Walking Into the Unknown Together (2) Opening to Love

Clay, ready to be shaped.
Credit: Abby Simonin, 2024.

John 21: 1-19
“Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing”. 
—Frederick Buechner

When we began this series with Peter, he was on the shore, fishing: then Jesus invited him to follow him and become a fisher of people. The following week, Peter called Jesus the Messiah, and Jesus called Peter the Rock on which he will build his church. Things were looking good for Peter, and he began following Jesus with high hopes and expectations for himself. But over the weeks, we saw Peter struggle to be all that he hoped to be. He tried to walk on water, and he sank. He got into an argument with Jesus, and Jesus called him “Satan”. He thought he had a good numerical grasp on how often to offer forgiveness, but then Jesus challenged him to become forgiving. During Holy Week, he insisted he would follow Jesus to the grave, but right after, he betrayed Jesus three times. He wasn’t quite the top-tier player he had hoped to be.

In Sunday’s text, things come full circle. (John 21) Jesus again approached Peter while fishing and extended him a second chance: the calling to become a good shepherd for Jesus’ sheep.

Jesus initiated a conversation with Peter about love, and what it would look like for Peter to truly love Jesus. The bottom line of this conversation is that love isn’t adequately contained in words. Words are easy. Love is something that we live out in a relationship with others. “Do you love me, Peter? Then, feed my sheep.”

Peter needed to hear this. Peter had this propensity to love-bomb with his words, and Peter had this propensity to do these lavish gestures that looked like love—like running out of the fishing boat, but leaving the disciples behind to do the work of rowing, or jumping overboard and trying to walk on water like God.  

But love needs to be embodied in compassion, care and service, not just declared with lavish words and easy gestures. Jesus was letting Peter know that it was time to enter into this deeper way of love. To grow beyond a love entwined with ego: on being important, or being the best, or gathering up the most followers, or being admired, or gestures of bravery, or boasting about the way he touched people’s lives. This new way of loving moves beyond the egoic appearance of love to deeply and profoundly caring—sacrificially—for the wellbeing of others.

Jesus asked, “Peter, do you agapeme? Meaning, do you love me with this unconditional, sacrificial, divine love? And each time, Peter responded in this weird way. He first said, “Yes, Lord, I love you.” But in each of his answers, he replaces the Greek word agape with the Greek word filioFilio is a much humbler, ordinary kind of love. Filio is brotherly love, the love you share with a very close friend. 

Peter’s betrayal humbled him. It humanized him. It taught him his own limitations. He was no longer promising something he could not deliver. I think this admission on Peter’s part—that he was not able to be who he claimed to be, but was just human, like the rest of us—was one of the things that made Peter trustworthy. You cannot be a good shepherd if your egoic need to be great is in the driver’s seat.

In this beautiful, subtle way, Jesus and Peter work through the pain of betrayal. Peter with his honest, finally humble, assessment of himself, and Jesus, letting Peter know that he still believed in him, but that it was time for him to grow into a deeper, more fulsome way of loving. 

I love how Peter’s journey—like ours—is not linear, but rather circular. Change happens slowly. There is no magic bullet and no easy quick fix into wholeness. We return to the same issues, again and again. But like the twists and turns within a labyrinth, Jesus’ loving presence circles with us, inviting us deeper into healing while reminding us it is okay to be human, and assuring us that we are loved.

Peter’s betrayal wasn’t the end of the story. One of the gifts of Easter is this refreshing circularity. Endings are beginnings. What feels like death also brings new life. With this new life comes new invitations to love.

Deep peace and blessing,

Rev. Anne Baxter Smith
Pastor, Church at Southpoint

PS. The film mentioned during the sermon on Sunday was “The Beautiful Game”. Here’s the Netflix trailer.

Easter Meditations
Series “Walking Into the Unknown, Together”
– Easter Sunday (1) And I Hope
– Easter (2) Opening to Love

Worship Calendar

Location & Zoom. We meet on Sundays at 15639 24 Avenue, Surrey. Zoom is offered if you cannot attend in person. Zoom link. Meeting ID: 831 1690 9977 password: 753319

Listen to Sermons
Follow “Meditations from the Church at Southpoint” on SpotifyApple and Google

Catch up on Anne’s recent blogs under “News” on our website, southpoint.ca

Sun May 12   Mother’s Day
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Sun May 19 Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21

Sun May 26 
No service at the Sunnyside building
Brunches Together!

Sun Jun 2
Rev Rusty Edwards (CABF)
2 Cor 4:5-12

Sun Jun 9
2 Cor 4:13-5:1

Sun Jun 16
2 Cor 5:6-11, 14-17

Sun Jun 23
Baptisms, at A Rocha’s Brooksdale Environmental Centre No service at the Sunnyside building

Sun Jun 30 
Fifth Sunday Brunches Together No service at the Sunnyside building

New to Southpoint?

At Southpoint, it all begins with God’s love. Just as a plant grows, it receives sunshine, so we grow as we receive God’s love. At Southpoint, we are growing in our capacity to love God, ourselves, one another, and creation.

We seek to be a community of grace that is intentional yet organic, spacious yet authentic, grace-filled yet accountable. * We are fully welcoming. *

We encourage relationships rather than run programs, yet we recognize the importance of intentionality and structure as we nurture life together.

As a community, we seek to put our love in action. We value helping out on Sunday mornings, sharing food, and showing up in hard times. We keep our church life simple so folk have time to build relationships with family, friends, and neighbours. We encourage folk to serve in tangible ways within the wider community. We rent space rather than own a building, allowing us to do more with less, supporting missions at home and abroad.

Curious to know more?

These six slides express what motivates our ministry (best viewed on a monitor). Here’s the bio of our Pastor, Rev. Anne Baxter Smith.

If you’d like to really peek inside, sign up for our weekly Southpoint News (scroll to brown footer at bottom of page). The Southpoint News is a MailChimp distributed email—you can unsubscribe anytime and will not be added to our contacts list. Email us at office@southpoint.ca. Website: southpoint.ca.

Progress Pride Flag by Daniel Quasar (link)

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