Sunday, April 28, 2013

For Earth Day: No Evacuation Plan

TEXT:  Revelation 21: 1-6

A mournful Gospel hymn reminds us not to get too attached to this ol' world:

This world is not my home. I'm just passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.

Science agrees that humanity may be just passing through. Some believe our survival as a species may depend upon our eventual ability to leave this earth to find a habitable planet elsewhere--in a new heaven and on a new earth.  I’m guessing we are many centuries away from being able to relocate the human race. In the meantime, climate change or unintended consequences of biogenetics or nuclear holocaust could eradicate our own species and most forms of life. God knows we need to be doing all we can to prevent the death of this dear earth by our own foolish hands.  But the truth is that even if we survive our own stupidity, violence, and selfishness, Planet Earth will not last forever.  Perhaps earth will be destroyed by a rogue star named Gleise 710, predicted to enter our galaxy in 1.5 billion years.[i] If that doesn't happen, it's just a matter of time—a matter of an estimated 7.6 billion years—until our sun will expand to the point that it absorbs the earth.[ii]  Maybe you’re not too worried about what might happen billions of years from now in circumstances we cannot prevent. After all, we need to focus on saving our planet from current threats we can address. My point is simply that scientific evidence concurs with the biblical vision that, one way or another, this world will pass away eventually.

Like modern cosmology, the book of Revelation holds out an apocalyptic vision of earth's destruction. The penultimate chapter in Revelation envisions the ultimate chapter in earth’s history when the heavens, the earth, and the seas will cease to exist (Rev. 21:1,2).  Thankfully, the hopeful biblical writer also imagines a NEW heaven and earth.

But let's not give up on the old heaven and earth too soon. And what I really mean by that is let’s not misunderstand a hope for a new earth as a devaluing of this one. Let’s not actively or passively cooperate in destroying God’s handiwork.  Let’s not be careless with one earth because we think God has an easy breezy back up plan.  Let’s not forsake our sacred role as stewards of the earth because we think God has spare earths up his or her sleeve.  Let’s not overly spiritualize and personalize the Gospel by seeing it, in Brian McLaren’s words, as “an evacuation plan” to a heaven far away, or as “fire insurance” from hell’s torture. The Gospel that Jesus offered is not about escaping from this world but about transforming it by the power of God’s loving spirit. The incarnation of Christ—Divine Love taking on human flesh—is a story of the Sacred permeating this physical plane of existence. The Christ event shows us how to give ourselves for the sake of this world—which God so loved.

This world IS my home—and yours.  In fact, the “new heaven and earth” are what we’re supposed to be co-creating with God.  The “new heaven and earth” are a vision of what might be possible if we treat this planet as “the home of God” (verse 3).  This “new heaven and earth” will be visible when God “dwell[s] with [us] as our God” (verse 3).  How differently we will live if we truly grasp what it means to make of this earth a home fitting for God. Would we make God feel at home with us by harming what God created? By clear cutting forests?  By polluting the air and water?  By exploiting other human beings?  By killing animals into extinction? By valuing profit over compassion? No.  No more than you would welcome an honored guest in your home by serving poison at the meal and piling filth into the guest room. Once we learn how to make room for God in this earth, it will seem that the old earth passes away and we’ll be able to see a new earth because we’ve been able to live in a new way. 

Maybe we can read the last book of the Bible most wisely by being grounded in the first.  Genesis teaches that we are charged with caring for creation.  Genesis teaches that all creation has been declared “good” by God.  All creation is sacred.  But other scriptures reveal commandments that protect the earth. For instance, the commandment to keep the Sabbath gives needed rest both to humans and to animals used for human labor.  The earth is further protected by lesser known biblical  instructions, including this odd injunction from Deuteronomy 20:19: “When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees people, that you should besiege them?"  (Deut. 20:19). On first glance this verse seems more sympathetic to the trees than the humans.  Written from the perspective of a warrior culture, this warning against destroying trees prevents short-term expediency (maybe cutting down the trees for a tactical advantage during a battle or simply displaying wanton rage) from preserving long-term benefits of nature.  A new heaven and a new earth are possible if we see this earth as sacred. [iii]

