Scripture: John 21:15-19 (NRSV)
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?' He said to him, 'Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed my lambs.' A second time he said to him, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' He said to him, 'Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Tend my sheep.' 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. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.' (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, 'Follow me.'
Scripture: Acts 9:17-19(NRSV)
So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.' And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
"Are we there yet?" Do you remember asking that question when you were a kid, or maybe when you were an adult? Imagine if you will, Jesus riding with us in 2016 and frustrated by what he is seeing in the world and asking us as he asked Peter almost 2000 years ago, "Do you love me?" Please "Feed my sheep and follow me."
I remember wrestling with this passage when I was seeking ordination and working on my profile. This passage summarized what I was feeling at the time: I had done my training and learned many "techniques" about how to do ministry, and yet knew there was more. I saw how Jesus was offering deeper wisdom in an enigmatic way and tried to imagine what Peter and the other disciples felt like when they heard Jesus asking that simple question three times, "Do you love me?" Imagine their consternation and their response, "After all that we have been through with you, how can you ask that question?" Jesus was very intentional in this precious interaction with his beloved disciples, changing the Greek word for love each time: from brotherly love, filial, to the more intimate word, eros, and closing with the profound word, agape, meaning unconditional and forgiving love. I sure wish I could've seen what Peter might have written in a journal that night.
We learn how Paul was trying to answer his call to God, but had not grasped the transformation that God was initiating through Jesus; from requiring obedience to the law into the huge shift of forgiving love, calling us to 'feed his sheep" not use others for our own gain or glory. Paul wasn't heeding the more subtle calls to make this change and thus was knocked off his horse and blinded so that he would be brought to a moment of hearing the new vision; becoming one of the greatest apostles of this message "to love one another" and "feed Christ's sheep." He helped spread the word to get us closer to that vision.
Easter has come again. "Are we there yet?"
Let's say 'yes' and help feed Christ's sheep.
Holy and gracious God, we pause in the busy-ness of our lives and hear you calling to follow Jesus' voice and to feed and tend his sheep. Lord, it's so easy to be deaf to your voice over the clamor of our own needs and other activities. Pour your Spirit upon us and empower us to stop and listen; enable us to hear you and follow and make real your ways of agape love in 2016, for so many are hungry for your word and love.
Interim Pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC in Westbrook, Connecticut