Tag Archives: Peter

Gospel Reflection for August 13, 2017, 19th Sunday Ordinary Time

8 Aug

Scripture readings: 1 Kings 19.9,11-13; Romans 9.1-5; Matthew 14.22-33

“Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened. Beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his had and caught him.” – Matthew 14.29-30

This gospel reflects Christians struggles in the A.D. 80s between the experience of having Jesus among them in the flesh and the promise of his risen presence. How does Jesus continue with the community?

Peter puts Jesus to a test. He requests a miracle. “If this is really you, command me to come to you on the water.”  This if statement repeats the bystanders’ taunts to Jesus on the cross–“If you are the messiah, save yourself.”

Jesus quickly says, “Come.” The scene invites faith. It suggests the journeys of early Christians to baptism. An early Christian baptistry at Dura-Europa in Syria has this scene painted on its wall above a baptismal pool (A.D. 250).

Stepping into the water and the future requires faith for Peter and for all of us who follow. Boldly Peter steps our of the boat, outside the comfortable circle of disciples and friends in the boat. Immediately strong head winds and great waves take his attention off Jesus and fill him with fear and terror. As he falters, Peter cries out to Jesus, who saves him.

Where are you in over your head and faltering?  What do you cry out for?


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Restoring Peace

5 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Carolina Ponce

Photo via Flickr user Carolina Ponce

The disciples were fishing, and a man on the shore told them to throw their net to the other side of the boat.”It is the Lord,” one said to Peter. It was the third time Jesus appeared to his friends after the resurrection in John. Although Peter had not initially recognized Jesus, he jumped into the water to swim to shore. While the others stayed in the boat, Peter’s love for Jesus could not be contained.

The time between Jesus’ death and ascension is blessed, heavy with holiness and wonder. In these interactions, Jesus is teaching us a great deal about peace and reconciliation, which seems to be his focus in that middle time. “Peace. Peace be with you. My peace I give you,” he says as a greeting. It is done. In his death and resurrection, peace is possible. Now the disciples have to take that peace and make it real in the world.

In his life, death and resurrection, Jesus is a master healer. His healing brings restoration and transformation. It leaves the broken not only whole, but stronger. It is a ministry of true reconciliation. The scene that follows Peter’s endearing swim to meet Jesus is another example of the heart of Jesus’ ministry.

First, they eat. This is no small gesture. Imagine if we really took the time to sit down and share a meal with people we are working with, living among, and loving before launching into the business at hand. Then, after connecting to his friend, listening and laughing, he asks,”Peter, do you love me?”

“You know that I love you.”

“Peter, do you love me?”

“Lord, you know that I love you.”

A third time, “Peter, do you love me?”

It would have been easy for Jesus to assume Peter understood what the resurrection meant– that he was forgiven, that he was filled with Christ’s peace. Jesus creates an intimate moment between friends so that Peter will claim his freedom. Jesus asks not once, but three times. Peter is reminded of his own brokenness and thrice betrayal in the same moment he is released from it. He is free to take on the peace of Christ and spread it to the world.

This “Do you love me?/Lord, you know that I love you” refrain has been echoing in my head for a few days. It is Jesus intimately and tenderly taking my hand, helping me face my brokenness and claim Christ’s forgiveness and peace so that I too may engage in the ever-important work of reconciliation in our broken world. The peace of restoration– that same peace Jesus showed lepers and adulterers and his good friend Peter– is being given to us to claim and share.

Gospel Reflection for April 10, 2016, 3rd Sunday of Easter

7 Apr
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Sunday Readings: Acts 5.27-32, 40-41; Revelation 5.11-14; John 21.1-19

“Peter felt hurt because Jesus said to him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.'”

(John 21.19)

Peter and several of Jesus’ disciples make a big catch of fish by following Jesus’ directions to cast their nets to the starboard side. After the catch and breakfast together, the risen Jesus takes Peter aside to untangle their relationship. Jesus begins the conversation by asking if Peter loves him more than the other disciples. As a response to Peter’s threefold protestations of his love, Jesus gives him three commands: Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. This pastoral work will season Peter. He will show his love by nourishing and caring for Jesus’ followers, by taking responsibility for the well-being of the community. His duty is to keep sheep in the love that Jesus taught them, the love Jesus demonstrated in laying down his life for the flock. He is to feed, tend, and love the community, not lord it over the flock.

