SERMON Easter 6A 5-17-20 St. Monica’s Episcopal Church, Naples, FL

Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:7-18; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

Peter Pan – Reluctant Disciple

In 1991, Robin Williams played a unique role (Peter Pan) in the blockbuster hit “Hook.”   This version of the story of Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinker Bell, and the orphaned “Lost Boys” is one of my favorites.  The movie features Peter Pan as an adult who has forgotten all about his childhood. In his new life, he is known as Peter Banning, a successful but unimaginative and workaholic lawyer with a wife (Wendy’s granddaughter) and two children. However, when Captain Hook, the enemy of his past, kidnaps his children, he returns to Neverland to save them. Along the journey, through the insights, wisdom, and gifts of a young lad named Pockets, Peter reclaims the memories of his past, he rediscovers who he really is, he helps his old friends face their challenges, and in so doing, Peter becomes the person he always had been.

Everyone in this fairy-tale that, became better people than they had been before, but more importantly, they all discovered their purpose.  Wendy came to realize that being Tinkerbell (the helper and overseer of the Lost Boys) was her life’s calling all along.  The Lost Boys discovered that they were a family that could accomplish anything together, because they had each other, and because they had the support and comfort of the Spirit of Truth.  Even Peter discovered something in this brief adventure, because he came to realize his true gifts, and he found out who he really was and in so doing, he found his life’s purpose as well.

Sometimes when we face the unexpected circumstances of life, our sense of who we are and what our purpose really is becomes clearer, especially when we encounter change and discomfort.  We all are facing changes in our lives right now, unimaginable fear that none of us expected.  This pandemic for one has changed for all of us what is important, who is important, and why life is so important.  In times like these, when we happenstance unexpected changes, the faithful way to move through the pain, anger, fear, and uncertainty is NOT to resort to blame, rumors, disillusionment, or to walk away.  The true heavenly path to facing change is to put your faith in Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who never leaves us.  He is the true pastor of our lives.

 No orphans

The writer of the Acts of the Apostles recorded, “The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands.” We can be assured that God is always with us and will never abandon us.  If we put our faith in God, God will not allow us to be disillusioned, nor will God leave us to live in fear and anxiety.  Even when changes come, when the unexpected happens.  God is with us, for God is not contained in four walls, in idols, or even religious systems.  God is always with us.

Jesus said to his disciples, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” Wikipedia defines orphans as people (mainly children) who are left comfortless, bereft of parents, a teacher, guide, or guardian.  The idea that Jesus would say to us that we will never be left orphaned, clearly defines the nature of the relationship we have with him.  If we are not orphans, then we are his children.  Sisters and brothers, in all of life’s changes, we have the assurance that God will never desert or leave us.  We are not orphans, even though Jesus left his ministry to us.

Orphaned children in first century Palestine were left to live off the charity of the community, and they had no assurance of life beyond their fate.  Death was common among orphans.  Abandonment to this fate was one that many children feared, especially considering the life span of people in that era.  Jesus’ promise that we will never be abandoned, reveals an incredible truth, which is this, “Even in our darkest moments, we will never be alone. God is always faithful to us.”  God is always with us, and God will faithfully provide us with eternal providential care, even when we cannot see sense it as life unfolds in was we did hope. Now, here is some hope for all of us. God is with us, even when our emotions and our disappointments go awry, and even if and when we do not believe.

Trusting God

My sisters and brothers, I have to ask you something, “Do you really trust God right now?”  I mean can you let go of your fear and uncertainty and really believe that God is in charge of your life, God wants the best for you in all circumstances, and God will never abandon you?  Can you trust that right now?  The Apostle Peter, the trusted, broken, sometimes failing disciple who denied Jesus three times wrote, “Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord.”  I am so glad Peter (The Rock) was a follower of Jesus, because he gives me hope that I can be faithful.  Peter often, got it wrong as he followed Jesus around Galilee.  However, at one point in Peter’s ministry, only after Jesus had left the ministry to him and the other apostles, Peter began to find his purpose.

