Our houses are reliquaries.
The objects they hold have many shapes, colours and sizes;
some are valuable, and promise much.
We festoon our dwellings with chains and bolts fashioned from fear,
and security cameras, should the locks fail.
We will not be taken advantage of;
we will guard what we have.
Yes, we know these things are all just stuff;
but stuff, nonetheless.
In time it will all be reduced to dust.
Still we take much comfort from our locks.
The disciple is to be prepared, alert;
so the ancient scripture enjoins.
This instructive text was written in those excited early years
when the imminent return of the master
was eagerly anticipated.
Jesus is coming; look busy!
After two millenia the sense of expectancy
has largely evaporated, at least for some of us.
For twenty-first century disciples
the urgent metaphors for faithful living –
being dressed for action and keeping our oil lamps burning –
must have some other purpose.
The evangelist writes as if for the theatre,
scenes that have been re-enacted
by countless ecclesiastical ensembles for millennia.
In the final act of his disturbing drama
the lead character returns unexpectedly to centre stage
and is brought face to face with a once-trusted friend.
One who famously abandoned him
at a time of desperate need.
We, who also know the bitter taste of failure,
squirm awkwardly with the fisherman
as his master invites him, three times,
to reaffirm his devotion.
The brash confidence of previous boasts
has been supplanted by the shame
of his pre-dawn denials.
Self-assured words no longer come readily
to his lips.
Jesus is gracious, accepting;
he does not chastise.
There is work to be done,
there are journeys to be completed,
there are sheep to be tended;
failures, too, are needed.