With whom do you need to have a reconciling, untangling conversation?

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Gospel Reflection for February 7, 2016, 5th Sunday Ordinary Time

2 Feb

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 6.1-8; 1 Corinthians 15.1-11; Luke 5.1-11

“Simon put out his nets and caught so many fish that the nets began to break.”

(Luke 5.6)

Peter fishes all night without success. A miraculous catch of fish follows the next day in response to Jesus’ charge to put out into the deep water. The two fishing expeditions express a contrast in the history of the first century church. Fewer Jews follow Jesus than the great numbers of Gentiles that join the Christian communities around the Mediterranean Sea. Two boat loads overflow with believers in Luke’s story. The response of Gentiles has surprised Peter and Paul in the same way the great catch surprises Peter in this story.

What attracts new believers to the gospel today?

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Gospel Reflection for September 13, 2015, 24th Sunday Ordinary Time

9 Sep
Photo via Flickr user *Nom *Malc

Photo via Flickr user *Nom & Malc

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 50.5-9; James 2.14-18; Mark 8.27-35

“Who do you say that I am?”

(Mark 8.29)

Mark’s gospel explores how the faith of Jesus’ disciples matures.  For all of us faith develops across the life cycle.  As children, our brains limit our understanding.  As adolescents, we share the faith  of our families, neighbors, and the church in which we grow up.  As adults, some of us never examine the faith we receive.

Peter professes Jesus is the Messiah in answer to the question, “Who do you say that I am?”  But when Jesus predicts his suffering and death, Peter objects and clings to his received idea that the Messiah will be a great warrior who restores Israel as a nation.  Only Jesus’ death destroys Peter’s idea.  His resurrection radically transforms his disciples’ understanding.

Ultimately faith transforms us into the one we follow.  For Mark, faith is a transforming lifelong practice, not just an idea.

How do you respond to Jesus’ question?

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We Are Only Human: An Odd Comfort

9 Apr

There are three scenes in this Sunday’s Gospel that give me an odd sort of comfort. The first scene takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus has gone to pray. We are not told this explicitly, but I get the sense that Jesus just needed to get away from it all at this moment, to be alone, to pray to God before facing what he was about to face. Jesus is honest with his disciplines, explaining to them that his “soul is sorrowful even to death.” Addressing God as Father, a term that was unusual for Jews to use during Jesus’ time, which indicates Jesus’ intimate relationship with God, Jesus prays, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus first asks to be spared, but then in the next breath reaffirms his trust in God, indicating his willingness to follow God’s will and not his own.

via flickr user Solle

via flickr user Solle

This is a Jesus that I can relate to; this is a Jesus I know is there. At the times in my life when I have felt deep sorrow, the sort of sorrow that feels as if it will swallow you whole, I have felt the irresistible urge to be in contact with the ground. Prostrate on the floor, I have cried and prayed, prayed and cried, imagining that Jesus, too, once knelt on the ground in Gethsemane, in touch with the dust out of which human beings are formed and into which they will return. Of course, this does not take away the sorrow, but it helps somehow to know that Jesus felt something similar. It helps somehow to know that even for Jesus is was not always easy to follow God’s will. This Jesus gives me permission to ask God if things might be another way, all the while encouraging me to trust in God.

The second scene is a familiar one involving Peter, who is milling about in the courtyard outside the high priests’ chamber, waiting, we can suppose, for the results of Jesus’ trial with the Sanhedrin. Despite his testimony earlier in the evening that he would never deny Jesus, Peter vehemently argues that he does not know Jesus to not just one, but three different groups of people who ask him if he was been with Jesus the Nazarene. (Interestingly, the first two people to whom Peter makes his denial are a servant woman and a girl, who, because of their social and gender status, likely would not have been in a position to do him harm had he affirmed his relationship with Jesus.)

