Monday, April 19, 2010

Reflection on Yesterday's Gospel Reading...

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.
There is nothing I like better than spending a hot summer day next to a cool river or pond fishing. As a young hillbilly, my two brothers and I would take our loaf of stale bread and our little Zebco fishing poles down to the pond in the middle of the mountain we lived on. We could spend hours down there catching and releasing brim and perch until sunset, then retire first to the house for dinner, and then to the tent in the middle of the yard where we spent our summer nights. Such carefree days were always welcome.

I imagine Peter was thinking something similar when he told his fellow disciples, “I’m going fishing,” and took his boat out to see. Fishing was more than just a livelihood to him, it was familiar. And really, who could blame him for looking for something familiar. Already the man whom he considered a great friend and teacher had not only been brutally tortured and murdered by Roman authorities, but now had come back to visit him not once, but twice! If it were me in the same situation, I would be looking for something more familiar too, after I pried myself off the ceiling, of course.

And I think Jesus understood this, too. When he appears to the disciples from the shore, he doesn’t announce himself or yell at them to get back to work. He even helps them haul in the biggest catch they had probably ever seen before whipping them up a hearty breakfast. I can just see Jesus cooking over the fire smiling and muttering to himself, “I did everything but draw them a picture saying I’d be back and they still didn’t get it…” and then nearly rolling on the ground with laughter seeing Peter tripping over himself to get dressed and swim back to the shore when Peter realizes who is waiting for him. He helps keep up the familiarity by having breakfast with them as they probably did many times before.

Let’s take a look at what happens when people move out of that comfort zone, that area of familiarity, and answer the call:

Peter and the disciples answered that call and began spreading the “evangelion” the good news throughout the known world. Today we still see the results of this call.

In 1955, a Montgomery, Alabama woman moved out of the familiar and refused to be moved to the “colored” section of the bus she was riding. That decision helped to spark a civil rights movement that in 2008 saw the first African American elected to the highest office in the United States.

In 1974 11 women stepped out of their comfort zone and answered a call to ordained ministry within the Episcopal Church. 36 years later, we have seen not only the election of women bishops within the Church, but in 2006, the election of the first woman Primate in the Anglican Communion.

More recently, at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco: a life-long atheist and partnered lesbian heard the call and not only walked into the service there, but shared in communion. Just taking that small step out of her comfort zone lead to the establishment of a food pantry that feeds over 900 people daily.

Further forward, in 2003, the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New Hampshire heard the call to “tend my lambs” and elected the first openly gay and partnered bishop not only in the Episcopal Church, but the Anglican Communion. Now we have elected a second openly gay partnered bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles, and the Episcopal Church has moved to the forefront of a movement of a socially relevant, inclusive gospel seeks to emulate Jesus life and ministry by welcoming all and realizing that no one person is better or worse than another.

And, of course, in 2006, a newly ordained vocational deacon moved out of his own familiar ground in his native Texas and moved into the heart of Razorback Country to plant a new Episcopal Mission. That leap of faith established a counter culture congregation that now boasts of membership between 80 and 100 English speaking parishioners and between 25 and 30 Spanish speaking parishioners and the return of a married former Roman Catholic priest to ordained ministry.

All of these things started with just one person moving out of his or her comfort zone and taking that brave step forward into the unknown. We each hear this same call today in big and small ways. From offering the young LDS missionaries an umbrella when it is raining to even just a smile, a touch or a kind word to a total stranger, Jesus is calling us to move beyond the familiarity of our church pews and our places of work and into a world of possibilities. But, like Peter and the Apostles, and like Paul after the Damascus Road, we have to have the courage to take those first steps. In those first steps, we have the potential to see something truly glorious.

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