Our God at the heart of St Patrick’s message we find forgiveness

A man who knew that he was forgiven

A man who forgave

"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" 

God, St. Patrick lived those words

Yet we in this country who celebrate St Patrick have been abject failures at showing that to one another

For years, aye decades, indeed centuries, we have failed to find forgiveness for one another

We have talked our own prejudicial justice and wreaked vengeance

It leaves our island with two St Patrick’s

Ours and theirs

Marching in different parades

Lord if ever there was an antithesis of St Patrick we are that

God forgive us

God show us the centrality of forgiveness in your righteous ways

God may we not languish in some self righteous sense of our own forgiveness from you

While playing hermeneutical gymnastics with God’s call for us to forgive

Lord, this St Patrick’s weekend may we for the first time in 16 hundred years hear St Patrick’s call to be forgivers

God right now we seek your forgiveness as we confess our sins of commission and omission to you and others

- silence to ask forgiveness -

We thank you that 1 John promises that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

So Lord, thank you for our forgiveness through "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world".

Send us back into our world knowing we are forgiven

To be forgivers

In Jesus name



Do not conform

(this is a little Lenten series for those who are interested... #12)

This poetic Reflection is based around a Bruce Cockburn’s song called Pacing The Cage:


“I never knew what you all wanted

So I gave you everything

All that I could pillage

All the spells that I could sing

It's as if the thing were written

In the constitution of the age

Sooner or later you'll wind up

Pacing the cage...”


To Cockburn I add Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of Romans 12 v 2 in The Message:


Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."


To be stumbling after Jesus into an upside down alternative Kingdom is to be constantly reflecting and critiquing the constitution of the age and standing against conformity to it. Here’s to less pacing... and less cages!


Oh how busy the days are

Rushing from one event to another

Our diaries full of appointments

Coffee breaks full of people

Our evening full of distractions

Running, taking short cuts

And missing the whole road

The distractions never stop

No one ever stops

The constitution of the age reads;

“No time to find time

As time just flies on and on.”


How loud and bright the days are

The radio wakens us with ideas and suggestions

Its ideas of fun and happiness

In the recipe of words and melodies

And rhythm and rhyme

The television fills all the loose moments

With philosophies of love and meaning

Acted out in half hour condensed packets of life

The constitution of the age screams

In the message of the medium

At the private altars of our rooms

Where the false prophets speak

And we are unaware how much we are listening.


Money is the reason for the every breath we take

So that we can have what they say we need

For our lives to be fully human

We study to get a job

That will give will give us the money

To buy what will make us more human

More human than we are without the money to buy

We buy our dignity

We buy our identity

We buy our love and meaning

The constitution of the age says

“I shop so I am”

And I am more of am than they are

Because I can buy more.


I need to know an alternative

I need to stand in the face of the constitution

I need to rebel against the age

I need to dare to be different

Not conformed to the constitution of the age

Bringing me down to its level of immaturity and madness

But transformed by the renewing of our my mind

By God who leads me into life and life in all its fullness.


Doug Record 2

For a musical template on his second solo record, Doug Gay has jumped back over his debut, Life After Death, to a sound more in keeping with his days as front man in Calvin’s Dream and Candy Says. Dreamed Of A Man and Storms are driven along with guitars. Q Blues then seems to shift pace before duelling guitars wrestle in the Qoloheth.

The centre of the record shifts, revealing the different textures that Gay can conjure in. The atmospheric That Night the Snow Fell and the heart break ballad Never Thought That You Would Leave. By album’s end, however, we are back in the early 90s with Your Face a song that would have fitted perfectly on Calvin’s Dream’s Fanatical record.

Indeed Your Face maybe best reveals Doug Gay’s uniqueness. Who else would even try to put his two loves, for deep theology and  The Velvet Underground and squeeze it all into 3 minutes. Bono dreams! 

Even thirty years ago, in his days as front man in Glasgow garage band Calvin’s Dream, Doug Gay was talking about his songs as ways to wrestle with his Protestant identity. Growing up in a Plymouth Brethren Church and ending up as a minister in the Church of Scotland, he has much to struggle with. 

