Saturdays With Simon Peter–Speaking Grace

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One holy, apostolic and Catholic Church. 

That phrase is a mouthful.  Imagine being the screwed up guy commissioned to be the manager at its foundation (not the Head or King but a humble steward). 

 

That’s our guy Simon Peter.  He was a long-term work in progress by Jesus and did not stop being worked on and worked through after that.  And so are we. 

 

Before I get too deep, don’t worry, the apostolic is addressed already in chapter 1 of Acts. Peter had received a renewal of his commission by Jesus to be His guy in the foundation of His church in a face to face conversation in John 21.  It was important to Peter as a pope but also as a sinner who had plenty of grace for redemption.  Redemption from cowardice, pride and wrath. 

 

He knew he needed it.  Peter had been impulsive so many time in his Lord’s darkest hour he denied Him three times.  With such a knowing one morning at 9:00 am in the Feast of Trumpets in Jerusalem  such a blue-collar fisherman from a marginalized region of Palestine stood up and proclaimed the gospel.  Oh, and yeah he may have still been scared but he know he was not alone because he had received the Holy Spirit speaking tongues of men and angels beyond his Aramaic or Greek. 

 

The Church is Universal. 

 

Acts 2: 37 “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers,[i] what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

 

Peter knew that he himself was one of those “everyone’s” that could have a new lease on life.  The more he could keep some humility about the restoration in his life, the more he could feel like his own best customer.  In this case, the crowd was full of foreign Jews from many countries that were far off.  Many of them could not hold their own in Greek, let along Aramaic.  But Peter was open to the leading of the Holy Spirit to bring this message out beyond the comfort zone.  Little did he know that in ten years Jesus would step it up a notch to non-Jews. 

 

The Church is holy. The Church is one. 

 

Acts 2: 41 “So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.”

 

Peter leads them into a covenant that is superior than the first six of the Jewish covenant.  By being baptized, they are saved (1 Peter 3:21).  This holiness is a transcendent and practical experience of appropriating His grace through the extension of Jesus as Truth, Jesus in the Spirit, Jesus in the Eucharist and Jesus in corporate prayer.  It would take long than what is appropriate to explain, but these wonders and signs point to the greatest miracle in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus 53 days before. 

 

44 “All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds[j] to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home[k] and ate their food with glad and generous[l] hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

 

Peter and the other apostles had a lot to do for their remaining lives and some with shorter lives than others. Infused with the mission of unity, holiness, universality and a multi-generational context, they were in for keeps. 

 

AFTERWORD

A little Bible trivia.  Eucharist comes from the Greek, eucharistia, which means thanksgiving.  When they were breaking bread, it was the experience of partaking of the divine nature of Jesus.  

Sundays With Simon Peter–Long Live The King

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Starting with this blog, there is going to be a shift in what I write about Simon Peter.  What was established in a recurring theme in my comments of the scripture is that Simon Peter was the most explicitly spiritually formed follower of Jesus in the gospels.  He was also the first pope and set as a rock.  Not as a symbolic rock nor with his confession being just foundational like a rock (for more discussion on this, I would recommend “Upon This Rock” by former Baptist Steven Ray and “The Fathers Know Best by another former Baptist Jimmy Akin). 

         But from here the ratio of Simon Peter’s spiritual formation will not be quite as emphasized.  My writing has been on Simon Peter the work in progress 75% and the building of a pope being 25%.  From here on, it may be more like 75% on the nature of the papacy and 25% on Simon Peter the sinner.  Too strong?  When Pope Francis was asked recently who he is most fundamentally he responded, “A sinner.”  Infallible does not mean impeccable and we will see Simon Peter blow it in ways that can be done by us today. 

         Where we want to start today in Acts is in the first chapter.  Jesus has gone to heaven and told them to stay in Jerusalem where they would receive power from on high in the Holy Spirit.  In the meantime, they were missing Jesus as they were accustomed to having Him and there was no Holy Spirit given to the Church yet.  I need to parse those words carefully because Jesus Himself breathed upon Simon Peter and the other apostles with the Holy Spirit when he instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  But overall there must have been a feeling of being in limbo.  Between Jesus as they knew Him and the Godhead as they were anticipating to know personally.  They were also once apostle shy of an even dozen since Judas had left them. 

         So what does Peter do?  He and the others were praying but they were also obedient to keeping consistent with the commands and patterns of Jesus and the scriptures, as they understood them.  So many times in my time as a Christian I have heard believers including myself say the phrase, ”I am praying about it.” When they know that the scriptures are clear on that issue beyond any debate in the whole Body of Christ.  This can often be Christianese for (a) I am waiting for a goose bump to inspire me to get off my butt and do what I am supposed to do or (b) I will read the Bible, harden my heart and do some intellectual gymnastics to justify disobedience.  

