Welcome to Lent. This is not a time of celebration for the fuzz that sometimes inhabits your pockets. Rather this is a time of reflection for seeking and being. We gather this morning on a dark mysterious dot in the middle of the cosmos traveling into time and space as a community of people. This is a time of the year that reminds us to not turn around or sit down on our journey. We are to keep pushing boundaries and borders. We are to keep pushing into the creation and into the creator. In the pushing…in the seeking…in each step we find salvation or being granted from the God from whom we all flow. We are not the first to be brought into this time of reflection for the benefit of our being. Jesus ushers Peter into a similar space.
Jesus alludes to his impending demise and Peter makes a firm declaration that he will never allow anything to happen to Jesus. In a quick turnaround, Jesus declares that Peter will not only betray him but will do so three times before a rooster crows. I have known both Peters and roosters in my life. Have you ever had anybody tell you they would love you forever? Have you ever had anybody tell you that somebody you love was failing to love you?
Many years ago…long before I met Emily…I was involved in a romantic relationship. It was a beautiful love affair. There was a tremendous amount of attraction and passion. As the relationship progressed, I realized I was sick and there was no doubt that I was difficult to be in a relationship with. When I would have doubts about whether she would stick with me through the illness…the response was always the same “I will never leave you. I will always love you.” The relationship grew deeper and deeper…but I was still sick. As the newness gave way to the grind of a day-to-day relationship, I received a phone call. I got the same words that countless people have heard…I love you but I am breaking up with you. I guess that temporal forever kind of love sometimes comes with a “but.”
Jesus describes to Peter what a love that does not fail looks like. The rest of our narrative today begins with an admonishment from Jesus to not let our hearts be troubled. These are words for the moments of struggle when things seem to fall apart and there is little hope. Jesus speaks into those dark moments and declares there to be a way of being that is beyond death…there is resurrection.
Jesus declares resurrection to be within his very person. “I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life. No one comes to God except through me.” The fundamentalists use this passage to condemn everyone to hell who is not a fundamentalist Christian. Jesus is much bigger than such constructs. The story of Jesus is one is which love is the ultimate victor. Jesus declares that a love that sacrifices for others is the only way to the creator. Jesus says that love is truth and invites others to follow the path of sacrificial love to higher being.
Jesus is the way because love is the way and Jesus lives that way perfectly. The promises of Peter to never betray or leave Jesus mean little until Peter is willing to give his life for others and Jesus invites us to do the same.
Lent is a time of year that invites us to deeper sacrifice and deeper understanding through walking into and through death toward new being. The path to higher being and God is love.