This upbringing certainly gives Doug plenty to interrogate both in his own bruised soul as well as in theology and spiritual outworking. On The Old Gospel Hall he takes a nostalgic remembrance and finds the crux:


Oh the threat of death – and the gift of life

that you advertise, you advertise

but there is more - more to life than this 

I realise I realise


The follow on track When My Ship Comes In might be my personal favourite. Doug and I have a mentor called Andy Thornton and we both love a song of Andy’s called Stone Cold Winter. Had I still a radio show I’d play these two songs together. Songs of the wild open spaces of life in all its fulness:


Something wild enough to want

something strong enough to trust

something deep enough to love

something free enough to follow after


I have found myself in my car this past week, singing aloud to that chorus, claiming it as my own raison d’etre. The catchiest personal mission statement ever.

Which is where my Surmising concluded. Everyone of these songs are so full of ear candy. Wonderful melodies and choruses. New but familiar. I looked back and realised that I shouldn’t be surprised. If the Candy Says song One Track Heart had been played on the stage of CBGBs in the late 70 and if Calvin’s Dream’s What Kind Of Love had been on any of REM’s early 90s records Doug Gay would be all over our radios.

And I haven’t even mentioned that voice. Huge, warm, emotional, evocative and inviting… perfect for both the pastoral and the prophetic and for songs like these.





I felt like the 2023 Oscars were like the World Cup Finals. Ireland were competing at the highest level of the game and my favourite players were there. They might even win.

The Banshees Of Inisherin. Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan. Nine nominations. Oh for just one. I was rooted for them, my Irishness big and proud.

Along with them the wee north (our wee country) with An Irish Goodbye. A short film - Tom Berkeley, Ross White, Séamus O'Hara and James Martin. James who I watched grow up in Fisherwick Presbyterian and never thought. 

Irish Goodbye

It turns out that, like me, the world needs to rethink now. On James’ birthday An Irish Goodbye wins best short film. The entire theatre sings him Happy Birthday. You couldn’t make it up! Holywood might try!

Sadly, nine nominations but no winners for The Banshees Of Inisherin. The opposition was amazing though. I am no less proud.

I put off watching the The Banshees of Inisherin as long as I could. I was frightened of how sad it would be. Eventually, it needed watched… and yes it was sadder than I had even imagined It was bleak. Utterly heartbreaking. 

Yet, what a movie! What a feat of movie making! 

I mean writer and director Martin McDonagh comes up with almost 2 hours of film based around two men, one of which doesn’t want anything to do with the other anymore. To make filling the time harder he sets it on an island off the west coast of Ireland. 

Now don’t get me wrong, there are other stunning performances, Kerry Conlon and Barry Keoghan to name but two, and the odd animal like a horse, dog and a miniature donkey (was that really the actual one at the Oscars?!?!) but there’s not a lot happening. Yet, this is bizarre and beautiful and there’s no temptation to take your eyes off it. 

Ireland looks stunning. It’s rugged, its characteristic green and beautiful. It’s wind beaten and wild. Yes, there is a certain amount of caricature but this was indeed the west of Ireland in 1923. I have just finished Niall Williams’ book This Is Happiness about electricity coming to Kerry in the late 50s. Inisherin is believable.

The strength of the acting of Farrell and Gleeson is how these actors can make a two hour film out of the simple plot of two men breaking up without reason. It is a painful watch mentally, emotionally, spiritually… it even gets physically brutal. 

Colm gets some new ideology in his mid life crisis head. To be remembered he needs to do something more than drink every day with his dull friend Pádraic. He’s going to write music instead. Taking it to an irrational and obsessive length the film has its moving fault line; a heart quake if you will allow me. For two hours Colm goes to extraordinary lengths to keep Pádraic at another table. 

Now when I mention ideology I perhaps tip my hat at what is happening across the water on the Irish mainland in 1923, when these shenanigans are said to be going on in Inisherin. We hear the odd blast across the sea.

The Irish Civil War is doing the same thing to families and friends as Colm is doing to Pádraic. Maybe we can see personal and national ideologies do the same across America and Europe in 2023. 

I could’t help looking in the spaces that The Banshees Of Inisherin gives for thinking. What have all our Irish ideologies done to one another. Some so outdated now but still dividing and causing bloodshed. 

It reminded me of that powerful allegory The Field, Jim Sheridan’s equally brilliant take on John B Keane’s play, also set out in the west of Ireland. 