 

         But what if we are obedient, seeking God, know what we are supposed to do but want to do things that supplement that obedience? Below are some ideas as we today contemplate the Feast of Christ the King.

Acts 1:13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of[c] James.

         Here, under the leadership of Peter, the Church prepares for the visitation of the Holy Spirit.  They did not go just upstairs but to the same upper room as the Last Supper.  It was in that same room that Jesus instituted the Eucharist (eucharistia), which means literally thanksgiving, but in mystogogy the partaking of Jesus in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  But that was not the only standard that is set for receiving the Holy Spirit when you look at Mary.  Gabriel said that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her in the conception of Jesus. 

         This was important if you see her presence like former Pentecostal pastor Deacon Alex Jones.  He makes a good point in how, hypothetically, in day five of the ten days that they waited for the Holy Spirit Bartholomew feels a goose bump.  “This is it!  It’s the Holy Spirit!”

Mary says, “No, that’s not it.  I know the difference” (for more detail about Mary, this theme and others about her, I would recommend “Hail, Holy Queen” by former Presbyterian Dr. Scott Hahn).

         Now we see Peter’s first act as the pope.    

15 “In those days Peter stood up among the believers [d] [not the last times we will see this phrase] (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, 16 “Friends, [e] the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— 17 for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” 23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place [g] in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

         So what is the bid deal of this?  If you are in the court of the king, and He is away, would you want to make sure that it is set up in order so that when He returns, it will be consistent with the pattern that he expects? 

         The references of Jesus being the son of David is not a waste of ink.  The court of the kings of Judah, of the line of David almost always had the presence of twelve cabinet officials and a queen mother.  Simon Peter knew that while they waited for the Holy Spirit to come and fulfill “Lo, I am with you until the end of the age”, the expectation should be with actively engaged faith so the King would be pleased.  So yes, the queen mother is there and so are the cabinet members where He set up the prototype of the meal by which all His members would receive Him in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. 

         So how do we apply this blog for today?  It can be done in two ways. 

         As individuals, on the things that are not clear from Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition, be faithful to what you have and follow what is clear accordingly. 

         As the corporate Body, treat every mass as the King’s court.  Be prepared to receive the Eucharist (the ultimate thanksgiving), honor His mother as a model of receiving the Holy Spirit and revere the fact that His church is apostolic in that it is transferable to this day.  

          

 

Sundays with Simon Peter– Truly Caught.

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A little early for Valentine’s Day, I know.  But bear with me.  There is a lot to learn about love.  Especially when it is paired with suffering as we will see in a moment.

If we were forgiven by someone we loved and betrayed, would we still know how to talk with them with the “new normal” of grace?  If the stain of guilt gets in us, we can seem to be much harder on ourselves than God. But if we have let God down, maybe Him forgiving us and giving us a mission can up the ante.  That being an ante of faith and broadening our perspective on something.  We are blessed not unto ourselves but to be a blessing to those around us. That is what love can be so uniquely when we have a true encounter with this mysterious carpenter.

This is the conundrum that Simon Peter finds himself in this story.  He denied Jesus in his darkest hour, but jumps off the boat and swims to Jesus after the resurrection knowing first that He is Lord.  Then Jesus invites them all to Denny’s…sort of.  Then….

John 21:15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus is up to something here, but we have to look beyond our modern English language perspective to appreciate it.  Jesus asks in Greek, “Do you love me with a willing love?”  Like a divine sense of intentionality.  But Peter doubts himself possibly because he keeps responding with the word for brotherly love only.  Jesus lays down the dare, “Do you love me with a brotherly love?” When it says that Peter is hurt, it is because he thinks Jesus casts a shadow on his ability to love Him at the most simplistic level.

But Jesus is out to show how much faith He has in Simon Peter and that he is a part of the grace agenda for His Church.

18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Elsewhere, Jesus says a lot about taking up your cross and following Him.  He even talks about seeking to lose your life in Him and finding it.  Jesus calls for martyrdom for only some but never forces someone.  If you do not have the disposition in your heart to give all for Jesus, then you are in unbearable suffering.  But if you suffer with love, it changes everything.  Jesus is confirming that Simon Peter will indeed walk in a willing manner.  But He needed to make the conversation raw and authentic.

