Any faith worth its salt recognizes our capacity for denial, betrayal, and flight, as well as our capacity for truth, love, and courage. Steve Shoemaker’s poem about the Apostle Peter, “the Rock” who crumbled, takes us into the heart of the matter. It;s a reflection on Peter denying that he knew Jesus (represented by Carl Bloch’s painting where he looks away from the woman who claims he knows him) and the post-resurrection appearance where the resurrected Christ offers forgiveness.
“DENIAL” – Steve Shoemaker, 2012
The future Bishop began badly. He
was “rude, crude and lewd,” as they say.
His fist would shake, would hit,
his mouth could often be a sneer, or leer…
but Jesus chose him first.
The fisherman was big and brash, yes,
bold as well at times. But after the arrest
a servant girl confronted him and
told those listening that Peter was with Christ.
He swore and then denied it, then again
and still again–she would not stop.
The cry then came of rooster telling of the dawn,
and he wept because he had told a lie.
But Peter felt forgiveness full and deep
when Jesus three times told him,
“Feed my sheep.”
Peter “the Rock” was no rock. Nor are we. He was sinking sand. So are we.
Like “the future Bishop,” we slip badly and yet we are raised up. Betrayal, denial, flight are part of every human story. But grace… even more….so much more, abounds! And to the likes of Peter and of us, there comes to our three-fold denial the Voice of forgiveness with a gentle but bold command: “Re-gain your courage. Live in love!”