An Irish Goodbye has similarities apart from the length. The son of farmers who in Northern Ireland should take on the land runs off to London but when his mother dies he has to return to ask himself not only about the farm but a brother with Downs Syndrome. Again we have two humans in conflict in 23 minutes of grief and a great deal of, laugh out loud, humour. James Martin is astounding throughout.

In an interview, maybe 40 years ago, Bono said that us Irish didn’t build big bridges or go to the moon… we wrote stories. Boy, wasn’t he right. Only one win at these Oscars but still fighting way above our weight!


Lineker 2

(this is a little Lenten series for those who are interested... #11)


In Uganda one summer a mother said to my wife that she would happily give her her child. We wondered how a mother could do that. Then we realised that our luxury of wondering was because we live in a comfortable part of a safe city in an economically wealthy part of the world. 

That is the luxury that the parents at the vortex of the refugee crisis, who are risking everything in boats across seas, don’t have. They are not spongers. They are not trying to steal our jobs or health care. They are simply desperate to give their children a better life.

Whatever the detail of Gary Lineker’s BBC contract on what he can and cannot say is, compared to so many other BBC contracts that seem to allow anchors to rant government support at will, the Jesus follower has to be right behind Lineker's argument. A government that wishes to close off the asylum rights of people who arrive in boats is a horrible way to treat fellow humans fleeing terror and danger. 

For the follower of Jesus welcoming the refugee is a no brainer. It is simply what we do. Jesus said that those who would get into heaven were those who fed him, gave him a drink, gave him a room and clothes. When do we do this to him? When we do it to the least of these. So, the call is there to respond to the stranger, the homeless, the fleeing asylum seekers. 

The Old Testament was also commanding a welcoming of the refugee. It is mentioned in Deuteronomy but expanded on in Leviticus. Leviticus chapter 19 verse 34 says, “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” The people of God knew what it was to live in another country and were to treat people well, remembering that they were not treated well. 

If the Old Testament people of God were concerned with the refugee then the New Testament starts with another such story. Jesus himself was a refugee. That Christmas story tells us that when the death squads hit the streets around Bethlehem Joseph and Mary were those parents heading somewhere else for safety. 

It is interesting to then take a wee side-look at why the death squads were sent. Herod was frightened that this baby would take away his place, his power, his comfort. 

Are we in danger of becoming the Herod of the refugee story? When our own comfort eradicates our compassion for those in need we have lost something at the core of our humanity. There is no doubt that welcoming batch after batch of refugees into our country might threaten our wealth and comfort. It might be hard to sustain. 

Well actually it will be hard to sustain at the same standard of living that we are used to. However, for the Jesus follower our wealth at the cost of other people’s misery is something the prophets condemned.

This is where I feel the refugee crisis becomes a Lenten issue. Lent is about sacrifice. It is about aligning with God’s ways. It is about reversing a world where wealth and comfort and power is the goal to a world of compassion, grace and servanthood. In Lent, we are preparing to stand before the Jesus of Good Friday and respond to his whisper to follow him.

Follow him to what? A safe, wealthy, comfortable world of hymn singing and fish in the lapel of our Saville Row suits. No, follow him to “take up our cross daily and follow me.” If that following is anything it is on the side of the refugee. 

A TRIBUTE TO WINNIE ROWEN (20.4.34 - 10.3.23)


I was so sorry to hear of the death of Winnie Rowen. It was just over a year ago that I wrote this now edited tribute to her husband Robert at the time of his death.  

Janice and I first met Winnie at a couple of Scripture Union Family Camps that I spoke at at Ovoca Manor in County Wicklow. She was so lovely. So gentle. So loved by all of her children and grandchildren and... Janice and I quickly fell in love with her gentle presence and smile.

Of course I was always in awe of her for other reasons. Winnie lived what seems like a pretty anonymous life in the Dublin suburbs but because she took the Scriptures seriously and loved her neighbour she in many ways blessed the entire world.

Winnie along with Robert had 10 children! As if 10 were not enough, when the wee boy across Cedarwood Road lost his mother, the Rowens took him in.

The wee boy across the road in number 10 was Paul Hewson, later known as Bono. He became best friend with Derek Rowen, better known as Guggi who became the main focus of two U2 songs - One and Cedarwood Road. 

