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The Rector Writes


The Rector writes...............


Do You Love Me?
What is your image of Jesus?  Is he for you a shepherd, a teacher, a shaft of light, a broken body, a homeless person, the Son of God, a freedom-fighter, a Jew, a Christian even or, perhaps, just  the son of Joseph the carpenter?  There are strong connections between our own image of Jesus, our belief in God, and our image of the Christian life.  Some of us will have formed our image of Jesus when we first encountered him as children in our parents’ church.  For others, there comes a time when our image of Jesus is brought up to date with our growing understanding of who Jesus is.  And for many of us, as our faith grows and our life-experience grows, it can seem like we encounter Jesus again and again, for the first time, and each time he is very different.
As we have moved through Lent, through Easter morn, and on into Eastertide, we have relived the story of Jesus, Son of God, who breaks through the crucifixion, and in the resurrection, forms an unbroken bond from the pre-Easter to the post-Easter Jesus.  The final chapter of St John’s Gospel is full of echoes and reflections from pre-Easter to post-Easter, and back again.  We remember the stories of Jesus’ initial calling of the disciples, where they immediately throw in their nets and follow him, expecting much excitement without too much responsibility.  Peter thought that he was going to be admired and adored, but he betrayed Jesus and now understands that his calling to follow Jesus was costly.  Before he was crucified, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loves him, an echo of Peter’s future denials, and Peter is hurt.  Jesus challenges Peter to care, in love, for the children of God.  The disciples are willing to accept the love of God but they are also required to share it, through good times and bad.  So when Jesus gives Peter the task of shepherding and shaping the Christian community into the Church as we know it, he does not say, ‘I love you and I have full confidence in you’; he asks Peter, ‘Do you love me?’  
When Peter acknowledges that loving God is about giving, not just receiving, it is only then that he is able to take on the role that God has prepared for him.  Peter and Paul, the Saints on which the Church is built, both encounter Jesus in harsh and difficult circumstances but the risen Jesus brings forgiveness and light to their darkness, and clear insight into what is required in accepting their mission.  Like Peter, for followers of Jesus today, we will both embrace and deny the presence of Jesus in our lives.  There will be times when doubt gets the better of hope, and indifference the better of compassion.  Yet there will also be times when we hear the risen Jesus calling us again, for the first time, to a different place and the question will always be the same: ‘Do you love me?’