March 11, 2012: When Fear causes us to deny ourselves or others

Posted on : Mar 9th, 2012 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Have you ever been so afraid, you have denied who you are or someone you know or love?  If you’re a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person, that used to be the normal experience of our lives, not the exception!  All of us who are LGBT have been there, and I’d venture to bet almost everyone else has had that same experience.  That’s what the experience of coming out was/is about.  You stop denying “who you are” and instead proudly proclaim who you are.  But for many, that wasn’t/isn’t an easy journey.

For those of us who were teenagers before the 1990’s, we were sure we were the only LGBT person on the earth.  And since there were no “out” gay people on TV and the internet and on-line community was not yet in existence, the sense of fear was intensified by our isolation.  The pain that so many of us experienced was horrible.  And it all came from fear.  Fear of being “identified.”  Fear of being “associated with” someone, especially a partner.

There was good reason for that fear.  Society was highly dangerous.  It was not at all uncommon to get bullied, beat up or the worst, “bashed.”  “Bashed” meant you were beat to a bloody pulp.  Some folks who were bashed died; the rest lived with physical scars and mental trauma the rest of their lives.  The medical community was no better.  They thought nothing of institutionalizing LGBT persons.  The “treatment plans” would today get doctors thrown in jail.

Fear has a way of controlling our lives and it can do awful things to one’s sense of self.  Abusive institutions thrive on keeping people afraid.  Every night when I see on the news what is happening in the social revolutions in Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and other places throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa, I am amazed at the courage of the people who refuse to live in fear any longer.  What a horrific price they are paying to be free from tyranny.

In this Sunday’s Gospel we encounter Peter.  Peter, also known as “the Rock,” is the disciple whom Jesus chooses to be the one who will build “the church” after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  This “Rock” at first isn’t all that strong.  In fact, in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest, Jesus tells Peter that before the cock crows at the dawning of the new day, Peter will deny Jesus not once, not twice, but three times.  The Scripture is a sadly pathetic portrayal of Peter, unless of course, “you’ve been there yourself.”  Then you can understand.  Peter was terrified that he was going to end up on a cross, just like Jesus.  And so, he denies even knowing Jesus.  It is always “telling” that in the crucifixion story, all the men run and hide in fear and depending on which Gospel you read, it’s only the women who stay there with Jesus: Mary, Martha, Mary Magdalene.  It’s also amazing that once Peter realizes that “fear” is going to get him nowhere, he finds his strength and his voice, and from then on he is one of the most passionate and powerful “defenders of the faith.”  All of which means, there is hope for each of us!  More on that this Sunday.

Lenten Blessings,

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Mark 14: 26-31; 55-72

“Peter denies knowing Jesus three times.”

After singing songs of praise, they walked out to the Mount of Olives.

As they were walking, Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for scripture says, ‘I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.’  But after I have been raised, I will go to Galilee ahead of you.”

Peter said to Jesus, “Even though everyone may fall away, I will not.”

Jesus said to Peter, “The truth is, this very night before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”  But Peter said vehemently, “Even if I have to die with you, I will not disown you!” All the other disciples said the same thing.

The chief priests with the whole Sanhedrin were busy soliciting testimony against Jesus that might lead to his death, but they could not find any.  Many gave false testimony against Jesus, but their stories did not agree.  Some, for instance, on taking the stand, testified falsely by saying, “We heard him declare, ‘I will destroy this Temple made by human hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands!’”  But even in this, their testimony did not agree.

The high priest stood up before the court and began to interrogate Jesus:  “Have you no answer to what these people are testifying against you?”  But Jesus remained silent and made no reply.  Once again the high priest interrogated him: “Are you the Messiah, the Only Begotten of the Blessed One?”

Jesus replied, “I am!  And you will see the Chosen One seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

At that, the high priest tore his robe and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses?  You have heard the blasphemy.  What is your verdict?”  They all said Jesus was guilty and condemned him to death.

Some of them began to spit on Jesus.  They blindfolded and hit him, saying, “Prophesy!”  The guards also beat him.

While Peter was down in the courtyard, one of the attendants of the high priest came along.  When she noticed Peter seated near the fire, she looked more closely at him and said, ‘You too were with Jesus of Nazareth.  Peter said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!  What do you mean?”  Then Peter went out into the gateway. At that moment a rooster crowed.

The woman, keeping an eye on him, started again to tell the bystanders, “He’s one of them.”  Once again Peter denied it.  A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more, “You are certainly one of them!  You’re a Galilean, aren’t you?”  Peter began to curse and swore, “I don’t even know who you’re talking about!”  The cock crowed a second time.  And Peter recalled the prediction Jesus had made:  “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”  He rushed away, weeping.

 

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