On the Path with Simon Peter: A Midweek Lenten Journey

Most of the twelve disciples are scarcely mentioned by name in the Gospels.  John is named twenty times as is Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.  Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, is mentioned twelve times and Thomas ten times.  Bartholomew, James the Son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Thaddaeus are mentioned only three times each.  Simon Peter, however, is mentioned by name over 120 times.  In nearly every episode of Jesus’ life and ministry, Peter is close by.  Join us Wednesday evenings during the Season of Lent as we walk towards the cross with Simon Peter—a kindred spirit, a flawed disciple who seeks to follow Jesus, yet one who is also confused, afraid, and faltering.  Our Wednesdays together will begin with a Soup Supper at 6:00 p.m. followed by worship at 7:00 p.m.  Services will begin on Ash Wednesday (2/26) with suppers starting on March 4.  This series will continue through Holy Thursday (4/9), Easter (4/12), and the First Sunday after Easter (4/19).

February 26-Ash Wednesday

The Gospel of Luke portrays Simon Peter as the first of Jesus’ disciples to be called and commissioned.  He is also the first disciple to recognize his sinful condition, prostrating himself before Jesus.  This scene, found in Luke 5:1-11, is reminiscent of Isaiah’s commissioning (Isaiah 6), when the prophet saw the exalted Lord Almighty and became fearfully aware of his own moral failing.  And yet, the account of Peter’s conviction is laced with grace since Peter, as Isaiah, received a call instead of a reprimand. Our worship experience will include the traditional imposition of the ashes. Our message will be Caught Up in Jesus.

Wednesday, March 4

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John all tell the story of the storm at sea, but it is only Matthew’s account (14:22-33) that includes Simon Peter walking on the water.  In this story, we find that Peter had come to trust Jesus just enough, even though he was scared, to say yes to Jesus’ call for him to walk on a stormy sea.  As it is so often with Peter, just after we see him take two remarkable steps forward in faith, we see him take one step back.  This is the pattern that we will see again and again in the life of Simon Peter…and probably, in our own. Our message will be That Sinking Feeling.

Wednesday, March 11

In Matthew 16:13-23, Simon Peter offers a bold confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  And yet, even after hearing Jesus’ affirmation, Simon Peter reveals he has yet to understand the call to self-denial and suffering that would eventually lead Jesus to the cross. Our message will be A Swing and a Miss!

Wednesday, March 18

Forgiving others may be one of the most challenging facets of Christian discipleship.  In Matthew 18, we hear Simon Peter’s question to Jesus: “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive?”  What motivated Peter to ask such a question and how might he have received Jesus’ response to forgive “not seventy, but seventy-seven times”? Our message will be The Calculus of Compassion.

Wednesday, March 25

As Judas and the temple guard came under the cover of darkness to the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus, we find Simon Peter attempt to do precisely what he had promised Jesus, to stay with Jesus rather than desert him.  While we might applaud Simon Peter’s intentions, as he responds to the building crisis by lashing out, his methods are rebuked by Jesus who, instead of a sword, brings peace through the cross, unmasking our systems of violence and retribution, and ultimately overcoming our love of power with the power of love. Our message, Arresting Developments, will come fro John 18:1-12.

Wednesday, April 1

In Luke’s account of Peter’s denial, we discover a detail that is not mentioned anywhere else.  As Peter denies Jesus the third time around that small fire in the courtyard, the echo of the cock crow still ringing in the cool night air, Luke says that “the Lord turned and looked at Peter.”  Any spouse who has come home late from work without calling ahead, might be familiar with this look.  Any teenager who has been caught sneaking in after curfew, might also know the shuddering feeling of shame underlying “the look.”  What might that look convey when we have denied our calling to follow Jesus and how might Jesus’ love and concern for Peter been revealed even in that moment? Our message, The Look!, will come from Luke 22:31-34, 54-62.

April 9-Holy Thursday

When Jesus came to wash Simon Peter’s feet, Peter protested with great umbrage.  This wasn’t out of anger or obstinacy but an appropriate sense that it was he who should have washed Jesus’ feet, not the other way around.  By donning the towel and taking up the basin, Jesus was attempting to help Peter and the disciples understand who he was and what he demanded of them (and us!).  It was a lesson that they would never forget! Our message, The Towel & Basin, will come from John 13:1-17, 31-35.

April 12-Easter Sunday

There is a delightful part of the Easter story found in Mark’s Gospel that we may have overlooked.  In verse 7, the angelic messenger says to the women at the empty tomb: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee.”  What would it have meant to Peter, the one whose guilty feelings of denial were as fresh as the morning dew, that the messenger of God had specifically singled him out, asking him to go to Galilee to meet the risen Jesus? Our message, …and Peter, will come from Mark 16:1-8.

April 19-First Sunday after Easter

In the post-resurrection story of Jesus on the beach, we find him cooking fish for the disciples over a charcoal fire.  The only other time in the Gospel that specifically refers to a charcoal fire is the one over which Simon Peter denied knowing Jesus three times in the courtyard of the High Priest.  Now, over another charcoal fire, Jesus would thrice ask Simon, “Do you love me?” Our message, Over a Charcoal Fire, will come from John 21:1-19