Friday, June 10, 2011

"Do not try to excuse your faults; try to correct them."

“Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave.”--St. John Chrysostom an Easter sermon

Gospel text (Jn 21,15-19):
After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

There are just two charcoal fires in the whole Bible, and they are both in the Gospel of John. The first is mentioned at John 18:18, the charcoal fire in the high priest’s courtyard around which the slaves and guards warmed themselves when the gatekeeper says to Peter, “You are not one of this man’s disciples are you?” and Peter says, “I am not.” Questioned like that two more times, Peter, now warming himself at the same fire, denies being a disciple of Jesus two more times.

The second charcoal fire is the one on the shore of the Sea of Tiberius (the Sea of Galilee, renamed for the current emperor), apparently prepared by the risen Lord Jesus (21:9), which sets the scene for today’s Gospel reading, where the same Peter is questioned three times by Jesus, “Do you love me?” and the disciple now affirms his allegiance three times. So in one place a charcoal fire is the setting for a threefold denial of discipleship, and in the other place a charcoal fire is the setting for a threefold affirmation of discipleship. A coincidence? I think not.

Today’s Gospel reading is a reminder for me that my life is not my own. I have always found this to be a very profound passage. When Jesus tells Peter that he will be carried away in old age, to death, it always makes me stop. This is really big. Jesus asked Peter three times to say that he loved him, and then, he tells him this. Peter must be wondering exactly what that means.

To me, this is very impressive. Peter now knows that if he sticks with Jesus, his life will not end well. And yet, Peter does preach the message of salvation through Jesus even though he knows the cost with absolute certainty. This passage reminds me to be listening for what God wants from me in my life, because my life ultimately is not mine, but his. I must learn to love him so deeply that even death cannot scare me away from sharing what I know with the world. Peter, because he had this kind of love for Jesus, did feed the lambs, tend the sheep, and feed the sheep, because Jesus asked him to. It was as simple as that.

Now, we all know that Peter wasn’t perfect—he denied Jesus three times before his death, and after the resurrection he bickered with Paul about how to preach the good news, but that isn’t what is important here. What is important in this passage is that he followed the Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)

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