May 18th, 2021 by Carl Buffington
Barb and I were packing for a few days at a beach. So when we reached the end of the road or destination, we figured a T-shirt, bathing suit, and flip flops was about all we needed. Our dog, Sammy, even less, a water bowl and food bowl. And I packed my newly purchased book, Chess For Dummies.
We, along with several others at New Covenant Church, have been mentoring at Orange County Academy in Bithlo on Thursday mornings. Erik, my 11-year-old mentee, clobbered me in a game of chess this past week. Hence, the beach reading material. (Barb’s brother, Walter, was an honest to goodness for real chess master, and made a living playing Backgammon. I would love to have him as a coach but he’s now with the Lord).
“The odyssey was a turning point in the arctic exploration because of its well-publicized failure. The preparations were more suitable for the Royal Navy officer’s club in England than for the frigid Arctic. The explorers made room on their ships for a large library, a hand-organ, china place settings, cut glass wine goblets, and sterling silver flatware instead of additional coal for their steam engines.
The ornate silver flatware was engraved with the individual officer’s initials and family crest. Search parties found clumps of bodies of men who had set off to walk for help when their supplies ran out. One skeleton wore his fine blue cloth uniform edged in silk braid, hardly a match for the bitter Arctic cold. Another apparently chose to carry with him the place settings of sterling silver flatware. What must he have been thinking to take sterling silver tableware in a search for help and food?" (Dillard, 24-26)
One cannot imagine that any of these sailor adventurers would have said, as they neared death on the frozen landscape, “I wish I had brought more silver place settings.”
Our hanging onto things that are ultimately useless will look no less foolish. Many cannot envision life without things they cherish. They are in danger of losing the only life that counts.
Sooner or later, one way or another, we all come to the end of our respective roads. The world would seem to tell us to be sure to pack a fat bank balance and a skinny waistline, AS those matter most in this world.
Power/fortune, popularity/fame, prestige/celebrity status, being a somebody--that, too, matters. But even seven Kentucky Derby wins, or seven Super Bowl rings, of which only one spectator of the ‘Run for the Roses’ this May could boast, while this is what the world esteems as valuable, it is something less than valueless at the end of the road.
Worthless, at the end of the road.
That’s what so many of us live for, isn’t it? At least a big house and fancy car, if not fame, fortune, and notoriety. But it does no good, it’s absolutely worthless at the end of the road. Some churches would tell us to get our doctrine right, that that’s what matters at the end of the road. However, I’m pretty sure that isn’t possible and isn’t worth any more than the bank or belly at the end of the road.
So what does matter at the end of the road? Loving and following Jesus, and taking care of his flock, is what our Lord has told us matters at the end of the road.
John 21 verses15-22 describes one road coming to an end and then talks about another one. It’s the end of the road for the earthly friendship of Peter and Jesus. Jesus has resurrected and is soon to return to his Father. What Jesus shares with Peter is the most precious, and certainly most critical thing to our souls, and every souls’, health. It is of inestimable value to each of us! People have suggested that this is the greatest dialogue in Scripture, some say in all of literature.
There are 7 exchanges between Peter and Jesus. There are the 3 “Do you love me” questions, with the commission to then feed/care for his sheep. The 4th exchange then is the foretelling of Peter’s death, the most mysterious one. The 5th is the first “Follow me.” The 6th is “What is that to you?” The 7th exchange is another follow me with a “must” added on - you must follow!
Looking at the first 3 questions and then a commission, “Do you love me?…feed my sheep,” what do we see?
For one, healing is happening for Peter’s 3 denials, e.g. “I don’t know the man.” Along with it perhaps there’s an injection of humility.
The first question concludes with, “Do you love me more than these?” I think Jesus is holding a match and knocking the valve off the propane tank in Peter’s heart.
He has just prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit, and now Jesus is igniting their hearts with the Holy Spirit and fire. The ministry he came to do. He is setting ablaze a passion for compassion to feed his sheep and care for his lambs. Peter is being transformed right in front of us! His heart is now ablaze with love for Jesus and his lambs. Note whose lambs/sheep they are: his.
The 4th & 5th exchanges are where Jesus tells Peter how he will die, and then says, “Follow me.” When Jesus goes on to talk about how Peter would die, the “follow me” that follows is meant to be a “follow me all the way.”
Notice who it is that says “Follow” to him. It’s the crucified (martyred), but now risen (conquering) Lord! Jesus is saying I came out the other side of an awful cross, Peter, you will too, just FOLLOW ME! This looks like and will look like the end of the road, and it is the end of one road. BUT this will not be the end of the road!
Jesus meant it when he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life!”
Following, trusting, loving, caring, that’s what we need to pack! That’s what we will need upon arrival at the end of the road.
The 6th exchange is “What is that to you?” This word has ministered to me wonderfully for the past year or so. I don’t know how the Lord highlighted it for me, but when some unkind words have been spoken about me, and for the most part were only about 70% true, and I would want to fire back, I would hear “What is that to you? You, Carl, follow me. Don’t get distracted by detractors and deprecators! Focus on me, no distractions, me alone, stay close, follow me!”
The 7th exchange is the second follow me and includes an imperative, a must. Do you see where he is leading us? That he has gone to prepare a place for us? Do you see the picture? This is the WAY, the only way, and this is the view in Revelation 4 at end of the road!
Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
Look now at how Peter has changed, been transformed! Previously, he denied Jesus 3 times. He was haughty, competitive, hoof in mouth disease, impetuous, even cuts off an ear... And now on this new road, the one not yet gold, but almost just as new, he’s a different person.
In Acts 4 he’s being challenged for healing a man crippled from birth... Peter filled with the Holy Spirit responds:
“Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”
There’s no hint of denial, arrogance, or fear ... he is loving Jesus and he’s healing his lambs! What he was told to do at the end of the road by his Lord: Peter is loving Jesus and following.
It was to be a 14 hour day in a bouncy jeep on horrible roads in Ghana. Traveling through the diocese with Bishop Edmund, the bishop of Dunkwa-On-Offin. Midway, or so it seemed, we stopped in a little village and the bishop led us into a mostly mud hut. There we saw a young girl laying on a cot.
He said that she hasn’t gotten up for 5 years (no cause was given) and asked that we pray for her. We did and as we did, several demons were spied leaving the hut, and a smile appeared on the girl’s face. We heard she was up and walking the next day. It’s in the name of Jesus that we walk along this earthly journey, not unlike Peter, following to the end of the road.
How do we live in such a way that prepares us for the end of the road? Or for the beginning of a new road here and now, before the one there and then?
Loving and following Jesus, step by step, pressing on, pressing in, running the race as Paul would say. Or as Jesus has said, by “feeding my sheep, tending my lambs, loving me!”
God never promised an easy life or a smooth road. As a matter of fact, he promised quite the opposite to his good friend Peter. No, as someone in our small group said, I believe quoting David Watson, “God never promised a smooth road, just a safe arrival.”
And that happens when we have packed a life lived of love, and followed Jesus along the road and finally home. Then, the end of the road is quite literally a new beginning beyond our wildest imaginings.
P.S. There is still room for 9 more mentors at OCA/Orange County Academy, a school with 57 students. It’s one day/week for one hour with one student. And the agenda is simply to spend time together, with the hope of pouring Jesus into their hearts. Contact Barbara or me if you are led to be part of this Kingdom work. At one point, as I recall, Jesus asked the disciples to spend just an hour with him.
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