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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 21:1–14           

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.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 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.” (NRSV)


“One minister on a jam-packed landing craft, Captain Lewis Fulmer Koon, chaplain for the 4th Division’s 12th Infantry Regiment, found himself serving as pastor for all denominations. A Jewish officer, Captain Irving Cray, asked Chaplain Koon if he would lead his company in prayer ‘to the God in whom we all believe, whether Protestant, Roman Catholic or Jew, that our mission may be accomplished and that, if possible, we may be brought safely home again.’ Koon gladly obliged.”

—Cornelius Ryan, The Longest Day

Captain Koon was my grandfather. After landing in the second wave on D-Day, he served at every major land battle in Western Europe, was wounded and declined evacuation, was awarded two Bronze Stars for bravery (in addition to his Purple Heart), and returned home with his health broken. He died when he was younger than I am now.

I think of him when I read today’s passage.

Jesus—not being above poking the sore spot—asks Peter three times if he loves him. That had to hurt. He had to feel, based on his recent past performance, that anything he said was going to be insufficient to convince Jesus of his love. And he was right. Jesus didn’t just accept his words and say, “OK, we’re good.” He gave Peter a task, an ongoing task, a task that wasn’t a one-and-done job but a lifetime imperative: Feed my sheep. Tend my sheep.

He told Peter he was going to be a servant, and his life was not going to be his own. He might not be wearing his own clothes, he would be going somewhere he didn’t want to go, but still the job was the same: “Follow me.” Simple to say, but a hard, hard road to follow.

Lots of us talk a big game when it comes to loving God, to following Jesus, and his response to us is always the same as it was to Peter. “Look after my people.” Hopefully our landing craft is a figurative rather than literal one and that with God’s help we can rise to the occasion.

Lord, the simplest things require the greatest devotion, and we so often seek the comfort of complexity to soften your commission. Help us to remember how to follow you, and give us the strength to take care of your people. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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