Scripture for this week: Acts 9:1-20; Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19.
The press seems to be full of the story of the conception of the Archbishop of Canterbury this weekend. I must say that he has handled the whole thing with dignity and grace, showing concern for the dignity of his 86 year old mother, and demonstrating that his faith gives him wisdom and strength to deal with what must have been one of his life’s rather larger surprises. Actually, quite a shock, by all accounts.
It is, perhaps, a radical demonstration of the power of Christian faith to be a vehicle for reconciliation. And for reconciliation to be a force for transformation.
There are three examples of transformation through reconciliation in today’s readings.
Peter and his fellow disciples find Jesus waiting for them by the shore when they go fishing. There is a poignant exchange by a charcoal fire between Peter and Jesus which gives peace, reconciliation and commissioning to Peter to take care of the flock of Christ’s sheep.
It is poignant because with the charcoal fire, there are three questions that cannot help but echo Peter’s three denials by a charcoal fire. There is also implicit forgiveness for the disciples, who were called to fish for people, not return to their previous occupation. The abundant supply of fish, which comes from following Jesus, is a reminder of the abundance of God’s love and Christ’s forgiving nature. There is more than enough.
There is more than enough reconciliation for Saul the persecutor, too. He has what has been described as an eye-opening experience and is transformed by Christ’s abundant and generous forgiveness to become the ardent apostle for the Gentiles.
And there is a third transformation through reconciliation – but it is one that is noticeable because it never took place. This is the end of the story of Judas, even though he has since passed from the gospel narrative, who could not wait to find that he could be forgiven – even Judas – and transformed. There is more than enough forgiving in Jesus.
In our world, it seems that we always focus on insufficiency, and want more. But in God’s creation, as demonstrated by Jesus operating as a channel for God’s love and God’s generosity, there is more than enough. What a pity that Judas didn’t wait to find out. May we be spared the same fate.
In that final scene between Jesus and Peter, Jesus in effect says, “You’ve gone a long way astray. I know that you love me. I know that you want to follow me. All the wrongness is forgiven. Now, really follow me, and get on with the business of spreading the word.” It is, in effect, what Paul hears Jesus telling him on the road to Damascus. It is what Justin Welby has heard that calls him to respond to disturbing news about his parentage with an affirmation of the power of his Christian faith.
By the charcoal fire, Jesus gently reminds Peter of his failing and denial, and invites him to discover what following Jesus really means. By the charcoal fires of our lives that remind us of those things that we wish we had not done, or those things that we wish we had done better, Jesus offers to forgive us and invites us to set aside our imperfection and brokenness and take up the mantle of truly following him.