Friday, January 11, 2013

Pilgrimage-The Primacy of St Peter

"At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, beside these same waters at Tabgha—near where the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter sits today—a dumbfounded Peter had fallen at Jesus’ feet after a miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5:1-8). Now, three years later, another miraculous catch had occurred.

When the disciples reached shore with the catch in tow, they found a charcoal fire already laid, with fish cooking on the “Mensa Christi.” The only other time the Greek term for “charcoal fire” appears in the Bible occurs three chapters earlier, where we read that Peter warmed himself in Caiaphas’s courtyard in Jerusalem—and, out of fear, denied ever knowing Jesus (John 18:18; 21:9). Now, Peter sat in an awkward déjà vu.

After breakfast, Jesus called Peter by the same name as when they had first met and asked. “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” (John 21:15).

One of the reasons I love going to the Holy Land is because I get to see geographical connections that often have spiritual implications. Jesus took Simon Peter back to Tabgha—to the place where their relationship first began, to the place of grace, where a miraculous catch had pulled from Peter a confession: “I am a sinful man!” There Jesus reinstated Peter and reminded him of his purpose. Just because Peter had blown it didn’t mean it was the end of the line. Instead, it was the beginning. Time to start over. Whenever I go to the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter at Tabgha, I remember how important it is to return to the basics. Sometimes it’s helpful to start over and to realize that in spite of our failings, we still have a purpose in life. We should never quit."

This is a quote from Wayne Stiles book, Lands and Lessons of Christ.  I used his book Going Places with God as a devo last summer in preparation for my Holy Land trip and I have just ordered his book Lands and Lessons of Christ.  My favorite place we visited last week was the Church of the Primacy of Peter because the Lord has used John 21 as a milestone marker in my walk with Him.  Every year I pray and ask the Lord for a specific scripture to pray and meditate upon.  In 2001 it was Luke 5:1-8 and in 2002 John 21.  I had no idea at that time that those two passages were even related to one another.  Encountering these passages made an impact on my heart and life.  As Margaret Fineberg says in her book Wonderstruck, "one glimpse of God changes everything."

The bottom line of this story for me is; I wanted to walk away from tennis back in 2001 but I knew in my heart of hearts there was some unfinished work that needed to be done before I could lay tennis down.  In John 21 Jesus has risen from the dead and He is waiting to ascend to the right hand of the Father, but what is He doing in the in-between time?  Making breakfast, frying up some fish and serving warm bread to the boys.  He is meeting with them at the same spot where some of them first encountered Him.  In front of the other disciples Jesus reinstates Peter, forgives him, challenges him and loves him.  He is offering the opportunity for Peter to begin again...New.  So He asked me, while you are waiting can you just fry up some fish?  Can you serve right where you are, even though it is not where you want to be?  As it happened I was able to leave tennis at the right time and began working part time at church.  Part time led to full time and I thought this is what Jesus had in mind all along for me, to be full time staff and serve Him there.  For the first few years I loved going to work.  I never wanted to miss a day but somewhere during those years, the joy and the wonder of serving diminished and working at church became just that, another job only the job carried spiritual implications.  I learned in many ways church work is no different than working at a worldly job.  Only differences; the salary was considerably lower and playing the" spiritual card" to get ones way was rampant.  You start expecting to never have to pay for any conference or trip or get together sponsored by the church.  Many times you didn't go to conferences or programs put on by other areas of ministry at church, because you were sick of being up there all the time and you couldn't attend as a regular participant.  The same people bugged you and they expected you to drop everything to take care of a last minute request, even though you had deadline work to take care of.  Sometime along the line I stopped depending on God's strength and served out of my own weaknesses and insecurities and I noticed too many others had chosen the same way of serving as well. 

John 21 had kind of become a theme for me when it came from transitioning from tennis to church work.  But, it is so much more than that.  Yes, it includes that time, but the eternal truth of starting over and knowing we still have a purpose in life is the recurring refrain.  Jesus reminded Peter on that spot and He used that story to remind me.  Rauof was looking for someone to read the chapter as we gathered at the Primacy of Peter spot there on the Sea of Galilee.  Dena nudged me and said you should volunteer and thus I did.  While reading the chapter out loud to the group, I unexpectedly teared up, momentarily stopping not only to gather myself but to express gratitude to God silently to be there at the spot, reading the passage, and thankful for His work that began back in the day that these verses became alive and life to me.  I could have stayed there much longer than we did.  Being baptized in the Jordan held no appeal to me, the second one took when I was 16 and I hate to mess with it, but if they were offering to be baptized at that spot, I would be the first in line.   

In these past years having retired from church work due to health reasons, I thought John 21 was only for that period of time but standing there last week was a place of grace for me.  Frying up fish and serving when you are waiting for the next transition, is for all times, for all areas of life.  After the last couple of years feeling directionless I am again seeing my purpose and work in the kingdom of God.  I am energized and frying up all the fish I can where ever I can.

The entrance to the grounds of the church states that this is holy ground and then adds no shorts allowed.  Kind of ironic isn't it...Peter stripped down for work, for fishing.  I should have taken off my shoes, holy ground but rocks along the shoreline prevented me from doing that.  I took off my shoes in my heart. 

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