St Peter holding the keys to the Kingdom. Statue at St John Lateran Church, Rome.
Often times preachers can fall into the temptation of taking one “point in time” moment in the Bible and teach that everyone should be like that everywhere, all the time. I recall sitting in a sermon where the preacher invited us to pray the “Prayer of Jabez” every day for the rest of our life. But let’s face it, Jabez prayed that prayer at one point in time and the Chronicler briefly concluded, “And God granted his request.” One and done. If preachers keep stacking these “point in time” moments into ongoing commitments, we won’t have any time left to do dishes or take out the trash, to say nothing about how we too quickly ignore the unique nature of many of those encounters. “We should ALL step out of the boat and walk on water!” Really? Because one guy did it one time?
What if, instead of extrapolating these “point in time” moments, we instead look at the ebb and flow and the ups and downs of a lifetime of following Jesus? I think that would give us a more accurate picture of lifetime discipleship.
This summer, our church is doing that very thing – starting with the moment someone follows Jesus through the ups and downs of following for a lifetime. Bold moves, mistakes, confused questions, failures, amazing courageous acts, all of it. We’re spending our whole summer with Peter, one of Jesus’ most famous disciples because the authors of Scripture wrote so much about him.
One other quick mention: The Bible condenses history into action moments on every page. Matthew, for example, recorded approximately 1000 days of Jesus’ ministry into 31 pages. When we read Matthew or any of the gospels, we can mistakenly think that following Jesus is an “action every day” sort of experience, but surely Peter had days of getting up, doing dishes, kissing his wife goodbye, running the donkey-pool, spending time with Jesus, coming home. No miracles, no spectacular moments. But unfortunately, scripture leaves those days to our imagination. Don’t get me started on how many mundane days Abraham lived, or the Israelites in the wilderness. Forgetting this reality leads us to a false conclusion that every day is a miracle filled adventure with Jesus and we’re not measuring up. Hopefully this summer series will offer some needed balance to that assumption.
We began this week with Jesus’ call to follow him. Next week we’re looking at the moment when Peter walks toward Jesus on water. We’ll follow alongside Peter through the ups and downs of his Jesus following – from his declaration of who Jesus is to his denial and subsequent forgiveness. We’ll then chase him through Acts as he helps build the church and finally close with a few sermons on 1 and 2 Peter. Of course, Peter is still a singular figure in church history. We should proceed with caution before saying, “we too should be like Peter.” But all the same, staying up close and personal with Peter for a few months will give us a taste of the ebbs and flows of long term Jesus following. We invite you to join with us on the journey.