Monday, April 15, 2013

the fraility of Follow me

The Bible reading for Sunday, from John 21, got me thinking about aging. It is Jesus encounter with Peter after the resurrection and it is interesting the way discipleship looks both backward and forward.

Backward, to Peter’s denial, as three times Jesus questions Peter’s loyalty.

Forward, as Jesus looks to Peter’s future.

“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.” John 21:18

This is often taken by commentators to refer to how Peter will die. But it is a fairly standard description of aging. The reading occurred in a church service in which an elderly minister, with significant health concerns, was presiding over what might in fact be their last ever time to lead communion.

Hence my connection with the aging dimension of the text, the inevitably of time in which all of us no longer be able to dress ourselves and rely on others to walk us.

What left me pondering was how the call to discipleship in the text, both forward and backward, is the same: “Follow me.” Whether to previous denial or to a less than mobile future, God invites us into discipleship.

We live in a society that prioritises youth. I like that Jesus calls folk, no matter their age, to discipleship. I see this as encouraging, a reminder that we’re invited into God’s purposes no matter our faculties, that God does not put people on the shelf as their bodies waste.

All this has echoes with a book on my beside table, John Swinton’s Dementia: Living in the Memories of God which is a Christian pastoral response to aging, in particular dementia. It refuses a medical model in the search for a wholistic and fully human theology, of God’s memory.

Which is exactly what is happening in John 21. Peter has been frail, in denial. Peter will be frail, in the future. Both are held by God in Jesus, in the practicalities of food, in the warmth of fire, in the invitation to discipleship no matter one’s age and stage.

Posted by steve at 10:40 AM

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