The New Testament likewise declares the things of this physical world to be sacred.  From the book of Acts we read today that “what God has made clean, you must not call profane.”  The context of that verse is a vision Peter had at a time when uncircumcised Gentiles were becoming part of the Church. Since the first Jesus followers had all been Jews, as was Jesus, the addition of Gentiles complicated their understanding of who and what was considered holy. In Peter’s vision, a sheet descending from heaven held “unclean” animals which Jewish dietary law forbids. Yet in this vision God’s voice directed Peter to eat them.  Peter interprets this to mean that all that God has created is “clean.”  (By the way, this story is not an argument against vegetarianism, which is a way to care for the earth.) Peter’s dream means that God has made this world clean, so we must not treat it as unholy.  The way we treat creation has eternal consequences.

At the Trialogue's most recent interfaith symposium, I spoke on the topic of Christian eschatology, the branch of theology that teaches about “last things.” I'd been invited to join two other colleagues, an imam and a rabbi, as we offered our respective religion’s eschatological perspective.  I’d have preferred a different topic for a general audience who might assume the Bible predicts when the world will end. My “eschatology” emphasizes what is ultimate and what is lasting. The way we ask and answer these eschatological questions forms us psychologically, morally, spiritually. At its essence, Christian eschatology says that we come from God and we return to God. But I didn't think I could say much in the fifteen minutes allotted me to counter the message of those silly Left Behind books and movies and the idea of a "rapture" concocted in the 19th and 20th century by fusing together a smattering of unrelated scriptures into a countdown for the End of all Time.  So I boiled down Christian eschatology to this faith statement:  I hold a deep trust that what is ultimate is good and what is lasting is love. 

However, I wish I’d added one more thing:  Despite the words to a traditional spiritual that says "This world is not my home," I think this planet is our only home for a long, long time.  Or at least we need to treat it as such. 

Because the worst Christian eschatology has developed from a greedy and short-sighted justification to despoil our terrestrial home. 

Eschatology matters because it affects how we live today.  Theology is good only if it produces good ethics.  Bad theology has produced and excused an ethic of domination and thoughtlessness and disregard for other creatures and for the next generations of our own species.  One prevailing Christian system of thought treats this world as something fearsome or loathsome or maybe just unimportant.  If we're too ready to escape from this planet, we may not be so careful about how we treat it now.  

Eschatology that is a spiritualized escape plan from earth came from a people who, maybe understandably, gave up on this planet.

Don’t give up on planet earth.  We’re accustomed to using up things and then discarding them. Let’s not do that with our home. 

Don’t give up on planet earth.  On a spring day like today, earth’s powers of renewal are especially in evidence. Let’s remember they are not inexhaustible.

Don’t give up on planet earth.  When violence erupts, we can see how easily this globe could turn into a powder keg. Let’s not allow fear to win out over love.

Don’t give up on planet earth. When relationships with friends and family are strained, we may want to run away. But earth’s people are precious. Let’s know deep in our souls that people are not disposable and relationships can be restored and deepened.

Don’t give up on planet earth.  When the intricate systems that hold together our economies, governments, cultures are working against the equally intricate ecological systems, take a stand. The saving of planet earth takes concerted efforts.  It’s helpful to limit your individual carbon footprint, but it’s crucial to work with others to create greener laws and policies and encourage other systemic change. 

Don’t give up on planet earth.  When we see the Church’s track record on environmental stewardship, we may think the church itself is irredeemable. Though faith communities are imperfect, we are ripe for revival at this hinge time in world history.  Christians are relearning humanity’s fundamental oneness with creation and thus going deeper with God the Creator, Sustainer, and Uniter of all that is.

If we love God, we will love the home God created for us and we will want God to live among us.  And when that happens the old heaven and earth—that have existed as separated realms—will pass away.  When God makes a home among us—a new heaven and earth will reintegrate the spiritual and physical. 

I’d earlier said how differently we will live if we truly grasp earth’s sacredness. I add we must also grasp the earth’s interconnectedness.  These two spiritual truths can change everything.  Losing the false notion of our self-containment and appreciating instead the interdependence of bacteria, mountains, elephants, oxygen, orchards, swamps, and parakeets is essential for our spiritual growth and for physical survival. 