Other Rowens became part of the story of the wee boy’s rock band. U2’s first album Boy and indeed their third album War had Peter Rowen's face on the covers. Peter went on to be a photographer himself and the band have used some of his photos.

Guggi wasn't the only brother with two U2 songs written about him. Both Bad and Raised By Wolves were written about Andy Rowen,who got caught up in UVF bombs in Dublin while out delivering with his dad, Robert. Read Andy's amazing story here

Anyway, it was Winnie and Robert who introduced Bono to Christian meetings. The Rowens were from the conservative Brethren and Robert was a stern, at times over stern disciplinarian. Winnie was his quiet, soft hearted yet stoic partner.

The Rowens reminded me of Andrew in the New Testament Gospels. It was Andrew who introduced his brother Peter to Jesus. Peter became the one with the widest influence but Andrew was the “gateway to the sun” as Bono sings of Robert's cherry blossom tree in the song Cedarwood Road!

I am always inspired by the very ordinary but tangible everyday way that Winnie and Robert loved their neighbour has changed millions of lives around the world. Quite an example to us all! 

In the sleeve notes to Songs Of Innocence, an album about U2’s childhoods. Bono mentions the Rowens from number 5. He calls them an “Old Testament tribe.” He is so right. I have had the privilege of getting to know some of this family. I think I once made a plea to be adopted as a 60 year old brother! They are Old Testament in size and their deep roots of faith and the drama of their lives. 

As well as Guggi’s friendship for life, Bono got so much more from Winnie and Robert. In the liner notes of Songs Of Innocence Bono writes about those Christian meetings with the tribe! 

He writes, “In their company I saw some great preachers who opened up these scary black bibles and made the word of God dance for them, and us.” In Cedarwood Road he sings, “Cymbals clashing, Bibles smashing/Paints the world you need to see.”

Brushing Lou Reed and the Rowen family together, Bono concludes, “Lou Reed, God rest his soul, said you need a busload of faith to get by. That bus was full of Rowens and I was on it.”

A few years after the Scripture Union camps I did one of my Gospel According To...U2 nights in Crinken Parish in Bray. A clatter of the Tribe, including Winnie and Robert showed up. Jonny Rowen actually sang for me that evening. I was nervous as I shared about the songs Cedarwood Road and Raised By Wolves. If anyone could shout, “Rubbish, he’s making it up” it was Winnie and Robert.

Afterwards I sat for a time with Winnie before moving on to Robert. We had a good yarn and then he says, “You know I took Bono to Bible Clubs!” Yes I do Robert. You’re the reason so much theology got out across rock music. Even after I’d preached his successful ‘Love thy neighbour’ he was still too humble to let it sink in.

People often ask me what I spoke about the short few minutes that I had with Bono after one of the Belfast gigs on the Songs Of Innocence Tour. The answer is the Rowen family, specifically Robert, Winnie and Andy.

So, once again I send my love to all those wonderful Rowens as you mourn the loss of the matriarch of your family. Janice and I grieve Winnie's loss with you. May Jesus be proved right when he called the Holy Spirit a Comforter. 

Winnie, thank you for how kind you were to us and for how kind you were to that boy from across the road. The Lord used you to be the catalyst of so many engaging with Jesus.


Granny  Mavis  Me  Sharon and Paul

(At then back of 95 Moat Road, Granny Kernohan's house, when I was around 8... cousin's Sharon and Paul then me with Granny Kernohan with Aunt Mavis)


At our Church weekend we were thinking about Church. Erin Thompson and I were asked to talk about our childhood memories of Church. I dug deep. 


There were two senses of place in my childhood - Maine Park Galgorm, the housing estate I lived on until I was 7 and Harryville Church. Both ends of Ballymena. A Galgorm Stockman, a Harryville Kernohan. I was set and safe!

So, Church for me as a child was very very important but I never went to Church.

Let me explain. When I say we never went to church, we never went to a Sunday morning service. My dad went in the evening when he was on the count. Adding up the money. 

BUT I never remember the three of us at a Sunday morning service. Later I would go, once a year, to collect my annual Sunday School prize.

For me Harryville Church was about Sunday school which happened before Church, Boys Brigade on cold winter Friday nights and eventually Youth Club on teenage Saturday nights. I at least started going because, my mum told me later, she wanted to keep her baptismal vows.

