4.3.22 MESSAGE BY PASTOR BILL PEAKE

Pastor Bill Peake:
The word of God speaks to us all the time but most especially as we gather together in worship. We all own Bibles. We can read them on our own, but there is some special blessing that comes when God’s people hear the word proclaimed together. Listen, dear friends, that you may indeed hear the living word of God in this language of women and men.

Pastor Bill Peake:
“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged and the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews,’ and they would strike his face.”

Pastor Bill Peake:
“Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘Look, I’m bringing him out to you to let you know I find no case against him.'”

Pastor Bill Peake:
“So Jesus came out wearing that crown of thorns, the purple robe, and Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man.'”

Pastor Bill Peake:
“But when the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify him, crucify him.'”

Pastor Bill Peake:
“Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and you crucify him. I find no case against him.'”

Pastor Bill Peake:
“But the Jews answered him, ‘We have a law and according to that law, he ought to die because he claimed to be the son of God.'”

Pastor Bill Peake:
“Now, when pilot heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ but Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, ‘Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and the power to crucify you?'”

Pastor Bill Peake:
“Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no power, none over me, unless it had been given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin,” and from that moment on, Pilate tried to release him but the Jews cried out, ‘If you this man, you’re no friend of the emperor, for everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.'”

Pastor Bill Peake:
“And when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s fence at a place called The Stone Pavement or in Hebrew Gabbatha.”

Pastor Bill Peake:
“Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover and it was about noon and so he said to the Jews, ‘Here is your king,’ and they cried out, ‘Away with him. Away with him. Crucify him.’ And Pilate asked, ‘Shall I crucify your king?'”

Pastor Bill Peake:
“And the chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’ And then pilot handed him over to them to be crucified.”

Pastor Bill Peake:
Here ends the reading of God’s word for us this morning.

Pastor Bill Peake:
Lord, God, speak to us, your people.

Pastor Bill Peake:
I shared with Pastor James in preparation of this morning, knowing that we had communion, that time was of the essence. We’ve all been in church services that went on and on and on and I didn’t want to subject you to that. But years ago in the early nineties, I had attended a conference in Pauling, New York. One of the speakers was a community college speaker, a devout Christian man, who over coffee, looked at me and said, “Don’t you ever preach another sermon in your life.” Said, “People don’t remember sermons.” Look at your own memory banks. How many sermons do you remember of all the sermons you’ve heard over the years? What he told me was that people remember stories, so tell the people your story that gives glory to God. So that’s what I intended to share with you this morning. Not a sermon, but a little bit of my story.

Pastor Bill Peake:
Now we know the big story all too well, the very voices that shouted, “Hosanna,” on Sunday morning, by Friday afternoon changed their tune to, “Crucify him.” How fickle are our loyalties, our priorities. That problem is real for us in 2022, when our wants don’t always jive with God’s plans for you and for me. How do you decide?

Pastor Bill Peake:
Every Sunday school child knows that the answer to every question that every pastor could answer is Jesus. One little child was asked because he was antsy in his seat, said, “Do you have to go to the bathroom, Jimmy?”

Pastor Bill Peake:
He didn’t even listen. He just said, “Jesus.”

Pastor Bill Peake:
The answer seems easy. We should go with God’s flow, not with our plans. But our lesson has a mob pitting loyalty to Caesar, to the emperor, against loyalty what ultimately is righteous, good, true, God. If you listen to the popular arguments that we all hear, it’s a question of right over wrong. It’s a question of good over bad. Even as children, we saw cartoons where when a person reached a crossroads, you had an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other shoulder and they were both whispering were in your ears, and you had to decide what to do.

Pastor Bill Peake:
Do you remember the movie, The Wizard of Oz? I remember my dad telling me when he saw it as a young man, before Dorothy left Kansas and entered into Munchkinland, everything in that movie was black and white. Even the decisions she made were black and white, right and wrong. But as soon as that house toppled from Kansas into this land of Oz, all of a sudden there was color. That was the first time in cinematic history that that occurred. Things get a little bit complicated when we don’t live in a black and white world, because we know that the world isn’t just one way or the other.

Pastor Bill Peake:
Pilate said, “I find no fault to this man,” but the crowd called him a traitor to his government if he failed to crucify him. I’d like to think we don’t live there anymore but the tug of war in our dear old Reformed Church, and I see it here in Minnesota, as the stated clerk of your classis of churches, some bolting for the door and others deciding to stay with our old Reformed Church. It’s all very real.

