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Saturday Evening Sermon

Via de Cristo Annual Meeting

July 27, 1996

Dallas, Texas

Preacher: (Rev.) C. Peter Setzer, D.D.

TEXT: LUKE 22:60-62: Peter said, "My friend, I do not know what you are talking about." Just as he was saying this, the rooster crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to them, "Before the rooster crows this day, you will deny me three times." He went out and began to weep bitterly.

A word often used in the past three days is "ULTREYA." As most of you know, the word is Spanish for "Upward and Onward," as in "Onward Christian Soldiers!" It is a word with a long and exuberant history.

In the middle ages, when pilgrimages were a common practice among Christians, this word was frequently used. These pilgrimages involved a group of Christians, sometimes a large percentage of a village, under the leadership of their priest, making a long journey, by foot, sometimes hundreds of miles to some religious shrine, where miracles were expected to occur. Worship services were held, preaching, praying, singing - all day revival services. People returned home from these pilgrimages renewed in faith, glowing with the new-found sense of the reality and power of God. Likely comparisons could be drawn to the Via de Cristo weekend, and its aftermath. On the long journey to and from the shrine, pilgrims grew weary and this is when people in the company would encourage each other with a shout, "ULTREYA!"

The cry is comparable to St. Paul's encouragement to Christians. Recalling how fatigued runners in a foot race could be encouraged to greater speed by the cheering of the audience, he said, "Seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to JESUS, the pioneer and perfector of our race." If any of us is growing weary from well-doing, the cares of the world dragging us down and wearing us out, look around you at this inspired and inspiring fellowship and persevere! Hang in there! "ULTREYA!"

Sometimes these early pilgrim travelers, as they walked, would sing, lifting their spirits. It is a common phenomenon known by anyone who has hiked 20 miles while singing "Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall!" If that can encourage under-age scouts, imagine what the "Chicken Song" could do for pilgrims! As a matter of fact, I am told that the song "DE COLORES" had its origins in such a walk through the country, an unplanned, forced march, somewhere in Spain, required when the Cursillo candidates' bus broke down on their way to the retreat. On their long walk, they observed the colorful fields, the birds and chickens chirping and scratching in farm-yards and such a cheerful song emerged from that experience, that it was passed down to succeeding generations of candidates. Most who hear it the first time regard it as patently absurd, but it has a strange way of growing on you as the weekend progresses. A key to its charm and its message is the ROOSTER, which has become a SYMBOL for CURSILLO worldwide. A rooster, traditionally, decorates our palanca bags, notes, pin-cushions, trays, place mats, magnets, plastic roosters in every shape, size and color.

What is the source of the Rooster's charm and the content of his message? Meditating on the ROOSTER of late, I share with you the following:

First of all, the ROOSTER is the most colorful domestic creature on earth. (That's a write-down.) His luxuriant, multi-colored plumage puts all the other barnyard animals to shame. If we're going to sing, "DE COLORES," "ALL IN COLOR," we could hardly improve on the rooster as our mascot. A celebration of COLOR is the natural response of the person whose eyes have been freshly opened to the richness of God's Grace. Most people live in a black and white world, as before the days of technicolor movies or color TV. What they see is drab, dull and uninspiring. The world without Christ sits in darkness and gloom, enslaved in sin, and self-pre-occupation, subject to the demons of fear, guilt and hostility. But those whose eyes have opened to BEHOLD the sparkling wonder of God's GRACE move in a world as dazzling as stained glass windows. At night they are without color or meaning, but when the SUN shines through, what beauty they show, and what a story they tell! So with us, when the SON of God shines through, we're ALL cast in LIVING COLOR, and splendid as any ROOSTER that ever crowed over a barnyard! "ULTREYA!," cries the rooster, "Upward and onward!"

Second, the ROOSTER is "the RAINBOW BIRD." With many roosters, when the light of the sun shines on the feathers at a particular angle, the feathers become iridescent, glowing with every color of the rainbow! And RAINBOWS are another symbol of Via de Cristo. Why? Because rainbows are full of color, every color in the spectrum, indicating the FULL RANGE of God's Amazing Grace! The rainbow is God's gift to humanity, an eternal promise that He'll never again flood the whole earth. It's a divine promise of PATIENCE and DELIVERANCE. So, the ROOSTER reminds us of God's PROMISE, as we have occasionally seen it arching gloriously across the sky, "ULTREYA!" Don't lose heart! God is looking after His people!

