Broken but useable, in the kingdom
And at that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And Peter broke down and wept. Mark 14: 72
Our Bible Study on Mark this week covers the final hours of Jesus with His disciples, His arrest, His disciples running away, Jesus’ “trial”, and Peter’s denial. A lot happens in a short span of time in Mark and the promising career of Jesus, for the uninitiated, seems to be over. I must admit, though, that I have always related to Peter, generally, but especially in this moment of denial. Peter is often portrayed in cinema as a big lug of a guy who loves Jesus but struggles to get “it right.” But I always have seen St. Peter as an energetic, emotional disciple who loves Jesus intensely but fails, sometimes, to follow the will of Jesus or see the bigger picture of His sacrificial life. Yes, that could be my story and the story of most followers of Jesus since the beginning. But, like Peter, we can take heart: not only is there a wideness to God’s mercy in Jesus – all can be and is forgiven – but, furthermore, following Jesus means that we will always, in spite of ourselves, be led home to God by Christ over and over again.
A few years ago, I brought home a bunch of broken shells from a trip to the beach in Carolina. And, as I was collecting them, I often noticed that the most beautiful shells were the broken ones; it was hard to find a “perfect shell” and often the ones that were unbroken were a bit bland and tended to be the same color. So, I collected only broken pieces of shell and brought them back in a big bucket and did something with them during my sermon, though I honestly don’t remember what. The broken shells, and Peter’s story, remind me constantly of the power of God’s forgiveness and the reality that God does not expect perfection but faithfulness. Christ does not expect us never to fall but to lean on His great mercy and love as we pick ourselves up and, when we are not able to walk, He will gather us in His loving arms and carry us until we can, once more, stand and follow Him. We are broken versions of the people we will one day be, with Jesus, in the heavenly places. While we are on the way, we won’t get it right but we are loved, anyway, as we do our utmost to follow the One who died and rose, and gave us a way to follow.