It is almost like Peter had to finally stand on his own two feet, in order to be the leader Jesus had called him to be.  Lord knows he could not stand on his feet on that water.  However, despite Jesus’ ascension to the Father, Jesus never abandoned Peter, the apostles, the early followers, and Jesus never abandons the church.   The church is able to accomplish her mission today, because she has the Holy Spirit in us, leading us and guiding us.  You see, faith is the power of our walk with Jesus that transforms fear into confidence, reluctance into courage, and despondency into amazing grace and action.

Sisters and brothers, are you willing to put your life, your heart, your spiritual health in God’s hands?  Are you willing to be bold and believe that even when change comes, God is in charge?  Now is the time to step out in faith and trust that God will not abandon you as orphans, as if you were Lost Girls and Lost Boys with no Peter Pan to lead the day.  For in this family, the true leader of our lives, the true pastor of our hearts, and the one in which, we can always depend is Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ alone.

Living in Faith

For some of you, mine and Terri’s leaving creates feelings of great sadness.  For others, you may be feeling dismay, disappointment, and honestly, some of you are probably angry.  Maybe some are experiencing secretly, a little joy.  All of these emotions are normal, and all of them are ok.  For Terri and me, we are so brokenhearted to have to leave you.  Our hearts ache because we have come in only two years, to love this parish, this community, and we cannot tell you how difficult it is for us to leave you, our friends and fellow followers of Jesus.

It is difficult for us to leave our home Florida as well.  Other than the three years we lived in Tennessee in seminary, we have lived in Florida for 20 years, and for me, I have lived here longer than where I grew up.  Terri and I, are in the midst of change, and we live with our own fear and anxiety, because we are leaving this call at a time when we find ourselves in a difficult circumstances; a global pandemic.  However, Terri and I are hopefully and faithfully demonstrating to you, what it means to really trust God in all things. We are taking a bold leap of faith, trusting that our shepherd, Jesus Christ will never abandon us as we answer an unexpected call, and we are trusting Christ that he will never abandon you as we live in faith.

Living every day in faith means that you step out in trust and confidence in God.  Living in faith means you move when God calls, even when the circumstances are not easy, when you are moving 20 hours away, and you are selling a home, buying a home, and living in a place you have visited only once.  Living in faith means that you listen to others who have discerned with you the call that lies before you.  Living in faith means that what is comfortable, stable, and good must sometimes be left behind, because God is calling you into a new way of being.  This living in faith was how two years ago, Terri and I stepped out in faith in order to begin our journey together with you all in the first place.

What is next?

Right now, St. Monica’s is being called to live in faith.  You stand at the edge of a new chapter in your ministry, and this change is only the beginning of something new and fresh and amazing.  Trusting Jesus right now does not take away the emotions of loss, but it can fuel our hope to carry on.  At the end of the movie “Hook” after the villainous Captain Hook had been defeated and his kids were saved, Peter Pan called upon Tinkerbell to whisk his children away back home and suddenly, Peter began to fly off with them.

As he looked back at the Lost Boys, Peter stopped and returned to the them for a moment.  One of the young ones said, “Don’t leave us Peter, and don’t say goodbye.”  One of the boys said, “You’re going away and forgetting about us all over again.”  Peter said, “You all are my Lost Boys and I will never forget you.” Then, Peter stood up and asked, “So who do I leave in charge?” He took out his trusty blade, a symbol of his authority and work among them and then, he handed it to Pockets.  Pockets was that first Lost Boy who recognized who Peter truly was even as an adult.  Pockets took the blade and with glee in his face, he came also came realize what his true calling was all along; leadership.

Jesus left his ministry of reconciliation to us, and the church has continued that mission for centuries.  Jesus leaves that ministry to you all here in this place, and that mission will continue for many decades to come.  In the movie Hook, as Peter flew off to his next adventure, living faithfully into a new call of service in his life, the Lost Boys (lost no more) heard their friend say, “Thank you for believing.”  Peter thanked the boys for changing him, because in a way they all grew together joyfully and faithfully.  Peter thanked them because through their new adventure, they all came to know that the Spirit of Truth (I believe God’s Spirit of Truth) transformed them all.   My sisters and brothers, for our time together, I want to say, “Thank you for believing.” I encourage you all to remain faithful and do not despair.  I encourage you to trust in Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to lead you into new adventures of mission, right here and right now, and in the many years to come. 

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