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Relationships and marriage can be a bit tricky, just ask any kid. For example: What is the right age to get married? According to Camille, age 10: Twenty-three is the best age because you know them FOREVER by then. Freddie, age 6 sees it a bit differently: No age is good to get married at. You got to be a fool to get married. How can you tell if two people are married? Derrick, age 8 has a good system: You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids. How would the world be different if people didn’t get married? Kelvin, age 8 says, There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn’t there? Finally, Ricky, age 10, has it all figured out for how the fellas can make a marriage work: Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck. (Source)
Relationships are tricky and when we begin to talk about our relationship with God, it becomes even more difficult. As we’ve talked about in the past, we have a tendency to apply human characteristics to God: we can be petty and grouchy, so we expect God to be petty and grouchy. The same principle applies to our relationship with God, we apply human relationship characteristics to it. William Paul Young is the author of the novel The Shack that came out several years ago. We could spend a lot of time poking holes in his theology, but the man has some really great points in his writings and interviews, and in one interview on NPR, speaking of his relationship with God, he says, “My dad was a preacher. My relationship, for example, with my father—very difficult, and very painful, and it took me 50 years to wipe the face of my father off the face of God.” We look at our earthly relationships and believe our relationship with God works in the same way. We forget that “God is love” and that he is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Which means that God is not out looking for ways to smite you. Instead, God is seeking ways to reconcile you, to draw you closer, to love you, and to invite you to participate in this great work of love. And that is exactly what our Gospel reading is about.
Peter and the gang have seen Jesus twice, but they’re still floundering a bit. They know what Jesus taught and what he did. They also know that he died and rose again. They believe, but they don’t know what to do with their belief, so they go back to what they do know: fishing. All night they fish and with no luck, but then someone calls out to them from the shore, “Try the other side of the boat.” They do and catch a great haul of fish. This immediately reminded John of the last time someone told them to try again and they had a miraculous catch: it was when Jesus called them in the very beginning of the ministry. John put two and two together: “It is the Lord!”
Peter, being the impulsive one that he is, doesn’t wait for the boat to take him back. He dives in and swims to shore (ever wonder why Peter didn’t try running on the water? He walked on it once before. Anyhow…) He swims to shore, they all have breakfast, and then we have the three questions: “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”. One question for each time Peter had denied him. Was Jesus trying to rub Peter’s nose in it? “You’ve been a bad bad boy, Peter!” No. Jesus was reconciling Peter to himself. The three questions were not for Jesus’ sake, they were for Peter’s, so that he would know that Jesus had forgiven him and so that Peter would know that Jesus still wanted… desired him to be a part of God’s ongoing mission in the world. And in saying to Peter after the three questions: “Feed my lambs.”, “Tend my sheep.”, “Feed my sheep.”, and finally, “Follow me.”, Jesus wasn’t commanding Peter to do these things, he was inviting him to join him, to be a part of him in this resurrected life. As we said, the disciples were floundering, they weren’t sure what all everything meant, or what to do; so Jesus answered the question for them: be reconciled to me and accept the invitation to join me, to follow me. Why?
We have this idea that God wants us to join him so that he can use us in some way. That almost sounds like God wants to play us out on a chess board and that we’re as expendable as any other pawn, but that simply is not the case. Remember, God seeks us so that he might love us, not so that he can mark one more point up for the good guys, use us up, and then move on to the next person who chose to follow. God invites us to participate in love because it is truly about the relationship. William Young – The Shack – in his book, Lies We Believe About God, put it this way:
“God is a relational being; that is who God is. The language of God is about partnering, co-creating, and participating; it’s about an invitation to dance and play and work and grow.
“If God uses us, then we are nothing but objects or commodities to God. Even in our human relationships, we know this is wrong.
Would any of us ever say to our son or daughter, “I can’t wait for you to grow up so that I can use you. You will be Daddy’s tool to bring glory to me”?
“The thought is abhorrent when we think of those words in relationship to our own children, so why do we ascribe that language to God and how God relates to us? Have we so soon forgotten that we are God’s children, not tools? That God loves us and would never use us as inanimate objects? That God is about inviting our participation in the dance of love and purpose?
“God is a God of relationship and never acts independently. We are God’s children made in God’s image! God does not heal us [… reconcile us to himself…] so that we can be used. God heals us because God loves us, and even as we stumble toward wholeness, God invites us to participate and play.”
How brilliant is that! Got invites you into a relationship so that you may participate in his great act of love and God invites you to play, to enjoy the blessings and richness of heaven and earth. It is a tough life, but someone’s got to live it. Might as well be you!
Jesus says, “Follow me.” Accept the invitation. Be reconciled to God and the resurrected Lord and joyfully participate in God’s love and mission.
Let us pray:
Father of love, hear our prayers.
Help us to know Your Will
and to do it with courage and faith.
Accept the offering of ourselves,
all our thoughts, words, deeds, and sufferings.
May our lives be spent giving You glory.
Give us the strength to follow Your call,
so that Your Truth may live in our hearts
and bring peace to us and to those we meet,
for we believe in Your Love,
the Christ you sent into the world,
Your one and only Son,