Rev. George Miller
“Peter Was a Rolling Stone”
June 15, 2014
(Scripture tells us Peter had a mother-in-law, which means he had a wife, and perhaps kids. This character-based message is given by an imagined son of Peter.)
How y’all doing? Me? I’m better now that boring old Torah lessons with Rabbi Brooks is over.
Today we were asked to name who our hero is and why. Most of the boys picked the obvious names. You know: Moses, Gideon and David. Boring!
Me? I said “My Dad.” Some of my friends laughed, but you know what? Let them because my Dad is the coolest Dad around.
Some know him as Peter, others call him Simon, and others call him Simon Peter. I just call him Dad.
I remember what Dad was like before Rabbi Jesus came into our lives. He was a fisherman with my Uncle Andrew.
They worked long days, waking up before the sunrise and not coming home until sunset. He and Uncle Andy would start each day getting the nets set up and checking the sky and the current to guess what the catch would be like.
They’d sail off into the Sea of Galilee and cast their nets out upon the water. Then they’d wait, and wait, and wait some more.
After spending all day in the boat, he and Uncle Andy would come back to shore, bring their catch to the local market to be weighed and receive their pay.
Then they’d have to clean the boat from top to bottom, wash and mend the nets and sails. Then make their way home for the night, Dad smelling like the sea and looking like the sun.
If it was a good day Dad would come home tired but happy and with a treat for us to have after supper.
If it wasn’t a good day? Dad would come home slouched over and quiet. I learned on those days to be well behaved and give him some space.
Before Jesus came into our lives, it seemed like Dad was coming home less and less with smiles and treats and more and more tired and slouched.
At night I’d hear Dad and Mom fight about the bills and taxes and how we couldn’t survive much longer without a big catch.
Mom wasn’t sure if she could stretch out our olive oil and grain much further. Dad wasn’t sure how much longer his back and hands would last.
I’d get knots in my stomach listening to them and I’d pray to God for a better way. One day God answered my prayer in the form of Jesus.
It was said that on the day he was baptized the heavens opened and the Spirit of God came upon Jesus like a dove and there was a voice from heaven saying “This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
We figured these were just made up stories, you know- to pass the time. But word got around that Jesus was proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was near and people were describing him as a great light and a fulfiller of the prophecies.
One day, my Dad and Uncle Andrew were casting their nets into the sea when Jesus walked by and called to them, saying “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.”
My father, not the kind taken to whims, said that there was something unique about this man, a presence, and he just knew this was the promised Son of God they had been waiting for.
And like that Dad and Uncle Andrew put down their nets and followed Jesus!
Dad said it was if all his worries were no more, and that by following Jesus he knew he’d have “enough.” And Dad was right.
That was an exciting time. My Dad, Uncle Andy and a group of men and women followed Jesus all over the place: from Galilee to Jerusalem to the mountaintops.
Jesus called them blessed, “the lights of the world” and he taught them about the importance of being man (or woman) enough to turn the other cheek and about being humble in everything you do.
Jesus taught them not to depend so much on material things but to look at the birds of the air and the blooms of the field.
Dad told me that Jesus had the ability to heal others and how people flocked to him to be restored.
I didn’t believe it until the time my Bubbie was sick and Jesus came into our home and with one touch my grandma was up and out of bed.
This went on for awhile: my Dad and Uncle following Jesus, listening to him teach, watching him heal and reach out to the undesirables.
Then one day Jesus let it be known that it was time for Dad and Uncle Andrew to also minster to God’s people.
Jesus told his followers that they were to go out two by two and proclaim the Good News, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons.
They were to travel light, only stay where they were welcomed, and if they weren’t, to simply shake the dirt off of their feet and go to their next destination.
The night before Dad left, I overhead he and Mom talking. He was afraid, saying it would be risky. He wasn’t sure he could do all that Jesus was asking. He saw himself as unqualified and inexperienced.
Mom reminded him that Jesus wouldn’t have asked Dad if he was not sure he could do it.
Funny thing is, their conversation didn’t bother me. I didn’t get those odd knots in my stomach like I had before. In fact, ever since Dad began following Jesus I didn’t get those knots at all.
It’s hard to explain, but even though Dad was no longer fishing full time, we seemed to have more than enough of food, money and comfort.
But can I be honest? There was awhile when I resented Jesus. I felt like he was taking my Dad away from me. And I was mad at my Dad because I felt like he was deserting me.
I wondered if I had done something wrong.
I got angry at God, wondering why, out of all the people in the world, he had to call my Dad to spread the Good News when it meant my family got to spend so little time with him.
When Dad came back from that excursion, I noticed something different about him. He wasn’t quiet or slouching. He was smiling. He looked relaxed. He whistled songs, he told jokes and shared stories about all they had seen and done.
I realized that my Dad had changed for the better, and it was because of Jesus. I also realized that I’d rather have a happy Dad some of the time then a sad dad most of the time.
Jesus noticed Dad’s change to. One day, when my Dad called Jesus “The Messiah” Jesus responded by calling my father blessed and said “From now on I will call you Peter, the rock...”
My father said he felt that at that moment not only did his name change, but it was like he had been born anew and that this was what he had been created to do, his purpose in life.
From then, there was almost nothing my Dad wouldn’t do for Jesus. True, he made some major mistakes, he had some lapses in faith, and his biggest regret: the night he denied knowing Jesus not once but three times.
Those were tough times for all of us. They arrested Jesus on some trumped up charges and crucified him as an enemy of the state.
Never before had I seen my father look so scared. For a brief spell it was as though all hope was gone.
Dad and Uncle Andrew and the others went into hiding, unsure if they’d be next. But an amazing thing happened.
My father said that on Sunday the women had gone to the tomb and found that not only was the stone rolled back, but the tomb empty.
Later that day, Jesus came back and spoke to them and reminded them that God had given them all the authority and ability to do all the things Jesus had done.
They were to continue going out into the world, doing just as they had been doing: preaching and teaching, healing and baptizing.
The light in my father’s eyes returned and the joy returned, stronger than before. Now he lives with an eternal hope I’ve never seen before.
When he’s not out sharing the Gospel, he’s home, living the gospel, loving momma and being the best Dad I could ever imagine.
In the process, my Dad has taught me a few things. He taught me about integrity. He taught me that it’s important you like what you do and you do the best job at it.
He taught me that people will talk, and they’re going to talk all the time and you can’t let a few unhappy folk get in the way of doing what God calls you to do or what is best for the Kingdom of God.
He taught me that each person has something they are willing to live for and something they are willing to die for.
By following Jesus, Dad taught me that with God nothing is impossible: storms are stilled, a few pieces of fish can be turned into a meal, and that not even death can stop God.
Finally, my Dad taught me that when you fail, or when you turn your back on God, you always have another chance to get back up and to make things right because God is always there ready to forgive and to heal.
I am proud of my Dad. Since meeting Jesus he has gone from a man whose worries weighed so heavy on his mind to a man with purpose and with passion.
By being the best man he can possibly be, my Dad has taught me how to be the best man I can be.
Who is my hero? Simon Peter, or as Jesus called him, the Rock. But I call him my Dad.
I am thankful for God who made this big, beautiful world, for Jesus who called my Dad to let down his nets and to follow, and for the gifts of the Holy Spirit that gave my father and all people a voice to speak what is right and what is true.
Amen and amen.