Peter at Sea on the Eighth Day

In a recent quiet day on Ash Wednesday at Trinity, Ambridge, I reflected on John 21, and in particular His interrogation of Peter. What if we take that passage as our starting place for ministry, namely our own incapacity and need of forgiveness. What if we can only be its witness to others as people in need of it ourselves? What if ministry begins with forgiveness, a meal with the risen Christ, and being sent out to suffering which Jesus, in the Gospel of John, consistently describes as 'glory'?
We preachers all know of times when our listeners heard things different from what we intended. Well, I had the opposite experience: a seminarian heard more than I said, and expressed it better! So I offer her poem for your own Lenten reflection.

Peter at Sea on the Eighth Day

By Deanna Briody

I have shown myself a servant
neither faithful nor good.
Forgive me, my master, my friend.
Hear my regret even as you lay dead,
bearing my betrayal in both feet, both hands,
   the ghosts of nails
   in your skin.
Know that I have returned to serving the sea
—a lord I can neither kill nor betray—
resuming my life as a fisher of fish
   and rightly so,
   dead master, dead friend.
How is it, then, that you appear even now
on the shore of oceanic inadequacy,
telling me, telling me still,
   where I am
   to cast my net?
How is it that you appear
alive again, bearing a word of promise
and command, and a question
   which begs a surer answer
   than I can give?
Do not cease to ask me,
risen master, risen friend.
Sit with me and eat,
send me out to feed your sheep, but
do not cease to ask me
   until you make of me
   the answer that you seek.
Dress me in yourself, Lord Christ,
and bring me, bring me where I do not
wish to go, that through this dreaded death
—on your cross with arms outstretched—
I may know your risen life,
and come to answer,
   “Yes, my master;
   Yes, my friend;
         I love you.”
           And you need not ask again.

The Community of Nails

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I have just returned from a meeting of the Lambeth Conference Design Group in London. It is a privilege to serve on this committee.

Its other members come from Nigeria, South Africa, Rwanda, Northern Ireland, Kenya, northern India, Malaysia, and South Sudan. (A member for the C of E was not able to attend).  Those countries represent the full breadth of our Communion.  As I looked around the table I realized all that these Christians have seen, and in some cases, continue to see, inter-tribal genocide, inter-religious persecution and even warfare, and racial oppression. For Christians in those countries the cost of discipleship has often been high.

A century ago, the the wreckage of the Great War, the Conference report opened 'God wills fellowship.'  But humans on their own are not very good at maintaining it without violence and cruelty. At the most basic level the Church must do so as a witness to the world. And at a deep level our own fellowship is deepened by the suffering of our members, who, as we recall in Holy Week, are to 'recall His death until he comes again.' Communion is not a choice so much as a costly gift and calling.


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