When we truly “get” that what happens to me happens to you, we will be living in a new heaven and a new earth. Then WE will hear “a loud voice from the throne saying, 'See, the home of God is among mortals. God is dwelling with them; they are God’s people, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes. . . for the first things have passed away. . . . See, I am making all things new.'”

PRAYER:  Saving God, save us from profaning your world with our disconnection and disregard.  Guide us to treat this earth as holy, a fitting place for you to dwell. Amen



[iii]    See Rabbi Dobb's commentary on this verse in Deuteronomy.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Guided Meditation: Psalm 23

Image of the earliest extant picture of Jesus, painted on the ceiling of the catacombs. One might have expected an early image of Jesus to be that of Jesus on the cross or Christ crowned in glory, but instead we see the early Christians depicted him as the good shepherd.

On the third Sunday of each month, Open Table's worship service is contemplative.  We pray with scriptures, songs, and silence and usually, instead of a sermon, I offer a guided meditation.  I'm including excepts from today's service and our guided meditation on Psalm 23.

Prayer of Invocation                                  
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. (Psalm 23: 1-3 KJV)
Caring God, many have traveled through a difficult week.  In these moments you invite us to rest here as if we were lying down in green pastures. Welcoming God, lead us now beside still waters to restore our souls—frightened souls, weary souls, troubled souls.

Prayers of Thanksgiving       
The Lord is my Shepherd; I have received all I ever needed in the past
            We express gratitude for what we have received in the past. . .
The Lord is my Shepherd; I have everything I need now - at this moment.
We express gratitude for what we have in this moment. . .
The Lord is my Shepherd; I have everything I will ever need - for all time.
            We express gratitude for that which endures. . .

Extending the Psalm
As you silently reread the psalm, notice the shift in metaphors. God is first compared to a shepherd.  But in verse 5 God is implicitly compared to something else.  Some see a third image for God in verse 6.  Focus on the image that speaks best to you.  Why does that image of the Divine call to you?  Try developing the psalm further around that particular image. Compose your own prayer that you address to this image of God.        

Guided Meditation (verses 1-5)
We return to the first verse of our Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.”  What are the “wants” in your life?  What’s your wish list—of things you desire?  What’s your bucket list—of things you hope to accomplish or attain?   Take a moment to write them down.  (PAUSE)

The first want list is your wish list: what you want to have. The second want list is your bucket list: what you want to do or be.  Now maybe, like most of us, you desire some things that are not healthy for you, and you know that, but probably your list mainly includes good desires and noble aspirations—along with maybe some morally neutral desires and some harmless if petty wants.  What would it mean to be guided, not by ego, but by Love and Goodness alone, and to follow so trustingly that your wish list disappeared?  This does not mean you would live without goals or direction or aspirations.  But to follow God like a sheep following a shepherd is a spiritual state of radical trust. That kind of dependence upon God’s compassion is a rejection of what others tell us is important.  And it allows us to live without wanting, wanting, wanting. It brings an end to envy, lust, greed, competitiveness, aggression.  It keeps us from judging ourselves and defining ourselves by what we attain so that we can instead come to love ourselves for the inner Light within.  Look at your wish list, your bucket list.  Many of these things are not bad things.  They are harmful if these things become our shepherd directing us and if they are not things of ultimate value.  If we attend to the leadership of the Good Shepherd, who can lead us beside still waters, ours spirit we can be led down the right paths and our souls restored.

Now to focus on verse 4.
4Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. (NRSV)

I imagine there have been many this week who have walked through the darkest valley of their lives—when a fertilizer plant exploded in the darkness of a Texas night, when bombs and bullets traumatized people in Boston.  But you have known dark valleys of your own.  The psalmist says that even in the dark times, God’s rod and staff dispel fear and offer comfort.  That doesn’t mean evil things are prevented or undone.  It means if we are guided by the God of love, then love can drive out fear and bring comfort.  Think about a recent time when you let fear guide you.  Could you have chosen love over fear in that situation?  How might things have gone differently?  Imagine some future situation where someone seems threatening to you.  Imagine choosing love over fear because you know that God leads by love alone—and only love can bring comfort. Fear leads us to have the last word, to lash out, build walls, crush another’s spirit, feed our ego.  These are choices we make when we fear, and there is no comfort there.  Love alone can lead to comfort.  The shepherd’s rod and staff offer steady guidance and rescue. 

