Yet in thy dark streets
Sunday, May 5, 2019
From John 21
Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep. When you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.
Visions of Peter’s life swept before his eyes. Jesus’ words opened a path for Peter to recover from his fear and betrayal and reclaim the courage and intense loyalty Jesus saw in him from the beginning of their friendship. But his earthly life would end. His body might weaken and his mind waver, and “someone else” would lead him where he did not want to go. He would be the rock of the church, but still. From dust he came, and to dust he would return.
This is our path. And Jesus tells not just what to expect, but how to live as we walk the path. We are NOT expected to live forever. And we are NOT expected to make a priority of polishing our dignities or padding our pockets or cushioning our seats, beds … lives, so we don’t feel the bumps.
Jesus’ priority for Peter is simple. “Feed my sheep.” Three times comes this echoing call of Christ, “Feed my sheep.” Simon, do you love me? David, do you love me? And another question like unto the first: David, just what is it that you will die for?
Remember those moments when Jesus “breathed” on his friends and they received his Spirit? They would speak in tongues and perform miracles, but as Paul understood rightly, all those gifts fell into place behind the gift of charity. They are clashing gongs compared to love, which sends its sweet harmonies across the universe. With this, God is pleased.
It takes awhile to learn these things. David Brooks calls this later half of life “the second mountain.” On the first mountain I’m preoccupied with growing my crops and building better barns for them. But when the cyclone comes and all’s destroyed, and I fall from the mountain into a valley not of my own making, then I’m broken. Who’s to blame? When I shake my fist at the universe and scream, there’s only a lonely echo.
Brooks follows a familiar spiritual path as he notices that sometimes, in the silence beyond the screams, my heart breaks OPEN.
The basement of your soul is much deeper than you knew. Some people look into the hidden depths of themselves and they realize that success won’t fill those spaces. Only a spiritual life and unconditional love from family and friends will do. They realize how lucky they are. They are down in the valley, but they’re about to be dragged on an adventure that will leave them transformed.
Two thousand years later, Jesus’ words ring true. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” As he speaks to his disciples in Mark 10, he moves on to touch blind Bartimaeus. “What do you want me to do for you,” he says.
His sight’s restored, and Bartimaeus “followed Jesus along the road.” And in those dark streets shineth, the everlasting light.
My blindness is deep, but Jesus’ healing is deeper still.
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee, O Lord. Let the joy of your morning break my heart open. Fill me with joy, even as I taste the dust of your earth and know how much a part of it I am, we are, all of us together.