Feed My Sheep


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 93; 150, Daniel 4:1-18, 1 Peter 4:7-11, John 21:15-25

The third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, it was early morning and they were fishing from a boat and he was on the beach tending a fire. When they came ashore he offered them breakfast. After the meal, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter answered, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you,” though by the third time he was a little hurt. Jesus replied each time by telling Peter to feed and tend his sheep.

As they walked down the beach, “Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the [last] supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’” Peter seemed a little annoyed. Maybe that’s because he felt a twinge of guilt when he remembered the question. While Judas was the obvious betrayer, Peter – after saying he would never betray Jesus – denied him three times on the evening of the crucifixion. Afterward, he expected never to see Jesus again, much less to atone for his denials. In a bit of symmetry, Jesus gave Peter three chances to affirm that he indeed loved him.

We all screw up. Sometimes (parenting comes to mind) we screw up in the very act of trying not to. While apologies (if suitable) and reparations (if just) are appropriate, they aren’t the end of the fix. Jesus didn’t demand an apology or a penalty. Rather, he told Peter – the rock upon whom he would build his church – to take care of business. The best way to make amends to Christ, and possibly to almost anyone, is to listen to what matters to them and do what we can toward that end.

Mistakes don’t define you, but how you choose to recover from those mistakes tells you (and others) who you are. If you feel you’ve let down Christ, love him by feeding his sheep. If you’ve let down someone else, make it less about your guilt and more about whatever feeds their souls.

Comfort: You’ll make mistakes. God will love you anyway.

Challenge: Ask yourself whether you currently need to do any atoning, and what that would look like.

Prayer: God of the resurrection, make my life anew. Amen.

Discussion: What is the best apology you’ve received?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group  or visit comfortandchallenge.tumblr.com. You’ll  have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

Maybe next time…


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 54; 146, Judges 2:1–5, 11–23, Romans 16:17–27, Matthew 27:32–44

The book of Judges recounts the history of Israel between the time of Joshua’s death and the reign of Saul, Israel’s first king. The second chapter begins a cycle that repeats several times: Israel prospers, then grows lax and disobedient and God withdraws his favor; eventually the plight of the Israelites softens his heart and he sends a judge to set them back on the right track. Over a dozen times. We may or may not experience our fortunes and misfortunes proportional to God’s favor, but we can all find lessons in these stories.

One simple, yet important lesson: learn from your mistakes. For two centuries, the Israelites teetered on the brink of ruin multiple times, always for the same reason. It is easy to shake our heads at their stubborn foolishness, but we’ve all been there. Maybe relationship after relationship sours because we can’t change our ways. Maybe our weight boomerangs in a cycle of diet and despair. Maybe we repeatedly sabotage our job or education or finances because we cling to a particular mindset. Everyone has some story of an attitude or habit they had difficulty changing (or still need to). Most of us have more than one. Not everyone needs a twelve step program, but sometimes we all need to surrender to the higher power integral to success.

Another related lesson: neglecting our relationship with God has consequences. Perhaps not direct punishment, but consequences intrinsic to our behavior – a sort of “built-in” system of moral checks and balances. Christ and the prophets teach us to put God and our neighbor above materialistic concerns, yet advertising and other influential aspects of our culture tell us exactly the opposite. However, our novels and films abound with morality tales about the dangers of prioritizing wealth, popularity, vanity, etc. In these tales, people nearly always either arrive at a bad end or save themselves by repenting. Could these stories be popular because they strike a chord of truth within us? By nurturing our relationship with God, we can focus on priorities that deliver a true abundance, an abundance of the spirit.

Comfort: Like the north star, God helps our path stay true if we follow him.

Challenge: Change one part of your routine today and observe the effects.

Prayer: Merciful and loving God, my heart is set on you. Amen.

Discussion: What habits have you found hard to break?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!