(From Mark 8: 31-38)
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Christian singer and songwriter Matthew West has a song with lyrics about Truth that are, for me, at the same time both thought provoking and challenging. The title of the song is “Truth Be Told,” and the words are as follows:
There’s a sign on the door, says, “Come as you are” but I doubt it. ‘Cause if we live like that was true, every Sunday mornin’ pew would be crowded. But didn’t you say church should look more like a hospital? A safe place for the sick, the sinner and the scared, and the prodigal, like me. But the truth be told, the truth is rarely told.
As I was reflecting on the Gospel Lesson from Mark Chapter 8 this week, I was most personally moved by the stark contrast between the perceptions of Jesus and Peter about the future of Jesus’ ministry and his remaining time together with them. It was a debate about the truth. It was one of the many, many illustrations of the message found in Matthew West’s song—the whole truth is rarely told, and even less often, when it is, are its implications understood and implemented. In this particular case, Peter could not even fathom the truth that Jesus laid before him. It was a hard truth that his Rabbi, his Master and Lord, whose ministry of healing and compassion was changing so many lives, was headed down a path of rejection and death. And, by association, this was now also Peter’s path going forward. Ironically, Jesus foretold that this would all be brought about by the chief priests and elders of the synagogue. Just the hearing of such a preposterous truth from the mouth of Jesus at this time was something Peter could not, in the wildest recesses of his imagination, comprehend, let alone accept it. Yet, Jesus had now laid it out there, the truth that his ministry would culminate in his death; and even more strange and confounding for Peter, his rising again. The truth, the hard truth about the Lord Jesus, was now told. We will continue to follow the unfolding of this story about Jesus’ truth throughout the season of Lent.
As the theme of truth from the gospel reading for this week was swirling about in my thoughts and meditations, Matthew West’s words about the truth of the church of today met them. I was reminded of a story I was told many years ago about called “Life-Saving Station.” I would like to share this story with you today because it speaks to us about being the church today. For me, it echoes the truth, the very message, of the lyrics of Matthew West’s song that I shared this morning. More importantly, it challenges us to overcome the comfortable and “status quo” Peter-like tendencies in ourselves and in our church life, and to live into our calling to truly become the authentic Church of God in Christ of our time.
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a little life-saving station. The building was primitive, and there was just one boat, but the members of the life-saving station were committed and kept a constant watch over the sea. When a ship went down, they unselfishly went out day or night to save the lost. Because so many lives were saved by that station, it became famous.
Consequently, many people wanted to be associated with the station to give their time, talent, and money to support its important work. New boats were bought, new crews were recruited, a formal training session was offered. As the membership in the life-saving station grew, some of the members became unhappy that the building was so primitive and that the equipment was so outdated. They wanted a better place to welcome the survivors pulled from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged and newly decorated building.
Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members. They met regularly and when they did, it was apparent how they loved one another. They greeted each other, hugged each other, and shared with one another the events that had been going on in their lives. But fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions; so they hired lifeboat crews to do this for them.
About this time, a large ship was wrecked off of the coast, and the hired crews brought into the life-saving station boatloads of cold, wet, dirty, sick, and half-drowned people. Some of them had black skin, and some had yellow skin. Some could speak English well, and some could hardly speak it at all. Some were first-class cabin passengers of the ship, and some were the deck hands.
The beautiful meeting place became a place of chaos. The plush carpets got dirty. Some of the exquisite furniture got scratched. So the property committee immediately had a shower built outside the house where the victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting there was rift in the membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities, for they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal fellowship of the members. Other members insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all those various kinds of people who would be shipwrecked, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. And do you know what? That is what they did.
As the years passed, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a place to meet regularly for fellowship, for committee meetings, and for special training sessions about their mission, but few went out to the drowning people. The drowning people were no longer welcomed in that new life-saving station. So another life-saving station was founded further down the coast. History continued to repeat itself. And if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of adequate meeting places with ample parking and plush carpeting. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown [for lack of a life-saving station].
From Bible.org: Thomas Wedel, “Ecumenical Review,” October, 1953, paraphrased in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, pp. 99-101.
Let the words of truth found within this story speak to us today for themselves. May they touch our hearts and minds; but much more importantly, change the course of our actions. Amen—let it be so.
“It Is Well with My Soul” (words: Horatio G. Spafford, music: Phillip P. Bliss)
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well, with my soul.
THE EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE CENTER is located on Olde 8 in Northfield Center, serving surrounding communities, including Peninsula, Boston, Boston Hts, Richfield and Hudson.
Monetary donations can be made to TEAC through PUMC. Please write “TEAC” on the memo line, or “Missions” to be divided up among all Lenten Missions. TEAC also accepts donations of personal products and non-perishable food items.
For more information about the Emergency Assistance Center: https://teacenter.org/home.aspx