The Screamin’ Lucy

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For the four weeks leading up to and going beyond Easter, we’re looking at the life of Peter.  Because he’s so often at the center of both the brightest and darkest moments in the Gospels, he has always been a source of hope and inspiration for those endeavoring to follow Jesus.

One minute, Peter’s on top of the world.
He’s correctly identified Jesus as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah and been told that he will somehow be the bedrock on which Jesus will build his church. 
Three verses later, disaster.  The same Jesus who called him “Rock” now calls him “Satan” and “stumbling block.”
Peter got the Messiah part right.  But what kind of Messiah was Jesus going to be?  It turns out to be a hard lesson for Peter and remains a confounding issue for almost all of Jesus’ followers today. 

Before we dive tomorrow into the particulars of Jesus’ rebuke, let’s revisit a story told by author and comic Bob Stromberg, who recalls the time when he and his two best friends, Mark and David, were dreaming the dream of all 10-year-old boys:  the possibility of getting a brand-new bike. 
Bobby, Mark, and David were all in Mark’s garage, their local “clubhouse,” leafing through the pages of the latest Sears & Roebuck catalog.  Here, in Stromberg’s words, is what happened next:
We turned a page and saw it.  It had high, silver handlebars; a long, white vinyl banana seat; a large, black, knobby back tire, and green sparkle finish.  It was called “The Screamin’ Lucy.”  None of us had ever seen such a bike.
Standing on the pedals in a racing position, staring right out of the picture, was a laughing, happy boy about our age, who looked as if he could have been one of us except he was really clean. 

Coming out of his mouth past his gleaming teeth was a big cartoon bubble with the words, “Hey, guys!  Imagine having one of these!”  Well, he didn’t have to suggest that, because we already had imagined it, and we liked the idea.  It was the most beautiful bike we had ever seen, and it was expensive!  In fact, only one bike in the whole catalog cost more, but it wasn’t nearly as flashy.
Instead of the high, silver handlebars, this other bike had little, curly ones that went the wrong way.  Instead of the long, white vinyl banana seat, this other bike had a little, black sliver of a thing that looked as though it would be pretty uncomfortable to sit on for a long period of time.  Instead of the fat, black, knobby tire, this other bike had a little, skinny tube that looked as if it would be pretty hard to balance on. 

And instead of green sparkles, this other bike was just blue.  It was called “The Blue Flyer,” and though it was much more expensive, we all agreed it was not nearly as flashy.
That’s when Mark came up with an idea.  What if the three boys all approached their parents and asked if they could get a Screamin’ Lucy for their birthdays? 

Incredibly, these best friends had been born on consecutive days:  June 1, June 2, and June 3.  Bobby asked his parents, but times were tight.  “Well, son…we’ll see,” said his dad.
When June 1 arrived the three boys gathered at Mark’s house for his birthday party.  Stromberg recalls that they ate hot dogs, Kraft macaroni and cheese, and cake.  During the opening of presents, the tension was palpable.  Just when it seemed that every gift had been presented, Mark’s parents produced one last, large box.  Inside was a Screamin’ Lucy. 

The boys went wild, but Mark didn’t ride his new bike that day.  They agreed that no one would ride until they all had a Screamin’ Lucy, and they could ride together.
The next day it was David’s turn.  The boys gathered for hot dogs, Kraft macaroni and cheese, and cake.  When all the preliminary gifts had been opened, David’s dad produced an enormous box and said, “OK, buddy, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for.”  As David tore open the box the three boys could see the knobby back tire, the banana seat, and the green sparkle finish:  a Screamin’ Lucy!  Two down, one to go.
On June 3 Bobby Stromberg was a nervous wreck.  He had looked all over his house and found no large boxes.  A lump was forming in his throat as the last present was opened…when his dad suddenly appeared with an enormous wrapped package, and a look of excitement that rivaled his own.  “Go ahead, son, open it up!”
Bobby ripped open the back of the box, and the first thing he saw was a thin, black tire.  Then he saw a little black sliver of a seat that looked as though it would be difficult to sit on for a while.  Instead of green sparkles all he saw was blue. 

While his parents smiled and waited for his response, the truth broke upon Bobby the way a thunderstorm descends upon a picnic:  His parents had bought him a Blue Flyer.
Like good friends, Mark and David did their best to pretend they were envious.  “Boy, what I wouldn’t give for a bike like that!” said Mark.  But Mr. Stromberg could see through their acting.  “Son, if you would like to trade this bike in for another one, well, I suppose we could do that.”  Stromberg recalls:
I wanted so badly to say yes.  I wanted to throw my arms into the air and shout, “Yes, yes, yes!”  But I couldn’t, not after I knew my parents had spent so much for me.  They had bought me the most expensive bike in the whole Sears & Roebuck Catalog. 

“No, Dad,” I said, forcing my face to cooperate.  “I really, really like the Blue Flyer.  I just really like it.  What can I say?  I mean, it’s just really…blue.”
The rest of that summer Mark and David joyfully pedaled their Screamin’ Lucys, while Bobby did everything in his power just to get his feet to reach the pedals of his Blue Flyer.  But then a strange thing happened.  The chain guards began to rattle on the Screamin’ Lucys.  Then they fell off.  The vinyl banana seats cracked and peeled after they had been out in the hot sun, and the green sparkle color gradually began to fade after a few summer rains. 

By the end of the second summer both Mark and David, with unceremonious heaves, had tossed their Screamin’ Lucys onto the local dump, the final refuge of scrap metal disappointments.
But Stromberg’s Blue Flyer is in mint condition to this day.  It’s hanging in his dad’s garage.

Stromberg once told his bicycle story as a Palm Sunday children’s sermon.  He said to the kids, “The people waving palm branches expected to see a great, conquering hero.  But do you know what Jesus was riding when he came into town?” 

Every voice said in unison, “A Blue Flyer!” 
“That’s not exactly what I had in mind,” said Bob, “but do you know what’s hanging in my father’s garage right now?” 

One little boy shouted boldly, “A donkey!”
Bob Stromberg came to realize that his father had vastly greater wisdom about bicycles and life.  In the same way, God’s best gifts are not flashy ones.  They are gifts that last.

You might say that Peter, who belonged to a nation yearning for deliverance from its military and political enemies, was looking for a king with a silver crown and green sparkle robes.  But instead of receiving the king they asked for, they were presented with the King that they actually needed.

That’s the lesson Peter has to learn – and a lesson we have to learn, too. 

From the catalog of “kings” that have always been available to humanity, God cared enough to send the very best.