Okay.  I get it Jesus.  But the mission of feeding your lambs, tending your sheep and dying like you is a lot.  How about if I deflect the pressure about how I should not be singled out for such a life and death?

20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

To follow Jesus takes a lot of simplicity with passion. When Peter decided to jump in the water he said simply, “It is the Lord.”  Whatever our mission is.  A big one or small one.  We just need to keep in touch with Him.

But how?  Holy communion comes to mind.  In the eyes of the flesh, they went to Denny’s with Jesus.  In the eyes of the spirit, it was a mass.

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.”

1: The accepted the invitation of Jesus and joined him.

2: The disciples undoubtedly discerned the personhood of Jesus (look at 1 Corinthians 11 for a related theme).

3: They took the bread.  To take the bread of Jesus is to make practical in every way His atonement for your sins that He can be vibrant in you.

4: To take the fish is like being catechized in the fullness of truth fitting for those who are captured in Him.  When Peter caught the fish Jesus called him to, it was men or mankind. If you are a baptized Christian, consider what it is to be caught in His divine plan for the big picture of His Church and the small picture of your life.  That is your greatest promotion in this life: in being in Him. As Paul said, “To know Him.  In the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.”

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Disorientation.  Nobody likes that.  We spin around too much so that we get dizzy and we can’t wait until we feel planted again.  I do not know how fighter pilots deal with the vertigo as they fight for what is up and down.

So where is God when we feel spiritually disoriented?  How do we find the presence of Jesus? If we think He is distant, who moved?  But if we find Him again, what do we do next?

In the case of Peter, he hurt ever since Jesus was arrested and his own denials of Him.  One time could be explained away as an impulse sort of.  Three times is the anti-charm making Peter feel like he was close to the anti-Jesus or worse. 

But Jesus was out for mercy and not vengeance.  Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it; doing it one soul at a time.  In His first appearance to the apostles he renews this message but now in the power of the cross and the resurrection. 

John 20:21 “Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

But in his heart, Peter may have asked, “But will my sins be retained? Have I committed the unforgivable sin? Do I deserve to be in the new normal of this forgiveness that he talks about?” 

But the next day Jesus relentlessly pursues this lovable fisherman right in his territory. 

JOHN 21: 4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.”

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.”

 Jesus is into meals.  He says in Revelation that he stands at the door and knocks.  If you open the door then He and His Father will come in and dine with you. So there He is standing on firm ground.  The way is clear for Peter to come closer without hesitation. 

 A few things have always confused me about this story.  One is that Peter takes his cloak into the water with him.  He is weighted down in the water more than if he had stayed less clothed. 

 What I get is dedication.  Jesus said many times before that if you want to follow Him but are looking back, then you are not worthy to be His disciple.  I am thinking now that Peter did not want to get to Jesus and then tell Him to hold on until he gets his cloak.  Peter had the attitude, knowing only that Jesus is Lord, that to set himself up for total dedication this time would have to be holistic. 

 The other thing that confused me is the 153 fish detail.  What is the big deal about the exact number?  When I was reading this passage in my Ignatius Study Bible, Curtis Mitch wrote, “The number of fish hauled ashore is symbolic.  St. Jerome claims that Greek zoologists had identified 153 different kinds of fish (Comm. In Ez. 14, 47).  If this is the background, the episode anticipates how the apostles, made fishers of men by Christ (Mt 4:19), will gather believers from every nation into the Church.”

 I would go a bit further with a lens for typology or a symbolic point of view.  Before I do, I should tell the reader if they do not know already that I am a new and old believer.  I want to be up front that I have been a follower of Jesus for over thirty years but now I am also a new Catholic.  I wear Catholic glasses much of the time and appreciate the life of Simon Peter in these blogs both as a fellow sinner saved by grace and as the first pope. 

 Peter was not only the chief apostle but that day the chief pursuer of Jesus by diving toward him.  While he was pursuing Jesus, the other apostles brought in the catch of the day.  But the fish coming to Jesus was put into the hands of Peter.  Peter has them in his hands in a net that should not stay together but does.    

 By design this pope or any pope is called to set the best example of pursuing the presence, thought and intent of Jesus.  The fish are the nations and the pope is delegated to be the chief fisher of men if Jesus is not on the boat.  His helpers on the boat called earth cast out the net, and bring in this world of different peoples that should be divided but are not.  The pope presents the world to Jesus because the world is his assigned diocese. 

 So as Peter heads off to breakfast after a rough graveyard shift, he is getting the hint that yes, this grace thing, it is for him too.  Hopping out of my time machine I would tell Peter to go to breakfast boldly knowing that there is always a place for him, and us, at the Masters table.