Thursday, December 27, 2012

Advent for the Wounded, Week Four - Do You Love Me?

When Dad puts his sign up,
Christmas officially starts!

It's been four days full of love.

Mikayla and Mary

We started on the day before Christmas Eve: my first TH daughter, Terri-Lyn, came back for a visit with her Collin and my two "grandchildren" - more on them at a later date; but this day Mikayla and James wanted to have tea with Grandma Karyn, and then Mikayla - sensing the importance of the season - wanted to "have tea with Mary." I think Mary enjoyed the conversation too. Who better to discuss the season with than a tiny girl who loves you and wants to talk about your baby?

Kenton and Luke kept us in (on) time
Allan led the singing
Christmas Eve found us at church singing carols; lighting the Advent candle; hearing Pastor Dave read the old familiar story of the shepherds and the angels and the Baby; hearing him sing the words

Part of what I treasure at
the Carol service each year:
Pastor Dave's special
number and devotional

Cherish that beautiful name
Cherish that wonderful name
Cherish that matchless name - 
That name is Jesus

When the last notes faded away, we stepped out into that frosty night, sure of a warm welcome at the home of a sister and a nephew, who had traversed slippery roads to gather with us. Christmas Eve at BA's is a tradition started several years ago and it launches the family Christmas holiday for me. Twinkling stars and flickering candles, Christmas music and the glow from the fireplace beckoned us into the living room. We settled down for some serious hors d'oeuvres and sparkling beverage and got reacquainted under the auspices of goodwill toward all.

The next day - Christmas - 11 of us sat down to turkey dinner at the TH. After we had eaten our fill we moved to the other side of the room, to the comfy chairs, and talked and laughed until we felt we could broach the dessert table.

Moments earlier, she had
carved the turkey ...

"O Come all ye faithful"
Lunch buffet - ladies first!

The new way of
playing a game together

Dessert - no one makes 'em
like my Mommy!
Dad opening his gift - will it
replace his 'Kimble,' we wonder?!

On Boxing Day the party moved to my brother's and sister-in-law's home for lunch and a lazy afternoon.
Allan with the girls

The napkins said it all

Computer issues don't
take a holiday ...

A time of Joy ...
... and Peace

Later that evening, Don and Norma came over to visit and for a chance for us to catch up on our various Christmas activities.

We have Wedgwood
in the TH!!
And now I sit by my fireplace in soft red pyjamas - a gift from one who loves me - and think about my favourite contemporary poet, Mary Oliver, and my readings from her new volume, also given to me by one who loves me. In the hollow of my neck nestles a sparkly heart attached to a rope of pearls - yes, more love manifest - and I've been nibbling on chocolate-covered cherries and thinking about my magical Christmas, one of the sweetest ever. I have received treasures of great personal value from my Dad; friends have showered me with evidence of their care and thoughtfulness; and the cards have moved me to tears with their beautiful inscriptions ...

All of this to say that not once did I have to wonder, much less ask, if anyone loved me.

Jesus had to ask.

He had been betrayed by Judas; next he was denied by Peter, one of the three disciples who had been the closest to him for three years now - Jesus had healed this man's mother-in-law, for heaven's sake, and had rescued him from drowning on a rough sea; He had revealed to him who He was ("You are the Christ!" Peter had proclaimed with authority) and had rebuked him when he got carried away with his plans for protecting Jesus. In the garden of Gethsemane, He had saved him from the otherwise inevitable result of his hastiness when He restored the ear Peter had lopped off a soldier; even then, a very short time later, he denied - three times - that he knew Him at all.

And now, after the resurrection, Peter was discouraged and disheartened. "I'm going fishing," he said to his buddies. 

"We'll go with you," they replied; and so seven of them climbed into a boat, doing what was familiar to them, doing the only thing they thought they had left to them - and they didn't catch even one fish that entire night.

Nothing was going according to plan.

