Friday, May 16, 2008

The newly appointed shepherd

Johan Christoph Weigel

So when they had broken their fast,
Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John,
lovest thou me more than these?
He saith unto him,
Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.
He saith unto him,
Feed my lambs.

He saith to him again a second time, Simon, son of John,
lovest thou me?
He saith unto him,
Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.
He saith unto him,
Tend my sheep.

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of John,
lovest thou me?
Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time,
Lovest thou me?
And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.
Jesus saith unto him,
Feed my sheep.

John 21:15-17 RV
I have had Jesus' threefold commission to Peter in my head since last week, when it was the Gospel reading for the day.

Where the earlier footwashing showed the meaning of leadership and servitude by way of an act, here Jesus informs Peter what he (Peter) will need to do in his ministry:
Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep.
The Catholic Church believes this to be the making of Peter into the first Pope. It is read at Pope's Funerals.
While I agree that this is true, I do not think Jesus' words were solely for Peter, and therefore the Papacy. I believe these words are for all leaders within the Church.

Feed in this saying means to spiritually nourish, and lambs refers to young and new followers. The young and new need special attention for spiritual guidance.

Every Monday and Thursday, we hold a playgroup at Church. It runs from 9:30-11:15 and costs $2. About 30 kids under the age of 5, and their Mums come along. the kids have a free playing time, then they go into the Church for a story (this week it was "The Good Shepherd") a song, and a short prayer. Then the kids come back say Grace, then have morning tea. Then they play around a bit. Then craft, where the colour and glue pictures. (This week it was a lamb). Then they have some other songs, then go home.

I guess this fits the bill for both feed and tend.
The standard Church service has nothing for kids. But within this group, they get a Biblical story, prayers they can understand, and songs that are written for them.
They dig it, no more or less than non Christian stuff I suppose.

Tend is to look after, and the manner in which to do so is mentioned a letter attributed to Peter:

Tend the flock of God which is among you,
exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according unto God;
nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you,
but making yourselves examples to the flock.
1 Peter 5:2-3 RV
Tend in this circumstance is to provide for human needs.

I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep.
John 10:11 RV
Jesus then tells Peter that he is to feed them.
To feed is a separate function from tend.
The spiritual nature needs to be more than satisfied; it needs to be in a state ongoing growth.

Tending is important, a community is involved.
It is interesting that Peter separates Feed and Tend for the sheep. Are they different jobs? Are they done at different times? And why not tend the young?

I believe Jesus is telling Peter that as a leader, not to neglect the spiritual teaching of his flock. While tending is important, the whole flock will be a part of this for each other. Peter explained the role of a leader as "oversight" .

I think the role of spiritual guidance is the distinct role of the leader within the Church.
A Priest may organise some construction within the Parish buildings; he won't design the building, or lay the bricks.
He will be the one who will lead the worship in the finished building, not the architect, or the bricklayer.

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