December 15, 2017

The Homily

feedTrust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5, ESV).

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved 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.” (John 21:15-17, ESV)

I have said this many times, but I want to say it once again. I am very blessed to be associated with some of the best writers I have ever worked with right here at iMonk. Chaplain Mike, Damaris Zehner, Adam Palmer, Lisa Dye, Mike Bell and Martha of Ireland tirelessly give of their time and talents to make our site one of the most read blogs on the internet. What makes them such great writers is their willingness to be vulnerable, to share their insights and experiences with you. This is not easy for anyone to do. You, the reader, are then free to rip into what they say. It is hard for anyone to have their words challenged when they are shared in a sincere way. Yet every time I ask them to write, they give of themselves freely again—for your sake.

It would be a lot easier if we all just wrote niceties and easy-to-swallow words. I call it pablum. Then we wouldn’t be subjecting ourselves to second-guesses, to those who want to show off their intellect by picking at some small error we’ve made. But pablum does not nourish. Cotton candy does not fill. And God, I believe, is not pleased with pablum or cotton candy. So we continue to share from our hearts in open, vulnerable ways.

To be vulnerable means to let down the walls around our hearts and give of ourselves freely to others. It is an uncertainty; it involves risk; it exposes us emotionally and spiritually. Vulnerability reveals our fear of rejection. We know that when we are vulnerable, people will see us as we are. It makes us naked, as it were. And outside of the garden, we no longer live naked without shame.

Yet it seems to me that God expects us to be vulnerable, even knowing how much it scares us. When we act in ways that can be explained and understood, we feel safe. When we take risks, we must trust the Lord. Most of the time, trusting him does not make sense. If it did, would we really need to trust him? Faith involves risks which means being vulnerable.

Jesus asked Peter to feed his sheep. I have a feeling Peter did not have a clue what Jesus meant by that at first. He learned soon enough, however, that in order for Jesus’ sheep to be fed, he would have to become food himself. He would have to accept that Jesus forgave him for his denial. That God really did intend for Gentiles to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. For Peter to fulfill Jesus’ command to feed his sheep, Peter could not remain in the safety of the Law. He had to enter the gates of grace by becoming vulnerable, enduring the attacks of those who could not fathom God inviting Gentiles where they had been previously forbidden.

We can choose safety in our lives, or we can choose vulnerability. Our own understanding leads us to places of safety, or at least what we think is safety. To be vulnerable is not safe. Having faith is not safe. Remember, however, that the only way we can please the Lord is by faith. That means our life must be one of constantly being vulnerable, not seeking to understand but to become food for others. Vulnerability takes courage. It takes a bit of an “I don’t care” attitude. Faith and vulnerability are joined together.

Does this sound too difficult? No one ever said following Jesus was going to be without risks. But it really is the only life worth living.

Let us pray.

Comments

  1. Amen.

  2. One of the most difficult aspects of being open and vulnerable is that it requires us not to be overly invested in our own rightness. In fact, it requires us to acknowledge and be open to the fact that we may be wrong, and we may need to adjust our position, understanding, even the way we live our life.

    And that applies both to the writers and commentators of this blog, not excluding myself.

    This is an exercise in humility that can only be undertaken by the grace of God.

  3. Jeff, I am LOVING your homilies! Thank you for taking the time to write and share these. I particularly like your line: “And outside of the garden, we no longer live naked without shame.” So true.

  4. “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

    Pope Benedict XVI

    Personal encounters are unpredictable, necessary, and often fraught with anxiety. Vulnerability is foundational to real life.

    Thank you, Jeff.

  5. Thank you.

    As someone who has always marched to a different drummer and been shunned and rejected for it, the idea of setting myself up for more of the same does not sound terribly appealing. But, since following the Lord and the way He wants me to live my life is the only path through this world, I will risk being rejected, isolated, and thought a fool (the latter is probably totally correct!) Just passing through here on my way Home…..if I can only remember that, and why I am here.

  6. We can be vulnerable because HE has promised to care for us. We need not care for ourselves but abandon ourselves to his care. Abandoning yourself to the care of another is frightening, humbling, yet that is the life of faith. Trusting that when we are vulnerable we are being taken care of by Him who gave his life for us. Amen.

  7. It does take a certain “I don’t care attitude”. Or maybe, an “I don’t care about my own ego” approach.

    Some confidence to be wrong in public, or to be right but thought wrong – and the ability to be ok with it.

    Knowing who you are in Christ helps.

  8. C.S. Lewis has a great quote about this: “Hell is the only place outside of Heaven where we can be safe from the dangers of love.”

  9. Where do you think the exhortation of “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” fits into this idea?

    It would seem to me that Jesus was vulnerable in proportion to the other person’s openness.

  10. Thank you for this Jeff. Vulnerability is always the harder choice for a leader but one that I’ve found invites others in where as piety (which we see way too much of in church these days) shuts most hurting, searching souls out. The reason I come back again and again to this site is exactly that reason.

  11. Don In Oklahoma says:

    The toughest part of this journey, sometimes, is being vulnerable when past hurts give me the urge to keep my walls up.