We read now verse 5.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (NRSV)

You are invited now to move forward to our three prayer stations through which we will explore verse 5.

1.    Receive an anointing
“You anoint my head with oil”     
In the Ancient Near East, oil was used to heal the sick and anoint priests and kings for their special roles.  While letting today’s psalm speak to you, you’re invited to come forward to be anointed with oil as a prayer for God’s healing or in commitment to God’s calling.  You may speak with the pastor and quietly share a need for healing or a sense of God’s calling in your life.  The pastor will then touch your forehead with oil and offer a blessing for you.
2.    Receive holy communion
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
Some have understood the above phrase to mean that God rescues us from enemies and then blesses us to spite them.  But Jesus said to love our enemies. So let’s imagine what it means to eat at Christ’s table with “enemies” present.  In the Ancient Near East, those who were invited to the table were promised safety and hospitality.  At Christ’s table, enemies become our guests.  Let us use the shared meal today to imagine that someone from whom we feel separated is actually here and to make space at our hearts’ table for those we distrust, dislike, or disdain.  Let this meal be a spiritual means of turning enemies into friends and turning bread into the body of Christ.  The broken bread reminds us of humanity’s brokenness.  But at the open table that body is remembered . . . re-membered . . . and we become one body.  As you eat the wafer, imagine sharing it with someone for whom you seek greater compassion.

3.    Bring your offerings
“My cup overflows”
We exercise our faith and we practice a life of gratitude by sharing what we have.  Through the eyes of faith, we see that our cup overflows and we have all that we need and more.  By giving time, money, and abilities to and through the ministry of Open Table, we have the chance to support our new faith community that seeks to join in God’s work for love, peace, and justice.  Your giving is an act of prayer. As you place an envelope in the offering plate, you are praying.

We turn to the final verse of Psalm 23: 

 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.(NRSV)

One commentator explains that the Hebrew word we translate as “follow” actually means something more like “pursue” or “run after.”  Goodness and mercy are chasing us down! Goodness and mercy are not ambling along behind us but are a concerted energy directed toward us. Picture, if you will, two messengers named Goodness and Mercy chasing us down.  If we can just slow down sometimes, goodness and mercy might be able to catch up with us. God’s love is pursuing us.  Like a gracious parent, God calls us back home for supper.  I love the final verse of one musical setting of this psalm: 

Your sure provisions, gracious God, attend me all my days. 
O may your house be my abode, and all my work be praise.
Here would I find a settled rest, while others go and come.
No more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home.

The psalm ends by describing another relationship we have with God—not as a stranger, not even as guest, but as a child at home.  This worship service ends as it began—with a psalm that stills our spirits so we can experience the comfort of God.  Amen

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Starting Over

John 21:1-19

The story of Jesus’s ministry has come full circle.  In the first chapter of John, Jesus invited the disciples to follow him.  In this final chapter of John, Jesus tells Peter once more, “Follow me” and these are, in fact, his very last words in the Fourth Gospel (John 21:22). Luke’s gospel ends gloriously with the Jesus’ ascension into heaven.  Matthew’s gospel ends grandiosely with Jesus’ culminating command that his followers go out into the world making disciples of all nations.  John’s gospel ends as it began.  Jesus starts all over again with Lesson 1:  Follow me.  

As a former teacher, I wonder if Jesus felt discouraged.  I used to dread grading final exams because there were always a few students whose finals indicated they had made little to no progress over the course of the semester.  Which made me feel like a failure.  This story seems a pretty sad account of one rabbi’s life if his best student kept failing the tests and at the end of the course had to start over.
However, the ending crafted by the writer of John may offer encouragement to those who came along a few generations later (when the Gospel of John is being written) and for those of us who came along a couple of millennia later. For Jesus followers like us who never manage to emulate Jesus perfectly, this is an ending that assures us that it’s normal to be lifelong learners and imperfect followers. In fact, following Jesus is not a course we ever complete.