Unfortunately, this is a disciple that I can relate to all too well. Luckily, I live in a time and a place where I do not have to deny having a relationship with Jesus if I am ever asked about it point blank. And yet I wonder how often my actions speak louder than any words ever could a denial of my identity as a Christian. How often do I fail to extend charity to those who need it most? How hard it is for me to include in my busy schedule time to work for justice and peace in my community? There is an odd sort of comfort in knowing that Peter, someone who actually knew and gave his life to follow Jesus, was not always up to following the call. And Peter’s response when the cock crows offers me a clue as to what I need to do when I realize the ways in which I have not lived as a disciple lives: take time to mourn.

The third scene takes place on the cross. As people are gambling for his garments and taunting him to save himself, Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Scripture scholars have spent much ink debating about this cry of Jesus on the cross. From my perspective, it is an authentic cry of anguish. Yes, we know that the end of the story is resurrection, but in that moment, Jesus felt abandoned, alone, angry. And in expressing those emotions, in yelling out to God, Jesus gives us permission to do the same. We are allowed to be angry with God, to yell at God when we do not understand. It is okay because God is God, and God can take it. And again, while this does not take away our anguish, we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus can commiserate with us because he experienced these very same human emotions. This Jesus is not one who shies away from the hard emotions in life. This is a Jesus who walks with us through the valleys of death.

These three scenes could be seen as dark and depressing. Maybe they are dark and depressing for someone who has never felt deep sorrow, deep anguish, deep doubt, or deep fear. But I have felt all these things, and knowing that Jesus felt them and that some of his closest followers felt them makes me feel less alone on my journey of faith. And perhaps most importantly, these three scenes remind me that it is okay to be human because that is what we are. I do not have to be perfect, and I am not expected to happily and unquestioningly follow God’s will. The journey of faith does not only encompass mountain top moments but also valleys of despair and doubt. And Jesus is not only with us looking out at the amazing vistas; he is with us most especially when we cannot see our way forward.

How To Claim Jesus Today

2 Apr

John 18: 1-27 tells the story of Judas betraying Jesus followed by Peter denying Jesus. Three time over, Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends and disciples denies that he knows Jesus. It was an intense scene that was escalating – Jesus was being questioned by the high priest and started being beaten by the police. To claim to know Jesus was to welcome trouble. Peter decided to avoid conflict by distancing himself from Jesus, the one in the center of the storm. “Nope, I don’t know him.”

I looked at this passage with a group of high school students. The young people identified with Peter.

“It’s way cooler to be an atheist than to believe in Jesus at my school,” one young man admitted. “A lot of the kids who say they are atheist don’t really know what that means. They just don’t want people to think they are religious and go to church.”

Another added, “Yeah, the vocal Christians at our school are homophobic, and that just isn’t cool. I don’t want to be grouped with those kids. It’s easier to pretend to not believe in Jesus at all.” (“Nope, I don’t know him.”)

Our context was public high schools in Minneapolis, but they also saw themes reflected on the national stage.

On March 20, Fred Phelps died. Phelps founded Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, in 1955. The church is most famous for picketing more than 53,000 events with signs that say things like, “God Hates Fags.” Phelps rose to national notoriety in 1998, when Westboro members picketed at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming man who was tortured and murdered because he was gay. He claimed natural and human-made disasters are God’s punishment for the acceptance of gay people and thought homosexuals should be put to death. His recent death brought his legacy back into the media. People responses were polarizing: silence, anger, sadness and joy.

On March 24th, World Vision announced it would begin to hire people in same-sex marriages. The announcement caused a backlash among conservative donors. On March 26th, World Vision reversed its decision. Richard Stearns asked donors who had pulled their funding to “forgive our poor judgment in the original decision. We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority.” The initial decision and the decision to reverse the policy was polarizing. Who is right? Who loses? What would Jesus say? The name calling, divisions and anger from all sides on social media were deafening.

In a recent post, Jon Huckins writes, “I’m not against healthy dialog, disagreement or even conflict. I’m actually quite for it. The mission of God is reconciliation and the vocation of God’s people, the Church. When we spend more time attacking each other rather than attacking the areas of brokenness in our world, we become a reflection of anti-kingdom.”

