Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Peter Goes from Student to Teacher

I'm sitting in as we prepare for Abby's visit this Sunday. The lectionary texts for this week are Acts 11:1-18, Revelation 21:1-6, and John 13:31-35.

I have been thinking about the unlikely transformation of Peter. Sure, we know our history and have read ahead, so maybe we shouldn't be too shocked that Peter becomes a notable figure. But based on what we have been reading in John the last few weeks, it's hard to believe that it is the same person. Peter eventually takes on the role of teacher, leader, "convincer"of others in the new Church after the death of Jesus, but this isn't the Peter we see in John.

There is a lot of space in the Gospel of John devoted to Peter. John 13: 5-10 shows a Peter strongly refusing Jesus' foot washing and then eagerly wanting his head and hands washed as well once Jesus tells him the purpose. John 13: 36-38 tells of Peter insisting he will follow Jesus, pestering him even, until he is told that he will deny Jesus soon. In John 18, we indeed see Peter denying his relationship to Jesus. Finally, the Peter of John 21 dives into the water, swimming to shore to meet the Lord on the beach and receives instructions from Jesus to "feed my sheep." Throughout these passages, Peter appears impulsive, tone-deaf, and a bit of a kiss-up. Hmm, not such great leadership material. But Jesus has told him care for those Jesus has left behind. Is he up to the task?

Jump to the Acts reading for this week and see how Peter is doing now. He is leading the new church towards accepting non-Jews, helping the church in Jerusalem to embrace diversity. (We know the old Peter is still in there somewhere because he has to be told 3 times in his dream!) But he is doing all he can. Listening to God, welcoming those God has chosen, telling others to recognize those God has blessed, and saying that we have no reason to stand in the way of God's plan. True, sometimes it is hard to know what God wants of us. Even those lucky enough to have God-inspired dreams, like Peter, have to be told multiple times. But all of us can go on the journey of Peter. We can all try to move along the path from student to teacher. Listen to the words of Jesus in John 13:34-35. "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." So that's your first lesson. Try to learn it a little and teach it a little everyday.

With love and hope,

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