Pastor Bill Peake:
So cherishing both and in this either or world, it’s very real, very contemporary. The best in our ancestors, yours and mine, knew that you could be a loyal citizen and a person of faith, a Christian, even here in the sanctuary of Peace Church, like so many other churches in your sanctuary, and I’ll avoid all the wires, we have the Stars and Stripes on one side of your sanctuary. Your sons and daughters have signed up in the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marines, the National Guard, and have worn the uniform of that country, our country, but it’s not my country right or wrong because on the other side of the sanctuary we have another flag. It also is red, white, and blue, but it bears the cross of Christ. Our heritage tells us that we can be good citizens and good Christians.

Pastor Bill Peake:
This gets personal for me and this morning, I’d like to tell you why. My family, the Peakes, lived on the Hudson River Valley in upstate New York, since the 1600s. The Stockade section of Schenectady, New York, my hometown, was where my Father’s ancestors attended worship at First Reformed Church. Now my grandpa was not a churchman by any stretch of the imagination. My grandmother was an immigrant who had been crippled in England and made her way to the United States because her doctor said the sea voyage would probably be good for her. They weren’t supposed to have any children, but as happens in so many families along comes my father. He was an only child and while Grandma wasn’t able to go to church and Grandpa didn’t want to go, good old Bill Senior was nudged along and went to church.

Pastor Bill Peake:
The young pastor of that church, knowing our family situation, took dad under his wing. That minister was the Reverend Dr. Clark Polling. He was my dad’s scout master. When there were father son banquets at the church, Clark would have my dad sit next to him. He was my father’s male role model, but one fateful day in December, that world changed. It was a Sunday, December 7th, 1941. It was more than a day that President Roosevelt called, “A day that would live in infamy.” Pearl Harbor meant that so many rushed to enlist and among that crowd was the young Reverend Clark Polling.

Pastor Bill Peake:
He became a chaplain in the US army and fresh out of his training, he and other pastors who had experienced the same call of God, boarded a troop ship, a converted passenger liner, the United States Army Transport Dorchester, and they were on their way to England to be a part of the European theater. But off the shore of Greenland, a U-boat had been tracking them and aimed a torpedo, and hit that boat, hit that ship, and it began to sink.

Pastor Bill Peake:
Now it was a new conversion so there weren’t enough life boats, there weren’t enough life preservers, and so these four chaplains tried to calm the hearts of these very upset new recruits. They guided them to the life boats and when the life preservers ran out, they took the ones off of their own necks and put them around these recruits. Now there was a Methodist, there was a Catholic, there was a Jewish rabbi, and there was Reform Church in America, Clark Polling. The Methodist didn’t look for a Methodist, the Jew didn’t look for a Jew, the Catholic didn’t look for a Catholic, and Clark didn’t look for another RCA. They gave them up to those in need. One of the survivors recalled the last they saw of those four chaplains as the ship was giving way to the north Atlantic was as they all knelt on the deck of that ship, arms wrapped around one another, praying in their own way, until they went to their watery graves.

Pastor Bill Peake:
My father relayed that story teary-eyed to me as a young boy and it so moved him that when my dad grew up, he joined the Navy in hopes that he might sail over the same sea that claimed his friend and his hero. Years later when I felt the call of God on my life to enter ministry, it was into this old Dutch Reformed Church where I found my service to God and his people for the last 42 years.

Pastor Bill Peake:
But friends, it would not have happened for my dad or for myself, unless one man of faith put on the uniform of his country and lived with the integrity of that faith and that patriotism until his very last breath. Those four chaplains are honored every February 3, the anniversary of the date that the Dorchester went down. They were a witness that God and country need not be at odds. The best in one calls forth the best in other and it’s a two way street. Today in the scripture we read, with the crowds and Pilate, in the center of worship, those things call out to us. The very last day of our savior’s life calls to every one of us this morning that there is a faithfulness, there is an integrity, there is a hope when instead of either or, we choose both and.

Pastor Bill Peake:
Now it’s not easy. It wasn’t for Reverend Polling, nor is it easy for us. If you remember anything from this morning’s worship, I hope it’ll be this. That when your conservative friends think you’re way too liberal and when your liberal friends think you’re way too conservative, take heart, because that’s exactly where Jesus stood. But it’s not easy and if you dare think that it is, remember what they did to Jesus.

Pastor Bill Peake:
Yet when the last word is spoken and the last battle is fought, God and those who live His way, end up standing and standing victorious. Today that same Jesus whom your ancestors worshiped, who walked this earth as you and I do today, that same Jesus wants to feed you, to nurture you, both you and me for the hard times that our faithfulness brings so I invite you to come to this table for all things there are now ready for you. Let us pray.

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