Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Places of the Passion, Week 4, The Courtyard

 We continue with our series called Places of the Passion. Today we walk to a Courtyard in Jerusalem—the Courtyard of a high priest named Caiaphas. In Caiaphas’ courtyard we see guilt—Peter’s guilt and our own. Beyond the courtyard we see grace—grace for Peter and grace for us.

To get the context, we rewind the tape and go back to Gethsemane. “Peter answered him, ‘Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!’”

But we’ve all made that claim. When we got confirmed the pastor asked, “Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed remain true to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, even to death?” We said, “I do!”

As the events in the courtyard unfold, it’s like watching cracks in a house’s foundation slowly spread. A servant girl comes up to Peter and says, “You were with Jesus the Galilean.” Peter denies it, saying, ‘I don’t know what you mean.’” The first crack.

Peter then goes out to the courtyard’s entrance, when another servant girl sees him. She says to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again Peter denies it. Only this time with an oath: “I don’t know the man.” The second crack.

When there are enough cracks, there will always be a collapse. Always!

“After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.’ Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I don’t know the man.’” We know from first-century documents that the Jews in Galilee spoke a different dialect of Aramaic. It’s like when we hear someone talking who is from the deep South. Peter’s accent betrayed him.

What does Peter do? First comes Peter’s evasive denial. Then comes Peter’s direct denial—on oath. Now comes Peter’s curse. What’s next? The rooster crowed.

For us it happens when we say, “Just one more drink.” Or, “just one more lie.” Or, “just one more fling.” Or, “just one more look.” Or, “just one more game.” Crack. Crack. Crack. But one more leads to one more, and then just one more. When there are enough cracks, there will always be a collapse. Always! Then what? Enter the G-word. The G-word? Guilt!

Guilt turns us into miserable, weary, angry, duplicitous, stressed-out people. Guilt sucks the life right out of us. Grace restores it. Grace? Did someone say grace?

How does that happen? With confession. “Peter went out and wept bitterly.” Peter didn’t numb his guilt. Peter confessed his guilt. Period.

While Peter went outside the courtyard to confess, Jesus went to the cross to die. Jesus doesn’t wait until we get it all together. Jesus doesn’t wait until we overcome our temptations and fight our demons and conquer our sin. In our courtyard, we see guilt. Beyond our courtyard—at the cross—we see grace.

Who preaches the sermon on Pentecost? Peter. Whose sermon converts 3,000 people? Peter. Who writes two books in the New Testament? Peter. Listen closely.

Peter is the Comeback Kid. Comebacks don’t depend on how much we love Jesus. Comebacks depend on how much Jesus loves us.

Comebacks don’t depend on what we do for Jesus. Comebacks depend on what Jesus does for us.

Comebacks don’t depend upon us giving our life for Jesus. Come backs depend on Jesus giving his life for us.

Our story isn’t over when Jesus is in it. Isn’t that great? Our story isn’t over when Jesus is in it. We can all come back from guilt. How? The best G-Word of all. Grace.

Grace is forgiveness, undeserved forgiveness. We all need it, and God freely gives it. Amen.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Lori's sermon for March 14


Sermon for March 14th

John 3:14-21

Good Morning Brothers and Sisters!

If you ask someone what is the most famous verse in the Bible? It might be what is mentioned today with John 3:16 for God so love the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.

This verse is popular even in our home as Curt many years ago had cross stitched this picture. It hangs in our bedroom at home.

Right away we may notice in this specific verse that  God so loved the world, but the world did not so love God.

I begin this message first with the incredible love of God as that is where it starts. It was God’s love that created the world. But it doesn’t end here. We need to read further throughout John 3 as we see is the threat of death in punishment.  Jesus must be lifted up that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  So in this context- John 3:18 where that he who believes in him is NOT judged already.

Why? God didn’t send his son into the world to condemn it. Instead, what? This is Jesus, the loving Son of God, sharing the good news and showing love to others.  

This leads me to think about how we as a community treat others. Whether it is related to age, sex, race, and so forth. Anyone who is marginalized, outcasts, etc.

Let’s look back to the 1980’s time where AIDS came to the picture. Who remembers Ryan White who was an American white teenager from Indiana who became a national Poster child for HIV/AIDS in the United States after failing to be readmitted to school following a diagnosis of AIDS.

He had hemophiliac (genetic disorder that impairs body’s ability to make blood clots, a process needed to stop bleeding) and was infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment. AIDS at that time was poorly understood by the general public at the time. AIDS as we know is not an airborne disease and spreads solely through bodily fluids.

However, when White tried to return to school. Teachers and students signed a petition banning Ryan from coming back to school. Ryan was also a paperboy and people would cancel subscription in fear of becoming infected by newsprint. Eve

n though Doctors were saying it is safe for Ryan to go to school. People were ignoring it. When White was finally readmitted after legal battles. Other students dropped out of school and went elsewhere. But that is not the worse. Threats continued against the family and anyone who tried to support Ryan. Even a bullet was fired through the White’s living room thankfully no one was home at the time. The family moved from Kokomo and moved to Cicero, Indiana.

On Ryan’s first day at the new high school he was greeted by the school principal Tony Cook, School System Superintendent and bunch of students who had been educated about AIDS and were not afraid to shake Ryan’s hand. The power of community surrounding Ryan is priceless. AIDS at that time was considered what people in Bible time leprosy. We see how Jesus responded to people with leprosy. With love.

We know Jesus died on the cross for all our sins, does  this mean our work here is done? No…not even close. WE are to continue what Jesus through our actions of love to our community WITHOUT JUDGEMENT.

I look back at my own life growing up. I’ve encountered a lot of challenges and I know I’m not alone in this. We’ve all faced various challenges in our life….I do want to share with you when I first came to St. Matthew’s I felt unworthy of God’s love. I knew about God’s love but didn’t really understand it.  Why? Often Society often reminds me what I do not have rather than what I do have. However, you showed me through your actions as a community that you loved me. You did not see me just as a Deaf person but much more than that. You saw me as a beloved child of God. Even though I didn’t see that in myself at first. You carried me through. Let me tell you that love was and is healing for me. Whether you knew it or not you lifted me up when I couldn’t. I know what St. Matthew’s community have done for me, and my family and countless of others.


Our work here is not done yet. Just as our ancestors did we continue God’s work and will in the future. The world is still hurting and still needs to know /feel God’s love WITHOUT judgement from us.

God speaks to us in various ways…through creation that sustains us, through living Body of Jesus here on earth and within us through holy spirit. My friends, I encourage you to reflect on the past of how God consistently pursing YOU consistently why? You are also worthy of God’s love as I am and countless many of others who do not yet know of God’s love but they will because of you and you. As verse 21 says,” But everyone who lives by the truth will come to the light, because they want others to know that God is really the one doing what they do.”


We continue our work until the entire world will be lit as one body of Christ. And it’s all because of God’s love that we can walk along side others through bad and good times.