the people of God
From Rev Peter Beale
(Published in News First, May 2004 - monthly church newsletter, Warragul Uniting Church)
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:3
Throughout the Easter season the lectionary readings follow the various accounts of Jesus’ appearances, and the lives of the disciples in the light of his resurrection. It is wonderful to follow the remarkable transformation that takes place in their lives as the stories awaken in us our own journey of faith and the personal transformations that Christ has worked in our lives.
For many of us though, these stories remind us that there is much within us that still needs to be transformed.
Over the last few weeks we have followed the incredible changes that took place in Simon Peter: his transformation was complete! Along his journey with Jesus he went from being a fisherman too ashamed of his sins while in Jesus’ presence to being a follower and close companion; he moved from being head disciple to chief denier at Jesus’ trial and doubter of the women’s stories of the empty tomb; and he shifted dramatically from nervous, guilt ridden witness to joyful apostle, fearlessly proclaiming Christ’s resurrection power to transform lives, just as his own had been transformed.
Peter went from being just another illiterate, inarticulate fisherman, caught up in the habits and addictions of his day, to being a vitally alive, spiritually gifted, and articulate man, eager to share his joy with all around him, no matter the cost.
All of us, if we are honest with ourselves, desire this transformed life. It is so easy to be conformed to this world, and find ourselves trapped by the addictions of our day… the obvious ones: drugs, alcohol, tobacco, sex, television; and the less obvious addictions:materialism, pursuit of leisure, devotion to a sport or work, gaining control over others.
Rather than face up to our addictions, we tend to blame them on the media or the culture we are a part of; or we may lay the fault on those we love, or “Satan”!
But, while there are external contributing factors that may lead us into our addictions, we cannot blame them for our remaining trapped by them. That is our responsibility. Yet owning that we have an addiction is incredibly hard because they give us temporary comfort and help us to forget the struggles of life.
Even when we identify the destructive addiction for what it is we find it almost impossible to overcome it. We want to be transformed, but we cannot.
Following Jesus’ resurrection Peter was still caught up in his old habits and addictions. He “went fishing”, still conforming to the ways of the past, and the result was fruitlessness and frustration. But when God’s transforming grace was revealed to him through the amazing catch of fish, Peter was able to go on and be personally transformed as Jesus called and commissioned him for ministry as the new leader of the disciples.
Don’t we want this too?
Don’t we desperately want to live full and abundant lives, free of the habits and addictions that hold us back?
Christ is alive and present among us today! Jesus as he appeared to Peter and the others can appear to us in moments of life when we least expect it: when we are “gone fishing”, or at work, or in a dream, or in the action of another. Yet the encounter itself is not that which transforms us, but our response to that encounter. Peter was changed in the depths of his being, not by standing on the beach with Jesus eating breakfast, but by allowing Jesus to search the extent of his love and commitment. Peter found in this action the over abundance of God’s grace poured out on him: he was forgiven, he was empowered, and he was free to exercise the God given gifts for ministry that Jesus had identified (but Peter suppressed).
When we allow God to transform our minds, through the resurrection power of Christ, worlds change!
Let us, like Peter, be open to the searching of our soul, so that we might live transformed, gifted, empowered to live our lives for Jesus, sent to do his ministry in this desperate world.