In the misty dawn morning, a voice called out to them, "Children, have you caught any fish?"

"No," they snapped back.

"Cast your net on the right side of the boat, and you will," was the response.

So they did - what did they have to lose? - and there were so many fish that the net was filled; later, when they counted, there were 153 large fish in all.

John got it first, just like he had at the tomb the morning of the resurrection: "It's the Lord!" he gasped to Peter.

Peter's initial reaction was akin to Adam's of old - he realized he was naked in the presence of God and he pulled on something to cover himself up. But that is where their stories diverge. Peter knew that despite his failings, despite his disobedience, he was in the presence of Grace; so he plunged into the water and waded the hundred yards or so to the shore. Unlike Adam, who hid, Peter knew that his only chance at redemption and restoration was to get to Jesus. 

Jesus had breakfast waiting for them.

And after breakfast, He turned to Peter. "Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these?" 

In Peter's despair and anguish, he had slipped back all the way to who he had been before Jesus had said to him, "Follow Me." And Jesus, in His great kindness, could meet him all the way back there if need be. He used his old name - Simon. He referenced his old profession - more than these. And He used the word agape, a love that is all-giving, unconditional, sacrificial. The kind of love Jesus had for Peter, the kind of love that was willing to go back and start again. 

What could Peter say? He was in front of his colleagues, who knew perfectly well that he had denied even knowing Jesus a few days earlier. What's worse, he knew Jesus knew - Jesus had told him that he would deny Him, but that He would pray for him.

Peter knew that he couldn't grandstand like he had on other occasions. "You know I love You," he responded. He used the word phileo, the kind of love and affection that friends have for each other. He didn't dare claim the greater, purer love for the Master that almost certainly he would have proclaimed before It had all happened. 

"Feed my lambs," Jesus told him. 

Jesus asked him the same question again, and Peter gave him the same answer.

Finally, the third time, Jesus asked Peter, "Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me?" This time He used Peter's term, phileo

Jesus didn't say "I warned you, Peter." He didn't say, "Simon, are you sorry?" He didn't remind him of all the foolhardy statements Peter had made earlier in his bravado.

But this third asking broke Peter's heart. "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love you." Gone was the impulsive, spontaneous retort that would have risen so easily to his lips a few days earlier. He had denied Jesus three times and Jesus had now made him look each of those denials right in the eyes. Then Jesus let him know that He forgave him for each of those times. They were all covered and the page was turned.

Because Jesus didn't leave him there: He charged Peter with his life's assignment. "Feed my sheep," He told him. 

Earlier, Jesus had proclaimed to Peter, "On this rock [Peter's statement of faith] I will build My Church." Peter couldn't have absorbed that larger declaration now, not while he was feeling in every fibre of his being his great failure. But "Feed my lambs," he could manage. Not starting at the top, creating The Big Picture, but working at the grass-roots level with people who, like Peter, had fallen short.

Christmas, celebrated as it is on the cusp of the darkest time of the year in North America, never fails to remind me of my failings. How many times I have chosen the path of least resistance, the easy answer, the expedient response? How many times, through acts both of commission and omission, I have denied Jesus?

And yet His voice speaks softly to me through the voices of love that surround me as we celebrate His birth: "Do you love Me?"

His still, small voice, the voice of a baby who will grow to be a man; who will set the bar on what is good, on what it means to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God, as the prophet Micah spoke.

His small voice, from the Cross, saying "Father, forgive her, for she knows not what she does."

His voice, declaring, "It is finished" ... and then stilled.

And His voice, triumphant: "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes on me, though they were dead, yet shall they live."

Today this same still, small voice of love asks each one of us - in whatever state of brokenness, helplessness, despair we find ourselves - simply this: "Do you love Me?"

That is all we have to answer for today. 

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful sermon, Karyn, so thought-provoking and compelling an answer. Thank you. And I love the idea of "tea with Mary" too! Happy Christmas indeed.


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