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May 5

John 21, 17-19

Something to read

He said to him the third time, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, 'Do you love me?' And he said to him, 'Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.' (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, 'Follow me.'

New Revised Standard Version

Something to think about

The Mamas and the Papas was an American vocal group from the 1960s. One of their top hit songs contained the lyrics 'You got to go where you want to go and do what you want to do with whoever you want to do it with.'

This fits our culture completely, but it is the exact opposite of the prophecy Jesus gives to Peter. He will no longer be able to go where he wants – in fact, he will be bound and taken away.

The traditional story of Peter's martyrdom was that he was crucified upside down in Rome and buried at the Vatican Hill (the site of today's St Peter's Basilica). The legend is that he requested to be crucified upside down because he was not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Christ.

To follow the command of Christ ('Follow me') was never meant to be easy. The call of Jesus is a call into vulnerability, not safety. We who live in wealthy countries have grown to expect security, but we all know that the reality is that the world and life itself are not safe.

Christianity is not a safe religion and the earliest Christians were well aware that they might die for their faith. 

Something to do

Take a risk for Christ. Now, I don't mean engage in dangerous activity for the sake of it. Jesus may call us into vulnerability, but he does not call us to do extreme sports or join the bomb squad (although some very brave people do feel called to diffuse bombs).

However, we who are adults may be called upon to help other human beings in less than secure circumstances. We may be called to go where we do not wish to go – to enter, as it were, the valley of the shadow of death. This can mean different things for different people.

If you feel called to do something, but you would rather not 'go there,' you may find that going there is an encounter with God's love.

Something to pray

A Prayer of King Henry VI (1421-1471)

Lord Jesus Christ, you have created me, redeemed me and destined me to that which now I am. You know what you will do with me: do with me then according to your will and your mercy. You alone are all-knowing and all-wise, beyond human understanding. You, Lord, know what things are good for me, a poor sinner. Let it be done to me according to your pleasure, as seems good in the eyes of your majesty. Amen.

Today's contributor is the Rev James Matarazzo Jr, a United Church of Christ (USA) minister from Boston, Massachusetts. He moved to London in 2007. Jim is a founding member of INERELA+ (International Network of Religious Leaders Living with and Affected by HIV and AIDS), a Christian Aid partner. He is now working on a DPhil in Systematic Theology at Oxford University.

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