This pattern of reflection is designed to encourage us to deepen our understanding of what it means to be an Easter people.
- What food have you found it frustratingly difficult to get hold of over the last few weeks?
- Read this week’s passage.
- Keep a few moments of silence
- Read the passage through a second time
- What word or phrase strikes you or stands out for you?
- Read the passage a third time
- Think about what that phrase might mean to you and what questions it raises.
Jesus and Peter – John 21: 15-19
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.
Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’
I am too young to remember the food shortages that were part of the economic turmoil of the 1970s, let alone rationing and wartime shortage. I am part of that fortunate generation whose formative memories came in the 1990s and early decades of this century in what seem now times of enormous stability and normality. What this crisis has taught me is that the simple reality of feeding ourselves is something that we can’t take for granted.
For many in our communities this is a truth they have known for longer than we could care to remember. The use of Food Banks is now normalised in our society and they have played a vital role in supporting the most deprived in this crisis. Community support has also very often focused on the need to ensure that people are fed. I find my weekly telephone calls often include the question “have you got everything you need?”. How we are fed and how we feed others has become a defining question in this crisis.
As Christians the question of being fed carries with it a deeper meaning that the contents of our cupboards. Each day we pray that God will give us this day our “daily bread”, but we are also reminded in the Gospels that Jesus teaches us that “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). How we are fed is a spiritual as well as a physical reality.
In a simple, if possibly prosaic way, I am, for instance missing being able to go to a coffee shop. This is not because I can’t get coffee elsewhere. It is that I find the bustle and business of a coffee shop re-energises and refreshes me when I am feeling a little low. A small thing, but for me an important thing which I cannot do at this time. You will have your own versions of this unfulfilled need at this time. Whatever they are we need to not loose sight of the problems of mental health, of social isolation and deep spiritual need which also must be fed at this time.
The resurrection appearance we have just heard speaks of the need for us to be fed and for us to feed others. The passage begins with the end of the beach-breakfast we reflected on last week. It begins literally with Peter having been fed by Jesus. As Jesus finishes this meal he then begins to prepare Peter for the task that lies ahead of him. He does this by asking Peter a searching and uncomfortable question: “do you love me?”. Only a few days earlier Peter when challenged by strangers during Jesus’ trial had denied even knowing Jesus. With that memory fresh in our minds, Jesus asks Peter “do you love me?”. Three times, as he had denied Jesus, Peter answers emphatically yes three times: “Lord you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus’ challenge to Peter could be read as an interrogation. Somehow remembering the denial, it could be that Jesus wants to be sure that Peter is committed totally to the task that lies ahead of him. But this is not an interrogation. Like the meal on the beach, in these questions Jesus is feeding Peter. In asking if Peter loves him, Jesus is asking the question God asks of us all. In faith we are called into loving relationship with God. God’s love for us is never in doubt. Jesus’s presence amongst the disciples in his resurrected form is the defining evidence of this. God’s invitation to us is to be fed by the new life of the resurrection. To love Jesus, as Peter is called to and as we are invited to, is to be drawn into that new life. It is to be fed by that unquenchable source of which, in the words of that great hymn, we will be fed “till we want no more”.
As we respond to the very real question of how we can feed ourselves and others, both physically and spiritually, at this time we need to first remember how we are fed. Through deepening our relationship with God, through confirming our love for Jesus in prayer and reflection and worship, we are fed for the journey ahead. So that when we encounter the hunger of others we might, like Peter, be prepared to feed and tend those God calls us to care for in whatever need and hunger they have.
- How are you fed spiritually?
- What does that food give you the strength to do?
- What simple things could we do to feed, both spiritually and physically, those in need?
- You might like to gather this time of personal or collective reflection in prayer by saying the prayer for the Parishes by the Wall or your own prayers.
- We finish by saying the Lord’s Prayer