(Lead me, Lord) So that I remain steadfast & Loyal.
When I think about remaining steadfast and loyal, my thoughts turn to Jesus’ disciples. In particular, I think of Peter who boasts confidently that we will never deny Christ, and then before the cock-crows he has denied knowing Jesus not once, but three times. It is easy to profess loyalty when there is no costs for our allegiance. But how soon that loyalty fades when times get risky! After Jesus is crucified, Peter and some others go back to their old work, fishing. Jesus appears and the gospel according to John describes what happens this way:
John 21:4 [NRSV] Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
John 21:9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
It is interesting to notice that the word “steadfast” is used more than one hundred times in the NRSV Bible. In the Hebrew Bible it is found only paired with the word “love.” That is the NRSV’s way of rendering the Hebrew word Hesed. Hesed is a long-term, reliable, committed, and loving relationship. What God offers over and over is this loving relationship of persistent fidelity.
That God loves us is something that is settled truth. But the question which remains is, “do we love God?” That is the question Jesus keeps posing to John on the shore, “Do you love me?” If you do, then “follow me.” Our Pilgrim Prayer urges that we show the same loving and persistent loyalty to God. We, who are making our way to Jerusalem and our remembrance of the crucible through which the earliest disciples were forged, would do well to wonder about the depth and breadth of our love for God. Is it steadfast? Are we loyal even when the hard days come, as they will to every disciple?
Daily Collect: Faithful God. You have shown your Hesed to us in millions of ways over thousands of years. You are steadfast and loyal. Help us who follow to return to you our own steadfast and loyal love today and every day. In the name of the one who calls us with, “Follow me.” Amen.