There is an old saying we’ve all heard and the older I get the more I appreciate it: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” How many times in life have you found that to be true? As a baseball player and house painter in my college years, many were the days that work and games were cancelled due to rain. Sometimes I needed the money. Always I wanted to play. But never could I control the weather.
At the end of John’s gospel Jesus restores “fallen” Peter. The failed disciple who feared for his own life and so three times denied Jesus was three times asked by Jesus “do you love me?” and three times commanded to serve others in Jesus’ name. That is probably the more familiar part of the passage. The next part is less familiar and perhaps even more challenging! In that verse Jesus tells him, “when you grow older others will tie a belt around your waist and take you where you do not want to go.” The careful reader might ask Jesus, “Wait, you mean to tell me I’m not in charge of my own destiny?” And the answer: “No. Follow me.”
The challenge, the issue, and the reality is our desire to be in control. Are you a “control freak”? Is it hard to “let go and let God?” IF so, go ahead, tell God your plans, schemes, and designs as if you were in charge of the world around you. Can you hear the laughter? One of the many side-effects of Coronavirus is that we feel something like a belt around us pulling us where we don’t want to go. In the same way, the pain of racism and the protests in the streets over police violence are forcing our nation to address longstanding matters of injustice and historic inequality. We are all having to ask hard questions and have difficult conversations about systemic racism and white privilege. We can fight it. We can and do complain. We can try to dismiss it. We can act out of our anxiety and need for “all things being done neatly and in order” as we try to organize and arrange the world around us…but our efforts are futile. The truth is, the killing of George Floyd is pulling us, even forcing us, to address these matters.
For the writer of John’s gospel, this is an interesting story to leave us with, don’t you think? I mean if I ended a gospel, I would conclude it on a happier note. But John doesn’t. In the end, he says, we aren’t in charge at all, God is. We aren't free to do as we wish. Instead, we are commanded by Christ. Commanded to love, commanded to serve, commanded to follow him. Where will that lead us? God only knows.