Whereas the other gospels end dramatically, John’s gospel just fades to black as Peter stands poised to take the next first steps in followship. John’s ending gives the impression that the story continues not only as Peter lives on but also as new followers try to follow and fail and manage to start over again.  John’s last chapter tells us the disciples are back fishing, where Jesus first found them along the shores of Galilee.  Once more Jesus calls out to them, though at first they don’t recognize him.  It’s as if Peter and the others are encountering a stranger.  And in this “déjà vu all over again” moment, Jesus again tells them to follow him. This framing of John’s Gospel is the literary equivalent of the song called “The song that never ends” in which the last phrase loops back to the start of the song and forces you to keep singing it.  At the end of the Fourth Gospel, Jesus says “follow me” one more time—and we understand the resurrection story is about not only Jesus having a rebirth but his followers, too.  Easter continues as a re-do for Peter.  And for us.

Much has happened in between the first “follow me” and the last. Most importantly, Jesus has been arrested, tried, crucified, and resurrected. But since Jesus singles out Peter in this final vignette, the writer seems to want us to notice what has happened to Peter as he has attempted to follow Jesus.  Peter often misunderstood what it meant to follow Jesus. For instance, it was impulsive Peter in John’s Gospel who drew his sword and cut off a man’s ear during Jesus’s arrest. Jesus admonished him for still not understanding his code of nonviolence.  Even more infamously, it was Peter who denied Jesus three times in the courtyard of the high priest.  Although “Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus” to that place of interrogation (John 18:15), Peter did not follow all the way. He followed up to a point, then remained outside the gate.  And it was there Simon Peter denied, three times, that he was a follower of Jesus.  

New Testament scholar Greg Carey has noticed a detail common both to this scene of Peter’s denial and this final appearance of the risen Christ at seaside.  In both instances, there is a charcoal fire around which people gather.  And the Greek word anthrakia, which we translate as “charcoal fire,” is used only twice in the entire New Testament—in these two passages. The rare use of this noun suggests an intentional, artful pairing of these scenes.  In the earlier scene, Peter warms himself at a charcoal fire in the courtyard of the high priest—as Jesus is interrogated and as Peter denies Jesus three times.  In the later scene, Jesus has prepared a charcoal fire back in Galilee and interrogates Peter, who professes his love for Jesus three times. 

Parallelism like this signals something important.  There is a lesson for us.  And if we’ve missed it in a previous reading, we might catch it this time.   

Taking my cues from Greg Carey, I see the story urging readers to face into past mistakes and hurts.  You might at first think that it was cruel for Jesus to stage this reunion scene with reminders—in images and words—of Peter’s worst failure.  Can you imagine how hard it was for Peter just to face Jesus again? And then to be repeatedly asked to profess his love?  Peter’s frustration and guilt can be heard in his final response that sounds a lot like this: “Lord, you know I love you.  Can we move on?”  But Jesus is not rubbing Peter’s nose in his disloyalty and cowardice.  Jesus is making sure Peter has really looked inward and faced a truth about himself.  Carey explains: “Jesus has confronted Peter with the moral injury of the past. Through a ritual reenactment of that scene, Jesus walks Peter through his past and ushers him into a brand new future. Yes, Peter has regrets; and yes, this regret has scarred his soul. But now Peter must do the work of Jesus and tend the flock. Somehow healing begins, and new life bursts forth. May it be so with all who suffer moral injury.”[i]

May it be so for us. There are times—recent or remote—when we have failed as a Jesus follower.  We have not only committed an offense against another—but in doing so we’ve injured our spirits, which may have become cynical, bitter, apathetic, or afraid.  How do we come back from moments when we’ve made a mess of things from stupid choices, from self-indulgent excesses, from cruelty or indifference to others?  If we have not been honest with ourselves or have never been willing to take responsibility for our words and action, we may still be suffering from the pain we inflicted upon another that continues to wound us. Like Peter, we forget the lessons Jesus has been teaching. 

Like children, we learn through repetition.  I wonder if Jesus is giving Peter the grown-up version of the book Guess How Much I Love You, which we read during the children’s time today.  Jesus may know Peter NEEDS to express his love.  Of course, implicit in this lesson is Jesus’ love for Peter. Jesus continues to say to Peter as God continues to say to us:  “You can’t outlove me. I love you all the way to the moon . . . and back.  But keep trying.”

