In the third movie of the trilogy “The Lord of the Rings”, there is a scene near the end of the movie where Frodo Baggins is leaving Middle Earth to join the Elves in the West, but his dear companions Sam, Merry and Pippin will be left behind to get on with their lives in the Shire.
As Frodo says goodbye to Sam, he hands him a book and tells him, “The last chapter is for you, Sam”. There is always more to the story.
The Gospel accounts of Jesus post-Resurrection appearances are there to tell us that the story of God doesn’t end with the Resurrection. The first appearance came when the disciples were locked in a room, fearing what would happen to them, once Jesus had been executed. The second appearance occurs one week later, with the disciples still in a closed room, still doubting the true power of the Resurrection.
In the third appearance, the disciples are now about to go back to living their “normal” lives, some as fisherman. Jesus appeared to them on the beach near where they were fishing. This time, Jesus reminds them that their lives as disciples are not over. He reminds them by using the words many of them heard when they met Jesus for the first time: “Follow Me”.
Yes, the disciples were destined to resume their ordinary lives as fishermen, tradesmen, mothers and fathers, wives and husbands. But the experiences that they all shared together following Jesus to the cross and the empty tomb were transformational, and even ordinary life would be lived with extraordinary inspiration.
Yet, the renewal of the call to discipleship was not simply a command to unbridled missionary zeal. In its history of writing the post-resurrection story, the Church has not always gotten this quite right, emphasizing coerced conversion over true discipleship. Before Jesus renews his call to follow, he reminds his disciples that the way of God is one of love, forgiveness and compassion. Three times, he asks Peter “Do you love me?” In a negation of the three-fold denial Peter had delivered a few weeks before, Jesus offers forgiveness, and a command to feed and tend his children. Those are the marks of the call to discipleship.
In a way, Jesus has left us with his own book, with more chapters to write. How will you respond to the call to follow Jesus? What will be on those pages that you get to write?
Devotions for the Week of April 10, 2016
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.