You never know who will show up at the bird feeder in your parents' back yard.
|turkeys at the bird feeder|
You never know who God will use, either.
Peter, for example, was a real turkey. Not in a bad way! He was just a doofus. And that is why I love him. He was so impulsive. He was always sticking his foot in his mouth and doing rash things. He was the first to blurt out that Jesus was the Messiah. He also argued with Jesus and told him not to go getting himself killed; needless to say, that didn't go over as well. He declared that he would never betray Jesus; then on that dark Thursday night when he had the nerve to follow Jesus and his guards all the way to the high priest's house and into the courtyard, he ended up swearing and denying that he knew him. And breaking down in tears.
But it doesn't end there.
Today's Daily Office readings include Mark 14:66-72, the story of that scene in the courtyard. As I was reflecting on it, I remembered another scene, one I prayed with during my recent retreat. It's from John 21, a scene following the resurrection. Peter and some others have gone fishing, and they haven't caught a thing all night. Jesus, from the shore, unrecognized, calls out to them to throw out the net on one side of the boat - and then, suddenly, what a catch! The part I love is when Peter hears his friend say, "It is the Lord!" Peter puts on his clothes, jumps into the water, and heads for shore. He can't even wait for the boat. That's impulsive. That's also love.
|John 21 - Peter wading to Jesus|
(Not great art, but you get the idea!)
I just love Peter. And I want to love Jesus as ardently as he did. I want always to have the nerve to keep running back to Jesus when I fall on my face, as he did, knowing that I am loved first, no matter what.
After breakfast, Jesus asks him, "Do you love me?" He asks three times. And Peter answers, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He gets his feelings hurt because Jesus asks him three times - but he is able to answer three times that he does, just as in that courtyard he had declared three times that he did not know him.
I don't have my interlinear Bible with me right now, so I can't check the Greek myself, but I have heard that Jesus asks him twice using the verb agape for love - and Peter responds using the verb for brotherly love - something related to filio (my apologies for my lack of Greek detail here; all my things are at home). The third time, Jesus uses the verb Peter uses. Peter doesn't get it - and Jesus is so gentle with him, coming to where he is instead of rolling his eyes at Peter's lack of of understanding and walking off.
Jesus gives Peter another chance. He gives us another chance. Over and over. And then he uses us - uses us as we are. Jesus doesn't just leave Peter there, making up for his lack. He moves him further on and uses him. "Feed my sheep," he also says. Tend my sheep. Feed my lambs. Just as Peter is fed, so is he to feed others.
We are fed physically, emotionally and spiritually, and then we go out to do the work God has given us to do, sharing that care with all those whose lives touch ours. We have been given an abundance, and so despite ourselves we really do have what we are called to give.
God uses us, even when we are complete turkeys. If God can call Peter, such a doofus, to be an apostle and to become a leader in the early church, then God can use us. If Peter can become a minister to others, feeding sheep as well as being fed, then so can we.
As I get ready to head to Haiti, where I will be rather unprepared for whatever it is that lies ahead, I am thankful to know that God will use me. I need to remind myself of this regularly, I think, whenever I get frustrated with myself or feel completely inadequate to the tasks at hand. It's not up to me in the end. I just need to be available and responsive, allowing the Holy Spirit to work through me despite my flaws - and even through them.
Glory to God, whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.