Today, Christianity is getting press for publicly fighting about gay marriage maybe more than any other thing. The high schoolers feel it. I feel it. And we were all a little sympathetic to Peter, who just wanted to side step the controversy through denying his love for Jesus altogether. What I heard from the students is a desire to exist in a world beyond black and white, beyond right and wrong, bigger than this one issue. They wanted to be able to claim their faith without being put in a constricting box. They want to change the discourse and ask a whole new set of questions that reflect the ministry of Jesus. Where some of their friends have given up, they are hanging on, but often in secret. Our work continues to be creating space for people to read the gospel together and form subversive community that are committed to the truth. To be brave, claim Jesus, and address the areas of brokenness in our world. To seek to know Jesus and be able to say, “Yep, I know him.” For Peter and for us, it’s hard work, it’s a little scary, but it’s also good.

 

On Fishing: An excerpt from Sunday by Sunday by Therese Sherlock, CSJ

11 Apr

My dad was a different man when he was fishing. If we dinged the car or hit a ball through a window, he would growl and shake his head as if to say, “How did I get such dumb kids?”

But on the Mississippi River things were different. We anchored in some backwater and casted for hours, waiting for the big catfish to find our night crawlers and swallow our hooks. Backwaters are quiet places with low-hanging trees. Many of my casts got caught in their leafy branches.

I expected Dad to be impatient with my lack of casting skill. But he wasn’t. Every time I snagged a tree, he motioned for me to haul up the anchor. Then he rowed over, patiently untangled the line, and retrieved my tackle and bait. He would be whistling, not growling. I loved those times together and was always amazed that he wanted us kids to go along.

Maybe the Mississippi was a sacrament of reconciliation for my dad. Maybe the quiet and the slow, gentle rituals of fishing let his heart ring with his love for us and gave him small but important ways to show that love.

I never drive the winding road down to where Dad kept his boat without grinning to myself because I can see him grinning at me, the girl who caught more trees than fish. I can see us fishing with all the time in the world to untangle our lines and our lives.

In Sunday’s gospel Peter goes fishing and the risen Jesus waits for him at the lakeshore. Why should I be surprised that this place is where they reconcile?

Our Suffering God

28 Mar

Our Suffering God by ELLIE ROSCHER

Christians claim that Jesus is simultaneously fully human and fully divine. This is a difficult concept to think about, a confusing notion to believe in. Many heresies in our Church’s history center around leaning away from the human/divine balance that Jesus carried in his being, some losing sight of his humanity and focusing too much on his divinity, some the opposite. Declaring that we believe that Jesus is fully human and fully divine is bold.

In the passion story, Jesus cries out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is a deeply human moment, where Jesus articulates that he is experiencing complete abandonment by God. Jesus is feeling totally fragmented from God even while he is divine. Yet it is in this very moment that he is God. God is a dying human, put on trial and crucified. This human plea of Jesus, this vulnerable pain of abandonment by his Father is so essential to our faith. We all, at times, feel that God has abandoned us. Yet maybe those are the moments when God is most near. If Jesus Christ himself felt utterly alone on the cross as a human, then God knows what that abandonment feels like. Jesus dies a painful, humiliating death as a full human being, as fully divine. God feels abandoned, God suffers, God dies, God resurrects.

It fills me with wonder and awe. Seeing Jesus cry out and die, knowing that he is God, these are challenging things to hold in our heads and hearts. It is hard to talk about, hard to know what to believe. No wonder Judas betrays Jesus, Peter denies Jesus, and Mary, Mary and Salome are too afraid to tell anyone that Jesus has risen. I know there are times in my life I have betrayed and denied Jesus. There have been times that I am too afraid to talk about what I believe. It is comforting to know that Jesus’ friends experienced the same thing.

When was a time you felt abandoned by God?

When was a time that God may have felt abandoned by you?

What are your favorite Gospel stories that you think highlight Jesus’ divinity?

What are your favorite Gospel stories that you think highlight Jesus’ humanity?

Today, who do you identify most with in the passion story: Judas, Peter, Mary, Simon, Pilate? Why?

 

 

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