While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt.* Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’ But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’ At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.Sunday, September 18, 2011 is National Back To Church Sunday. No, I hadn't heard of it, either. Until I logged on to Facebook, and one of my friends, a UCC pastor, had posted the following video.
What struck a chord in me was the simplicity, the directness, and the honesty of the message. Church is the place where you might just find what you didn't even know you needed. Like that pearl of great price - you might find that most precious thing for which you are willing to sell everything in order to possess.
Peter thought he had it all. He thought he knew it all. He insisted he was willing to go the full way with Jesus. He thought he "got" it.
Confronted with the opportunity to make good on this claim, he backed off. His tears at the crowing of the rooster are proof enough that even those we revere as "saints", those who were closest to Jesus during his life, the one who became the voice of authority for the emerging church - even he was a big old fat hypocrite, a poser. He was, in other words, like all of us, just a guy who reacted honestly - out of fear - at that moment of kairos he insisted would find him side-by-side with his Lord.
If you think you have it all figured out, if you think you "know" what God wants, what Jesus is calling you to do, if you think you have been granted special dispensation to avoid the wrath to come, then maybe church isn't for you.
On the other hand, if you're like Peter, and realize that in the midst of all your boasting, all your understanding, all your vocal courage, you are just one sad bag of fear and ignorance, that there might still be a lesson or two to learn, that your life is still open and that God might have something for you of which you weren't even aware, then maybe - just maybe - you might want to give it a shot on September 18.
Shoot, show up and dare people to prove to you that God exists, if you don't believe. Show up and call out all the hypocrites, all the posers, all the faux-brave and morally upright. Prove to all of us weak-willed ignoramuses that, by not needing what church has to offer - a place to come and be challenged, to be in community with others who are as different from one another and you as can be imagined - you are a better person, more intelligent and enlightened, more moral and insightful.
You might just get the shock of your life.