“Go, tell his disciples and Peter.”
Ordinarily, I don’t put much weight in rumors. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not that righteous. I listen to rumors as much as the next person, but I don’t count on them. I do, however, hold them in my mind with some degree of curiosity, wondering what kernel of truth they hold. Almost always, rumors are about salacious information. But, sometimes, they are about something wonderful.
Rumor has it that even if you have no official connection to a church, haven’t darkened its doors in years if ever, if your life falls apart, you can walk into any church and ask to talk to someone and someone will talk to you. For the most part, this is a true statement.
In fact, just for the record, whenever that happens here, one of us will make some time to listen unless we are already in the middle of listening to someone else, and then if you can wait, we will listen to you. You may or may not feel any better when you’ve heard what we have to say. But, it’s surprising how comforting it is in the midst of a crisis to have someone to talk to. I like that the church in general still has this reputation.
There is another rumor that, no matter what you’ve done in your life, that if you are truly sorry and confess it to God that God will forgive you and you can begin again. Your wife may not forgive you or your kids or the person whose car you stole, etc. But God will. This is also true, as it turns out. Another rumor that I’m glad is still circulating out there.
Then, one of my favorite rumors is that the church is full of hypocrites. This is, of course, without equivocation, absolutely true. It is full of them and the good news is that we are always making room for more. So, welcome!
I can only imagine the rumors circulating around Jerusalem that morning two thousand years ago, spreading like wildfire:
I heard that: The women went to the tomb and it was EMPTY! No, really. My cousin’s mother is the niece of one of the women and she said that when they got there, the stone was rolled away. AND they said there was some weird angel kind of guy who was just sitting in there and said ‘he’s gone’.
Wait! Are you talking about that carpenter? The one they crucified on Friday? Wasn’t he a criminal, or something? No, wait that was the other guy. Jesus didn’t do anything, right? What do you mean he’s not there? What are you talking about? That’s crazy.
And then like a game of telephone, the story passes from house to house, merchant to merchant, people walking out in the early morning before sunup to gather eggs or milk goats, and already the air is filled with the news.
How must his friends, his mother, have felt when they heard! Oh, and then, there it is. That little line that we might almost miss.
I heard that somebody said that whoever that weird person inside the tomb was who talked to the women, they said that he told them to be sure and tell Peter!
What??? Now you’re just talking crazy. Not Peter. Why on earth after all Jesus went through, why would he care two hoots about Peter? After all, speaking of two hoots, wasn’t Peter the one who denied three separate times that he even knew Jesus and all before the rooster crowed two hoots?
I wonder if THAT rumor traveled as fast as the others. And here’s why we should care. Well, that is, why those of us who checked in this morning as hypocrites, it’s why we should care. Of all the rumors, I really hope that that one is true.
I hope that the times I shut out Jesus, that Jesus didn’t pay any attention to me and actually go away. I hope that during those nights that I couldn’t sleep for the weight of the guilt in my conscience over something I’d said or done, I hope that Jesus still remembered me.
And all those times I feel like the pain of what I’ve done will crush me, I hope that Jesus really can roll away that stone from off my chest and call me by name.
Please God, let this be true.
Now, rumors cut from whole cloth usually run their course pretty quickly. In fact, if you are presently the subject of a rumor I have good news for you. If you can hang in there for eleven days, I promise you that another story will replace yours and before you know it, someone will hear your name and say, “Hmm is that the guy who stole that tractor and burned down that barn or is that the guy who invented pancakes? Oh well, it doesn’t matter.”
This rumor, however, about Jesus and Peter – in spite of what Peter had done to Jesus – this rumor only gets better.
You see, another rumor is that Jesus followed through on an earlier promise to Peter – a promise made way before Peter denied even knowing him — that he would use Peter’s strong declaration of faith as the foundation for the church, the body of Christ that would endure on earth until his return one day.
And the thing is, he did. Actually, what he did was build the Church on two things related to Peter. The one is definitely Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. The other is that, ironically, this strong declaration is about the only thing Peter ever gets right.
Which brings us here today, to this glorious day, this day of Resurrection. This day when people wear their best, sit up straight and pay attention. To a day when we believe that, no matter what we’ve done, God stands ready to forgive us and help us begin again. To a day when, if God can still use Peter, then God can still use me and you. We serve a God who never fails us as part of a Church that frequently fails to live up to God’s call to us. And yet, even knowing its flaws, we gather here today because at our best, we know we are capable of the worst.
We give glory, praise, and honor to God’s love for us in sending his son, through whom by his death and resurrection, the worst hypocrite can still be welcomed home into the arms of God, rescued, redeemed, restored, forgiven.
That, my friends, is no rumor. That’s a fact.
Alleluia, the Lord is Risen!
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Park
Easter Day: Year B
April 1, 2018