Third, the ROOSTER is the HERALD of the NEW DAY! He is the first barnyard creature up in the morning. At the crack of dawn, around 4:30 a.m., he does what he has done with distinction for thousands of years, serving as the farmer's alarm clock! Although it is pitch dark when he begins, the gifted rooster never fails to accurately prophesy that night is almost over. "Sings the rooster, sings the rooster with his quiri, quiri, quiri, quiri, quiri!" Well, that version of the rooster's crow hardly does him justice. "Quiri, quiri?" Turning his head to the East, he stretches his neck to full length and lets fly with an explosion of sound, that snaps awake every critter within a half-mile: "Urr, ur ur urrrrrrrrrrrr!" What creature on God's earth celebrates the divine gift of another day so enthusiastically and regularly? If you've ever lived in the country, you know how the first rooster's crow sets off a response elsewhere, a chain reaction, as he is followed immediately by other roosters up and down the valley, "passing it on," filling the morning air with a world-wide welcome to the RISING SUN. Christians are called to a similar task. To be heralds of the RISEN SON, CELEBRATERS of the NEW Day! Pilgrims call it "FOURTH DAY." We are not children of darkness, hiding in the shadows of death and gloom and sin. The darkness has been scattered by the COMING OF JESUS CHRIST! Now that's something to crow about! God has triumphed through the Cross! From Morning Offering to apostolic action, that is exactly our aim. "The world needs to know the Lord of Love has come to us." We're inspired to "PASS IT ON!" ULTREYA! "Upward and Onward!" The son has risen on a NEW DAY!

Fourth, the ROOSTER is a symbol of SPIRITUAL WATCHFULNESS. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told His disciples, "Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation." In spite of the warning, they were asleep again within the hour. So the band of soldiers, coming to arrest Jesus caught them off-guard and their Lord was captured. Then, a few hours later, around a campfire in the courtyard of Caiaphas, Simon Peter demonstrated he was still asleep, neither "watching," nor "praying" and the crow of the ROOSTER snapped him awake to recognize his repeated denials of His Master. So, the sight or the sound of a ROOSTER should likewise AWAKEN US, to brave loyalty and faithful witness to our Lord. "ULTREYA!" "Watch and Pray." "Upward and onward!"

Fifth, the ROOSTER is the perfect symbol of faithful family life. The Rollo entitled "Day in the Life" usually sends the Pilgrims scurrying home to hug their wives and children with new appreciation for their value. It's so easy to get so caught up in our work that we loose sight of those who are most important to us. The ROOSTER is an inexhaustible "FAMILY MAN." He is as ferocious as a Jersey bull toward any stranger who enters his domain and threatens his flock. Without hesitation, he'll charge, peck, spur, beat with his wings anything a hundred times his size to defend his family, and while he's doing so, his dutiful wife, the "cluck hen," is typically so single-mindedly determined to gather her frightened little "pio pios" under her wings, until danger has passed that Jesus himself used her as an image of how he grieves over the people of Jerusalem, and desires to gather them to His saving embrace. So look to your FAMILY! "ULTREYA!" "Upward and Onward" and carry your loved ones with you!

For these five reasons, perhaps, farmers in this country frequently mount on the tip top of their barn roofs WEATHERVANES shaped like a rooster. As the wind blows, the aerodynamics always force the rooster to face upwind. Beneath the rooster, on many weathervanes, are the words stamped on the iron so all can see, "God is Love." In the face of life's typical hardships, such a message needs to be seen, to encourage us pilgrims on our way. "GOD IS LOVE." A visitor to a Pennsylvania farm looked up at such a weathervane and quipped to the farmer: "Does that mean that God's LOVE is always changing and unpredictable, like the wind?" "NO," replied the faithful farmer, who had himself recently suffered great misfortune, "that means that God loves us, no matter which way the wind blows!" Here was a Christian WIDE AWAKE to the NEW DAY, assured that even when thick clouds blot out the light of the sun, above it the Sun still shines and the LOVE of God pierces through. What a grand message to encourage us on our pilgrimage to the FATHER. So respect the lowly ROOSTER and heed his message. "ULTREYA!" "Onward and Upward!" Lift high the cross. God is love!

Amen.

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