All of this took place in the Sloan Hall tucked in beside the Church on Francis Street. The Church was on Casement Street, after a Ballymena Academy knight of the realm who was executed for being an IRA gun runner! See his memorial at Murlough Bay. I always found Francis Street by checking for the mark my mum left with our Ford Cortina on the telegraph post at the Larne Road end.  

Sunday school wasn’t so much fun. I remember sitting around in circles. I did learn about fundraising, saving thru-penny bits for our New Hall but most of the rest of my memory is football chatter with Roy Harris whose family went to Australia and came back a year later for £10, Brian Crockard who later played for Ballymena United before tragically dying in a holiday accident at 22 and Philip McCrea who like me became a minister and helps us with the 4 Corners Festival.

BB was more fun. I hated the marching… but football. I got to play with future Irish international Steven Penney and win cups. I also got to be runner up in NI BB Quiz and was lead singer when we were joint winners of the NI BB Choir competition… that latter took place in First Antrim where 15 years later they would become very familiar buildings in my five years as asst minister there! 

I also remember during a Squad Inspection night… holding on as long as I could and then peeing all over the wooden floor, watching it darken the wood below my shiny white plimsolls, now slightly yellow. Everyone then had to walk round my puddle when we were marching. I could see the titters and though no one has ever said, I imagine they knew it was the future minister of Fitzroy!

Youth Club was for teens. For me it was about girls and music and eventually God, with snooker and badminton and a little footie thrown in. I remember putting my hand through a window one night when a Johan Cruyff turn went wrong. Your arm through a window. Time stops and you think “should there be blood”, “Will I die” “Is my arm cut off”. Then you bring it back through very slowly hoping none of those things come true.

Back to music and girls. I remember my mate Rab breaking up with the 13 year old love of both of our lives, Janet. Janet played some soppy love song, maybe Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, on the record player pointed at Rab. Quick as a flash Rab put on Smokie’s Don’t Play Your Rock N Roll to Me which might have been the first time I watched songs being linked - a trait I’d take into my radio show 25 years later. 

I had 4 good atheistic years at Youth Club before God caught up with me. In a bus of youth clubbers on the way back from visiting a GB weekend in Portrush a few weeks after I had another God bothering moment at the GB display I finally realised that God didn’t only exist but wanted to do something in my life! I started going to Church the very next week.

In the end, though I never went to Church until I was 17, Harryville Church was a major shaper in my young life.


Shift Your Focus

(this is a little Lenten series for those who are interested... #9)




From your own efforts to gather more

To the birds who have enough

From your own attempts to look good

To the roses in their springtime magnificence



From the feeble efforts to change who we are

To opening up to what God’s grace longs to make us

From waiting until we are good enough for God

To having his strength made perfect in our weakness



From the selfishness of being stuck in a moment

To the usefulness of living for the eternal

From the slavery of the things that we see

To the freedom of living in the Spirit unseen



From the love we are craving to get

To the mercy we are zealous to give

From a holiness that feeds our self righteousness

To a Godliness that feeds the world



MATTHEW 6: 30-34

 “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.


Iain and Andy

It was a very powerful moment in a very special evening. 

By wonderful happenstance a few friends found themselves in the same geographical space for the first time in decades. A gig broke out. Just a gathering of people who might appreciate the songs of Andy Thornton and Iain Archer. A beautifully eclectic mix of people gathered. 

It was a unique evening that had the template of a concert but not the blue print. There was chat and laughter and relaxed informal playing on each other’s songs. Doug Gay joined them for a stunning song of his own.

Andy took us to Lahore and back, musing on his own vocational life, social justice concerns and big questions about God. Iain led us into songwriter sessions with Jake Bugg and James Bay, playing us his own versions of Lightning Bolt and Hold Back The River. 

Iain and Andy shared about their own friendship particularly life in Glasgow around 1992. This nostalgia trickled out across some of the small crowd. It hit me deep in my memory, then heart and soul as I stood behind the Fitzroy coffee bar.

