Category Archives: 2013-05

Pastor’s Pen for May, 2013

He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the 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.  (John 21.17) Nobody likes to have their loyalty questioned.  Peter had denied that he knew Jesus three times after Jesus' arrest.  Although Jesus had predicted Peter's denial, Peter didn't believe that he would ever do such a thing.  When he realized what he'd done, he was devastated.  His image of himself as good person and loyal friend had been shattered.  His instinct for self-preservation stood in sharp contrast to Jesus' own sacrificial love for him.  He couldn't explain to himself, let alone to anyone else, how he could have been such a coward in the face of danger.  He couldn't forgive himself.  He couldn't face himself in the mirror.  No wonder he wanted to go fishing again, and try to take his mind off this horrible moment of weakness! But even as he desperately wanted to forget about what he had done, the Risen Lord seeks him out and forces him to confront the fact that their relationship has some unfinished business.  Three times Jesus asks him directly:  "Do you love me?"  Each time, we can feel Peter shudder, as if he himself is being nailed to a cross.  And each time he professes his love, Jesus invites him to embrace the task that will define the remainder of his life.  Three difficult, painful questions, and three love-filled expressions of Jesus' unwavering forgiveness and love.  Not even Peter's betrayal of Jesus' trust could diminish Jesus' confidence in the person he could become. But Jesus was asking Peter for more than just a verbal pledge of loyalty.  He was asking Peter to act in a new way.  He was asking a fisherman to become a shepherd.  He was asking an incompetent follower to now become a leader.  He was asking someone who had failed repeatedly to not give up, but to try one more time. And he did it.  He accepted the pain of his previous failures as the necessary preparation for the ministry that Jesus wanted him to fulfill.  It was his own brokenness that made him capable of becoming the kind of merciful, compassionate caregiver that Jesus required. And so it is for us.  Our past failures and inadequacies don't disqualify us for Jesus' service, but are exactly the things that make us sensitive enough to minister to others with similar wounds.  Although we may have given up on ourselves, Jesus hasn't.  He forces us to look him in the eye, to see reflected there our own deepest sorrows, and to find the love that transforms it into a ministerial asset. Jesus doesn't call us because of our successes, but because in our failures lie the seeds of new life that he can bring to birth.  He can find in the dirt that clings to each of our souls the perfect soil for the garden that he desperately wants to plant.  And as we all know, the world can never have too many fruits and vegetables and flowers! -- Duane