August 24, 2008
Scripture: John 1:29-42
Sermon Title: "Piglet and the Rock"
As I said in the Children’s Message, names make a difference. The names and nicknames we give our children, we give to one another, and we give ourselves can become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Names and nicknames can affect how others view us, how we view ourselves and how we interact with one another.
I can think of no better example then of Piglet. Piglet, if you don’t know, is the best friend of Winnie-the-Pooh from the Winnie-the-Pooh books and movies that have been popular for the past 50 years.,
In the books Piglet is always referred to as a small creature, a timid creature, he is often called foolish and afraid.
Because he is called small, timid, foolish and afraid, that is how he acts, placing himself as the helpless victim as opposed to being the heroic victor.
Until one day when everything changes...
...You see, as the story goes, little Piglet and Pooh go to visit their friend Owl who lives way up in a tree house. Well, that day turns out to be a rather blustery day, with the wind whipping about.
And wouldn’t you know it, but a huge gust of wind comes along, and knocks down the tree.
Suddenly Owl’s house is knocked about: the top becomes the bottom, the bottom becomes the top. The doors and windows are all blocked, and the only way out is through the tiny letter box opening that is now up where the roof should be.
Well, Pooh and Owl are too big to squeeze through such a tiny letter box. The only one who can squeeze through it is Piglet.
But Piglet is used to being called Timid and Afraid, so he makes excuses why he can’t do it. But eventually he is talked into doing it.
Using a long piece of red string, Piglet climbs all the way up to the top of the house, squeezes out of the letter box, and finds help for his friends.
Piglet the Helpless has now become Piglet the Rescuer. In gratitude, a song is created about Piglet’s heroics. And in the song Piglet is called Gallant.
His ears perk up, and he sighs with happiness and he begins to think of himself as Brave with a capital B.
And being called Gallant and Brave affects his future actions. He begins to act Brave and Gallant. And when his friend Eeyore becomes homeless, it is Piglet who offers him a place to live.
And in that act of brave unselfishness, Piglet is given yet another name: Noble.
It was in the act of being renamed that Piglet is able to makes choices that fulfill the destiny his new nick-name implies.
Names and nicknames make a difference. They affect how we view ourselves and how others interact with us.
Biblically speaking, Simon is another perfect example. In today’s reading Simon has an encounter with God incarnate who not only knows him, but renames him.
Before we visit that moment, let’s reflect on who Simon is before that fateful day.
The Bible tells us Simon was many things: a son, a brother, a husband and son-in-law. Simon was a fisherman, and he was also a waiter. Not a waiter as in one who serves food in a restaurant, but as one who must wait.
Waiting, after all, was part of his career. Those who fish know about the countless minutes, hours, even days you can wait for a fish to bite.
Simon certainly waited. Waking up when the moon was still out, climbing aboard the boat not knowing what the day had in store.
Will the sea be calm or will it toss the boat to and fro? Will the nets come up empty or will they be filled to the point of breaking?
How long did Simon spend on that boat each day, waiting?
The sun burning his skin.
The sea spray bathing him
the wind battering against his back?
Not sure what the day will bring.
I am sure that
And Simon wasn’t just waiting for the next big catch. He was waiting for something more. For life to get better. And like many others, he was waiting for the promised Messiah.
Others had come and gone claiming to be the Chosen One, but all proved to be false. How often did he get his hopes up only to find it was all in vain?
I bet Simon grew tired of waiting for the Messiah. In fact, with all the waiting he did Simon probably has become impatient, disillusioned, mad.
So when his brother came to tell him he saw the Messiah, and this time it was real, Simon probably didn’t make a big deal of it. He probably went with Andrew more to humor him, to take some time away from the fishing and the waiting.
But something happened.
Jesus looked at Simon. And Simon could tell that Jesus was looking at him. Not through him, or around, but at him.
And Jesus said "You are Simon. Son of John."
With those words Jesus let Simon know he knew who he was.
But then Jesus said something else. He said "You are to be called Cephas" which means Rock.
Not only did Jesus know Simon’s past and present, but he also knew his future.
Jesus looked at all Simon was and would be. He could have renamed him many things. He could have called Simon Waiter or Fisher, Lost Hope or Uncertain.
But he didn’t.
He could have called him Betrayer or Fearful.
But instead Jesus called him Cephas: the Rock.
In changing his name, Jesus revealed to Simon his future potential and the unique and unrepeatable role he would play in Christ’s life.
Through an encounter with Jesus, Simon the Fisherman, Simon the Brother, Simon the Waiter became Simon the Rock.
And his life, as well as ours, would never be the same.
Today’s Scripture reminds us that God enters into our lives in ways we may not recognize. But then there are times in which the face or hand of God is so clear that to deny it would be the same as to deny our own breathe.
It is in those moments when we can be renamed.
When God sees us, he does not just see our present, but God is aware of our past.
God knows of the hurts and pains we have endured. God also knows of the hurts and pain we have inflicted on others.
God looks at us and is aware of the families we come from, the trials we have endured, the joys we have celebrated. Nothing is hidden from God: our past and present smiles and tears, our giggles and our bouts of depression.
God knows all about our lost dreams, the tragedies, the wrong paths taken.
But God does not dwell on our past, God looks at and sees all of our future possibilities. God sees our potential. Our gifts.
God is aware of what we can do even if we are not aware of it ourselves. God sees us and knows what unique and unrepeatable role we can do that no once else can.
And God renames us.
To God, we are no longer to be called or known as Fat and Ugly, Lazy or Stupid, Over the Hill or Adolescent.
To God we are no longer easily labeled as Man or Woman, Black or White, Gay or Straight, Right or Wrong.
We are no longer to be known as Small and Timid, Foolish and Afraid.
We have a face-to-face encounter with the Living God and we are renamed Gallant and Brave.
We are nicknamed Laughter and Father of Great Nations.
We meet God face-to-face and we become Princess, Joy and Prince of God.
Simon has an encounter with God incarnate and instead of being called Waiter, Disillusioned, or Betrayer he is called The Rock. The direction of his life changes and the future of the church is established.
What do you hear God calling you today?
Do you hear God calling you Loved? Valued? Somebody?
Do you hear God calling you One-Of-A-Kind? Merciful? Charitable?
And when God bestows upon you a new name, do you listen? Are you willing to believe and to act accordingly?
We are all like Simon. And, we all have a little bit of Piglet inside of us.
We can be timid, we can feel scared. We can get tired of waiting and feel disillusioned.
When we have moments like that, when we feel like there has to be something more, may we have that encounter with the Living God in which we are not only renamed, but we are able the believe and live in such a way that the new name is fulfilled.
What do you hear God calling you today?
All thanks be to God who is present in our waiting, to the Son who meets and renames us and to the Spirit who gives us the energy ability to live up to our new names.