Monday, November 25, 2013

So you wanna be great?

   What if you could preach to a stadium and watch thousands come forward with a decision for Christ?  How about if you had a voice that could sing the tenderness of God so clearly that others are moved to tears. What if you designed an entire water system for remote areas in the world so no one would ever go thirsty again or discovered the cure for cancer once and for all? Aren’t these the people we aspire to be? They are noble people worthy of honor.

    I think all these deeds are more then commendable, but I don’t think God is as impressed as we are as humans. Maybe it’s because these amazing feats were God inspired anyway. I’m not discounting the effort or perseverance some have laid forth, just underscoring the origin of brilliance.
Pretty sure our best ideas and creativity do make Him smile on some level because it means we've dialed into an area of our life where God is speaking to us and we are listening. However, I think the big Daddy “that’s my kid” smile is generated by something far more simple– by loving and caring for others with the love of God. 

  The message of how we are to love reminds me of an intimate campfire found in John 21, but here’s a little background before the campfire story: Jesus had been crucified weeks earlier and the disciples were anxious for Jesus return. Peter decides to get up and at least do what he knows best- fishing. It sounds like a good idea, so they all decide to go. It was what they were skilled at so perhaps they would feel better about their loss of their dear friend Jesus, however even the fishing trip on the Sea of Galilee was unfruitful. They had not caught a single thing all night. Nothing was going right. They were leaderless for the sake of the gospel and now even failures at their trade. Frustrated from the long night, they approached the coastline heading back. A voice from the shore calls out as the morning light began to surface on the dawn of a new day–
     “Hey, let down you nets on the other side”

 Hum… where had they heard that before?
John who also in the boat, snaps his memory and heart together and declares, “It’s the Master!”

The mesh is let down and fish begin to launch themselves into their net. Peter could care a less about the fish. He can’t stand it. In stead of waiting, he jumps overboard and swims ashore when he spots Jesus.  
The whole idea of Peter rushing to meet Jesus tickles me and makes me think how well he knew Jesus’ character trait of love. This encounter was the first he had since flat out lying publicly about even knowing who Jesus was. He failed his dearest friend during one his most difficult times, yet he is running to reconciliation! (Don’t we try to avoid people like this at the grocery store? - Hiding in the fruits and vegetables when we have offended someone because of shame.) The only explanation of his "run to see Jesus" is Peter had a repentive heart and he KNEW what Jesus’ response would be -to receive him back as a friend and a brother. (It kind of underscores the verse – “it’s your kindness that leads us to repentance.”)  Gotta love this!
    Later at the campfire, I can picture Peter sopping wet, warming himself up.  I believe the campfire setting was an intentional underscoring of how far love, forgiveness and acceptance can go.  Campfires have a way of warming one’s heart not only cold hands.
   The smell of warm bread and fish is filling the air while this motley crew gathers round for breakfast and fellowship with their beloved resurrected leader. I can’t help but think Peter is rewinding his failures with the sights and sounds of a previous campfire -the campfire where the denial happened. Can you imagine the conversation? “Lord, I’m sorry. I was terrified and afraid. I thought I’d die too and who would take care of my family?”  Here's how Jesus handled it:

   After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

   “Yes, Master, you know I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

 The “these” could mean disciples, or fishing nets and trade. Jesus is basically asking him about his about his life. “Do you love me more than all of this?”
I find myself being asked that question frequently in my mind. My “this” (my projects, my desires, my work, or my goals…my, my, my, etc) wants to wave a tiara to focus on what I can accomplish for Jesus. However, I think Jesus is most impressed when I spend a little extra time with a lonely senior, encourage a troubled friend, walk in repentance and offer grace to those as much as I have been given.  Mother Teresa says it so perfectly, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”  

It’s not really about the “great” thing we are doing as much as the uncomplicated measure of love with which it is dispensed at any given moment.  

   In chapter 21, Jesus continues to ask Peter two more times if he loved him. I love that Jesus who can peer right into the conflicted and exuberant heart of Peter and ask him the same question two more times. Jesus knew the answer, but here’s a thought- maybe Jesus wanted Peter to hear the answer for himself. Peter’s previous actions had not showcased what love looked like but more like self preservation and fear.    

   We blow it just like Peter swayed by our “things.” He had made the worst mistake of his life in the weeks prior, and is now sitting face to face with his savior whom he betrayed and rejected. Peter’s changed heart sings out, “Lord, you know I love you” several times. The last time he was emphatic and even frustrated that he keeps being asked the same question. Each time Jesus tells him to tend to his sheep and Peter is tucking the message deeper and deeper. I see this scripture as a healing balm stroking over a humbled man.  Broken and helpless transformed from unstable sand into Peter the Rock on which the church would be built.  

    God wants to build his church with you and I in much the same way.  If we’re gonna walk in simple love and do it well, maybe we, like Peter need to hear ourselves say it several times- “Lord, I love you…. Lord you know I love you… Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know I love you!”

 Jesus will reply – “then feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, and feed my sheep.”

 So you wanna be great? Just do what you normally do but dive in like Peter and love.