I was looking out over the head of Helen Killock. Helen introduced me to the music of Andy Thornton in 1989. I was a Deacon Blue super fan and Helen suggested that Ricky Ross’s mate Andy Thornton was worth hearing. I went to Greenbelt in 1989 to see Bruce Cockburn, Peter Case and Andy’s band Big Sur. Sunday morning and we sat at the same table as Andy for breakfast…

About a year later Helen suggested that we should try and bring Andy over for Youth Night an annual rally at the Presbyterian General Assembly. There was laughter in the Fitzroy Welcome Area as it was recalled how Helen and I were unceremoniously sacked from the planning group after Andy said ‘crap’ during the evening! Honest!

In the midst in the midst of the laughter that followed I suddenly became aware that that was the moment when my Presbyterian belonging took a turn. Oh it played out over another 5 years of more major slaps in the soul but that was the first hurt in a long line of painful rejections. My story from golden boy to black sheep started right there.

I was still enjoying the gig. Yet, my head is now swirling with events from almost exactly half of my life ago. We are now in songs and chatter dealing with the fulcrum moment of my life. That is not only about my popularity in my denomination going down the plug. This was the place were two roads diverged and I took the one less traveled and found the life in all its fulness that Jesus gifted me and my life’s vocation.

At that same Youth Night event where Andy was using the word ‘crap’ we both met Iain Archer, again through Helen Killock. Right there the events that led to this night three decades later were set on a roll with my life transformed in the rolling out. 

Andy then sang Rage In The Darkness. He’d written it just before that Dublin night in 1991. It’s a prophetic song against all the oppression of religion. It spoke to me back in 1991 and behind that coffee bar in Fitzroy I realised that I had been living out that song ever since. It was a soul map to the road I have ever since been travelling. 

Rage In The Darkness is a song that looks inside the narrowness that some flaw in our human imagination can make out of the goodness of God’s freeing love. It suggest that we are led into slavery with a promise of being set free. Religion chains the best intentions of faith into systems and controls. Humans in our messed up religious systems get God so badly wrong that God almost stops believing in himself. 

It closes with the truth that “love conquers evil”. Whether 1 John 4:16 “God is love” or John 3:16-17 that “God so loved the world…” or Romans 5:8 “God demonstrates his love for us in this…” it is this love that we twist and unfathomably lose sight of. 

As Andy sang it in Fitzroy, it brought deep catharsis for the hurt of years of rejection, it refilled me with resilience and gave me back  the edge for how Jesus has called me to live and work. 

Oh there was much more happening at this happenstance but for me this’ll be the depth charge rippling out. It was quite a night.



(this is a little Lenten series for those who are interested... #8)


It happens more than you think. You are in the Welcome Area after the service and someone comes up and tells you a story that you just wished you had known before the service began. Of course, the sermon, most likely, made your friend think of the story and they didn’t know your sermon before the service and so couldn’t have told you… but… 

Here is one such story. "Your sermon reminded me of a Spike Milligan story", George Sproule told me. Spike was in one of his depressions and headed off to the middle Ireland for some peace. He got off a train, randomly, in the middle of nowhere and as luck would have it the first man he saw recognised him. On asking what he wanted the man said, “Mr Milligan, follow me and I’ll be right behind you!” 


My sermon was on the recommissioning of Peter. The purity of Peter’s vocational call, way back when he was on the boats in Galilee had been badly tarnished with his denials of Jesus before the crucifixion.

The risen Jesus comes back to the beach in Galilee to restore Peter to that original vocation. Like a football team who find themselves three down in denials, Jesus more or less gives Peter three goals back by asking him three times if he loves him. Jesus equalises Peter’s three own goals. All is put right.

It is then time for Jesus to invite Peter again to this mad roller coaster ride of upside down Kingdom bringing. In John 21 Jesus asks Peter to follow him, In the chapter before Jesus had put it a slightly different way. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 

It is Spike Milligan’s “Follow me and I’ll be right behind you!”

That is following Jesus. From one perspective, it is an invitation and our initiative. From another angle it is Jesus pushing us on. 

Maybe you are where Peter was on that Galiliean beach. Maybe you are a little down spiritually. Maybe your original vocation call has got distracted or tainted. Maybe if you look up the metaphorical beach you’ll see Jesus barbecuing you some fish, ready to recommission. 

Lean in and hear the words:

“Follow me!”

“As the Father sent me, I am sending you.”

“Follow me and I’ll be right behind you.”