“Do you Love Me? – Feed My Sheep”
My fly tying vise sits on one side of my desk. It’s spring, and as I look at it there, I can’t help but be anxious to be on a stream casting for trout; it is one place I go to get lost in nature, in the encounter on the stream. On the other side of my desk sits an olivewood carving of Jesus washing Peter’s feet on Maundy Thursday. In the days after that event Peter himself goes fishing; or goes back to fishing, I should say. Both the washing of feet and his return to fishing speak to the difficulty Peter has in reconciling his own humanity with Jesus’ embrace and calling on his life.
John 21 tells the story. Peter on the water; going back to the rhythms and the natural world he knew best. But that place, rather than being a place of escape, it becomes a place of renewed encounter with Christ and with his calling. If you recall the story, Peter and his friends spent all night without catching anything, and they hear a voice from the shore telling them to throw the net on the other side of the boat. They do so. The nets fill. Peter realizes it is Jesus. He races to shore.
It is the scene around the campfire that is most moving. “Do you love me,” Jesus asks three times. “You know that I love you,” Peter responds each time. And Jesus follows with the call, “feed my sheep.” We all have moments like this -- moments that come in the morning after tumultuous seasons, when we come to terms with life as we find it, when we come to terms with our human frailness, when we hear again God’s call to reconciliation, to forgiveness, to embrace, and to a renewed sense of ministry: “feed my sheep.”
Your Session has been discussing together that perhaps Calvary is in such a season. We have been through a long season of uncertainty, of being preoccupied with questions of whether Calvary had a future ministry, of how to meet the needs of families, of what Prince of Peace was going to do, and all sorts of related questions. We now find ourselves in a new place at First Plymouth, where the ground under our feet is more stable, where the preoccupying concerns of the last few years have lessened, or dissipated. We have resources for our children and families. We have beautiful facilities, administrative staff, reduced facility costs. So what now?
“Do you love me… feed my sheep.” This is the call that comes to us again—to consider what it means in this season of life and ministry to love Christ and feed the sheep. What does it mean for Calvary to be faithful stewards and responsive disciples given the resources and strengths we possess? For Peter, it means turning from a focus on the past, on his shortcomings and failure to conceive of what Jesus was about during that holy week. It means embracing his call for a new season. What does it mean for us, to turn towards a new season and embrace the strengths, resources and opportunities we have to love one another, to reach out in order to feed the sheep, and to engage together our spiritual journeys?
These are the questions on Session’s minds. We would like to include you all in the conversation in a “conversation after worship” on May 1st. We hope you’ll plan to be with us in worship that Sunday and to stay a little longer for this conversation.
As we enter the season of Easter, between the resurrection and Pentecost, it is a fitting season to consider these questions. Between now and then I hope you will contemplate these questions, perhaps in your own place of escape and encounter?
I look forward to the conversation.