,