STAY AT YOUR POST Mark 8:27-38 March 4, 2012 April 14, 1865 – Ford’s Theater, Washington, DC. Actor John Wilkes Booth sneaks up to the unguarded presidential box, throws open the door and shoots President Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head. A short while later the President was dead. Why was the President’s box unguarded? Who was supposed to be guarding the door that night? Where was he? His name was John F. Parker. He wasn’t guarding the door because he couldn’t see the play – which he wanted to do – so he left his post and went and found a seat where he could see. Who knows what difference this great President could have made in the years of Reconstruction, especially for the South. Who knows what a difference it would have made for John Parker – friends testified after that night he was understandably never the same. But history will never know because on April 14, 1865 in Ford’s Theater, Washington DC, John F. Parker left his post. In our scripture this morning Peter is having a really hard time accepting the post he has been assigned. He has just made that climatic statement of the New Testament – that powerful profession of faith that Christians make to this day to seal their relationship with Jesus: You are the Christ. And if everything had just stopped right there, everything would be fine. But Jesus goes on to explain what that means: That the Christ has been sent to suffer To be rejected by the scribes and authorities To be killed To be in the tomb three days and then be resurrected And Peter can’t stand it. This is not right – the Messiah, the Christ, sent to suffer? So he goes up to Jesus and disagrees – protests – argues – rebukes Jesus. And the text does not tell us exactly what he said. But I wonder what do you think Peter did say to Jesus? Do you think maybe he tried to argue with Him on scriptural grounds? “No, Jesus the prophets say the Messiah is sent to triumph not to suffer and certainly not to be put to death!” Or maybe it was from his personal understanding of God: “The God I believe in loves us and just wants us to be happy. I don’t believe what you are saying is of God.” Whatever Peter said it certainly had something to do with not agreeing with the idea that Jesus had to suffer, because Jesus answered Peter very harshly – “Stop tempting M, Peter. Your words are not the words of God. They are the words of humans.” And then Jesus goes on to say: “Not only will I suffer, but if you want to follow Me, if you want the truth I have to offer, you must be prepared to shoulder your cross and suffer as well.”
For whoever wants to save their own neck will eventually lose what they have, but whoever is willing to give up everything – even life – for me – will discover they have gained a whole new life. In other words, Peter, stay at your post. One of the most powerful stories to come out of the horror that was Nazi Germany comes from the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Our minds cannot begin to comprehend the horror of that place. Millions of people died there simply because they were Jewish or mentally handicapped or protesting against the Nazi party. And in a place dominated by terror and hunger and pain, where people began to turn against each other just to try to stay alive, one man did not forget who he was and who he was called to be. His name was Maximilian Kolbe. He was a Roman Catholic priest. He was standing there when the Nazi guards grabbed one of the men from his village – Francis Gajowniczek – and announced they were going to hang him, because somewhere in the camp that day someone had managed to escape and they were hanging people at random for retribution. Francis Gajowniczek collapsed in tears and grief. Maximilian Kolbe said to the guard “I know him. He has a wife and children waiting at home for his return.” The guard continued to grab him. “No stop!” No response. So Father Kolbe stepped in front of the guard and said “Take me instead.” And the guard paused. “Go on, take me instead.” And the guard did – and in a few moments it was all over. Father Kolbe was dead. But in those few moments in a place likened to hell – because of one man – Father Kolbe – the light of God burst through like the sun through the darkness: Prisoners lifted up their head to take courage To draw closer to each other To remember that human life is much, much more than just fear of death – And in those moments they sensed the very presence of God – Because this one man did not leave his post!
Years ago a woman wrote Mother Teresa who was known worldwide for her order, the Missionaries of Charity and the work they did among the lepers of India. “I would like to come work with you” the woman wrote. Mother Teresa wrote back: “Find your own Calcutta.” Was it a harsh answer? Was it a rejection of the woman who wrote the letter? NO. It was simply a reminder that we do not have to go to Calcutta to find our post and stay there. There is work to be done wherever Christians find themselves. It just may be harder sometimes to see the post we are assigned to. We are not serving in India or Africa where poverty and disease rage rampant. We are not lost in the horror and filth of a Nazi concentration camp. We are not one of the twelve people gathered around Jesus that day in Caesarea Philippi – the ones who heard Him say “take up your cross and follow Me - the ones the early church believes all but two were put to death in martyr’s deaths – crucified – beheaded – tortured – humiliated. But we are Christians who are assigned to our posts.
We are workers – most of us – workers who are constantly fed a diet of “You’ve got to look out for # 1. Do what you have to do to take care of yourself. No body will blame you if you skim a little off the top – everybody does.”
And for us to stay at our post as workers means we refuse to compromise integrity. We treat our employees fairly and We treat our customers honestly. We respect our co-workers and treat them politely. We respect our supervisors and do not gossip, backstab or stir up trouble. We work hard – we make sacrifices in order to work hard – and by our hard work we model spiritual selfdiscipline. We work hard so that we care for the financial needs of our family and the financial needs of our church. We work hard to build up society and when we do encounter dishonesty, unethical business practices, corruption, we stay at our post – we call it out. We refuse to participate We find another job or take a cut in salary or quit altogether rather than compromise our integrity. When Christian workers leave their post because they would rather enjoy themselves out in the theater watching the play, society suffers – greed sets in. Stay at your post.
We are workers and we are family members, most of us. Some of us have older parents and staying at our post means doctor appointments – bed pans – and patience. Some of us have children and staying at our post means time – time – time – time to develop relationships – time to help with homework and fix hair – time to stop and lovingly explain “because you are a Christian and my child – that’s why.” You know – to the ongoing questions: Why can’t I stay out ‘til midnight, everybody else does. Why can’t I date at 14, everybody else does. Why can’t I go, everybody else is going. And we all know it would be easier and much less stressful to just say “GO!” But to stay at our post means to take the time to develop relationships with our kids so we are able to say “Because you are a Christian and my child – that’s why.” And some of us are married – many of us – and staying at our post sounds pretty simple: “Stay Married.” Until you consider the enormous amounts of pressure to redefine marriage as that which is supposed to make me happy – instead of that which is sometimes really hard and sometimes the source of great unhappiness. But when Christians leave their marriage post because they want to be entertained in another part of the theater, society destabilizes – children suffer – relationships suffer – it becomes harder to have committed relationships with anyone and that includes God because faithfulness is the name of our post – not happiness – not selfishness. Faithfulness. Stay at your post. Peter was pretty unhappy with Jesus in our scripture today. The cross didn’t figure in to the plans he had for Jesus and it probably didn’t figure in to the plans he had for himself either. And I can’t say as I blame him. None of us particularly like the idea of following Jesus all the way to the cross. We would much rather leave our post and go out into the theater to relax and enjoy the play. But the play will end soon. And if all we have done with our lives is try to preserve them – save ourselves – indulge ourselves – get what we want – then when our life ends, everything we have lived for ends as well. But if we stay at our post – pick up our cross – live like Jesus, lovingly, sacrificially, answering a higher call, then the light breaks through the darkness and we find a whole new life opened before us.
“If any one would come after Me”, Jesus said, “let them deny themselves, and take up their cross, and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Christians, pick up your cross. Stay at your post. Thanks be to God, Amen