May – Compassion and Reconciliation
To Mary, the Resurrected Jesus has offered compassion and reconciliation. To the fearful disciples, he has offered peace and the Holy Spirit. Next he appears to the disciples and then to over one hundred and fifty other followers. Finally, Jesus confronts Simon Peter at daybreak on a beach. Simon Peter who was the most determined, the most passionate, the most certain of all disciples. Simon Peter who, when the time came, denied ever even knowing Jesus. And Jesus, reaches out to acknowledge Peter’s threefold denial with a threefold question “do you love me?”.
Jesus’ questions are asked with the agape form of love (divine, self-giving) while Peter can only respond with the phile or brotherly/friendly love. This poignant scene shows that Simon Peter’s failures are acknowledged, he is loved and reconciled with Jesus even though he still fails to understand fully. Here at the end of all things, Peter (and we) are still broken; and yet we are still loved and sent in mission.
We are called into mission and into our vocation as followers of Jesus, even as we remain works in progress. Love never ends.
Even in our rapidly changing culture, the words of this psalm hold a strong place in many people’s lives. At almost every funeral that I have conducted for non-regular church goers, this psalm has been requested. For whatever reason, these words retain a foot hold in our cultural lexicon.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me.” (verse 4).
Our desire to be acknowledged, to be accompanied, and to be journeyed with remains central for everyone. Especially in a culture that avoids speaking of death and dying. Regardless of people’s language around God or relationship with the church, we all need companions on the way. Just as we sing these words of comfort, may we also sing them as a charge to live by.
Who have been those people who walked with you through the darkest vales of your life?
As Jesus nears the end of his earthly ministry, he offers the church some deceptively hard truths. “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
What could be more all-encompassing and more natural than seeking to love one another? Except that Jesus asks us to do so in the same way that he has. Love is not what we feel, it is what we have seen in Jesus. And what we have just seen is Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. Jesus offering this intimate symbol of service even in the face of betrayal and denial. Love, even when it doesn’t feel good or reap us reward.
To be the church is to be in community with a wide range of people, some of who we like and some who we struggle to be with. It is not enough to tolerate one another.
How do you seek to be church even with people who you do not like?
“My peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you”
I suspect I use the phrase “peace” far too often – liturgically, as an email sign off, and as a catch all wish ‘peace be with you’.
Even more so when I read passages like this one and John 20. Here in his farewell speech, and then again in his first resurrection encounter with the disciples, Jesus gifts them with “my peace be with you”. It rolls off the tongue so easily. And yet the more I ponder the peace of Christ, the more I am drawn to the challenge and terror that it brings. The peace of Christ overthrows my expectations, calls me into new life, and will not let me rest easily in the comfortable ways of the world. Throughout Easter we have seen where this “peace of Christ” led Jesus.
And yet it is the peace that reconciles the world, even as it overthrows it; comforts us in love as it asks us to leave behind our old ways.
These lectionary reflections were prepared by Rev. Andrew Johnson, Hope Uniting Church Maroubra and Uniting Church Chaplain UNSW.