Friday, August 01, 2008

Running from the past: Breakfast with Jesus VII

An Easter sermon from John 21: part VII
In the presence of the gracious and risen Jesus, Simon Peter is able to recognise himself as betrayer and to acknowledge the past that he can’t escape. Jesus’ forgiveness takes the form of an invitation, a summons, to re-enter the life of loving service that he had fallen from. Not to just go back as if it never happened, but to learn from that past and grow into the ongoing purposes of God for his future.

“Simon has to recognise himself as betrayer: that is part of the past that makes him who he is. If he is to be called again, if he can again become a true apostle, the ‘Peter’ that he is in the purpose of Jesus rather than the Simon who runs back into the cosy obscurity of ‘ordinary’ life, his failure must be assimilated, lived through again and brought to good and not to destructive issue. [...] Simon is still, in the eyes of God, Peter. What he has to learn is that his betrayal does not make God betray, so that his calling as Peter, as rock of the apostolic faith, is still there, waiting to be lived out.”

- Rowan Williams, Resurrection, 28-29.

Jesus won’t let him return to the anaesthetised pain of being a failed apostle; instead, he calls him to move forward, to say “yes, I failed, but in God’s creative grace, that very failure can become something the start of something beautiful and worthwhile.”
“Peter’s fellowship with the Lord is not over, not ruined, it still exists and is alive because Jesus invites him to explore it further. […] To know that Jesus still invites is to know that he accepts, forgives, bears and absorbs the hurt done.”

- Rowan Williams, Resurrection, 30.

Peter’s personal story of initial hope and promise, followed by betrayal and emptiness, is to have a further chapter: a new and deeper calling as forgiven apostle; as a rock that has been broken and re-made. He is now able to be not simply Simon the failure nor Peter the unshakable apostle, but Simon Peter, the preacher of our second reading in Acts, the preacher of a forgiveness and divine love that takes us where we are and uses us and all of our history, if we will only bring it all before the loving scrutiny of Jesus. He will still make mistakes, even serious ones (you can read about one of them in Galatians 2), but the risen Jesus makes it possible for us to face failure.
Series: I; II: III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII; IX.