Unfortunately, like a regretful unfaithful lover, full of grief and guilt—Peter decided to leave the path he’s been on with Jesus.  He’s already made a sham of the relationship. So he tells his friends, “I am going fishing” (John 21:3). And the former fisherman heads back to Galilee and the old cronies and the old ways. No more of this “fishing for people” stuff, Peter returns to his boats and nets and the real fish. But the Spirit that directed the life of Jesus is a persistent one.  And merciful. Jesus follows Peter there, seeking him out in the Spirit of infinite compassion, offering Peter a seaside breakfast for his hungry body, and offering deep forgiveness (not easy absolution) to heal his wounded spirit and help him move forward, not backward.  

Moving forward allows us to stand with Jesus, not deny him.  And the way to profess Jesus is not with bumper stickers or Jesus-y praise-the-Lord-halleluia language declaring we’re part of the Jesus Club.  Jesus tells Peter exactly how to profess him. With love. We deny Jesus when we don’t show love.  Sounding straight out of a fairy tale that uses a good spell to reverse an earlier evil spell, Peter’s three professions of love undo the earlier three denials.  “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?” “Yes.” “Yes.” YES!”  And Peter is free.  Free to demonstrate that love.

The poem “Those Winter Sundays” which Charles read earlier is an example of love demonstrated by action.  An emotionally remote and physically exhausted father does the everyday work of caring for his family in a portrait with hard edges painted in blueblack austerity.  In fact, it apparently took the speaker of the poem years to “warm up” to the realization that there was love in his father’s lonely, thankless duties, rising early, as he did even on Sundays, to build the fire, to polish shoes that gleamed silently of a father’s unspoken love. The speaker is asking in the poem: Did my father love me? Did my father love me? Did my father love me?  The answer lies in the father’s actions.

“Do you love me?” the human picture of God persistently asks us, too. “Then love me by loving others.”

If we love the God we have met in Jesus, we care for others. “Feed my sheep,” he repeats across the centuries.   “Feed my lambs,” he teaches still today.  You love me—or deny—not with words but with your actions.  “Tend my flock, Peter.”  

And let’s not assume this is a time to distance ourselves from the literal words of Jesus.  Sure, Jesus is speaking figuratively about feeding lambs and sheep, the people who will soon start following Peter and the others.  Feed them with God’s love.  But don’t think for a minute that Jesus is using this command to feed sheep and lambs in symbolic ways only.  Jesus fed Peter and the others—hungry fishermen—with real fish grilled over an open fire and hearty bread on the morning after a hard night’s toil.  Think how appreciatively those fishermen devoured that outdoor meal some have dubbed “the last breakfast.” We follow Jesus by loving Jesus, and we love Jesus by feeding bodies and souls.

Now a question you may have long been wondering—you who aspire to follow in the ways of Jesus—is how it can be possible for folks living 2000 years after Jesus walked this earth to know how to follow him.  I mean, Peter didn’t get it right and he was living with Jesus.  For some who easily read the Bible in simplistic ways and with great trust in some other authority’s interpretation of scriptures, it may seem easy.  But it may have occurred to you sophisticated Bible students—as it has to many over the last couple of centuries—that it’s difficult to know with absolute certainty very much about the historical Jesus.  There are differing gospel accounts.  There are relatively recently discovered gospels that never made it into the Bible. And there’s the challenge of interpreting those writings (that evolved over many years) by appropriately filtering out our cultural biases and attending to the original writers’ social-cultural-historical contexts.  The process of knowing Jesus in scripture and received tradition is an important topic for another time.  And I’m not one to sidestep the troubling bits of Christianity. We’ll discuss soon the work of the Jesus Seminar, for instance.

But I also think there is a clear mark that Jesus left on all the people who knew him and who later experienced the Spirit he embodied. That mark looks like Love.  Love that is not only spoken but enacted. We follow Jesus in the simple yet demanding way of love.

Love, of course, is easy to get wrong.  If you’ve known what it is to hurt someone you love and have to face them and ask forgiveness and work to mend a relationship, your heart breaks for imperfect Peter.  But hear the good news. We can start over.  When we leave the Way of Love, there is a way back.  We hear Jesus say once again, “Follow me.” So we drop our fishing nets and once more follow him.

[i] [i]Carey, Greg.  “Repairing Our Grief” On Scripture. 
See also “Beyond PTSD” On Being.