Parable: The Recycling God.

Christ appears to St Peter at the Sea of Tiberias
Christ appears to St Peter at the Sea of Tiberias (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

Jonah and Barnabas had been attending church for several weeks together. Barnabas has been an active part of the church, while Jonah was a relatively young believer… although he was in fact fairly old. Barnabas had rightly gained a reputation as one who was effective in discipling new believers. Jonah certainly exhibited rough traits that showed that he spent most of his life far from the church, but there was a warmth to him and an eagerness to grow that was undeniable.

One day, Jonah and Barnabas asked to meet the pastor of their church in town. Jonah was hoping to be baptized and be accepted as a member of the church. Barnabas wanted to vouch for Jonah’s heart and commitment. The three had coffee together and made plans for the baptism. After the check was paid, they walked outside and Jonah said,

Pastor, I would really like to show you something. I have decided to donate a building to God. Actually, I am donating it to our church… to be used for God’s work.”

That is most generous. Sometime you must show it to me,” said the pastor.

Oh yes, come with me. It very close,” responded Jonah. So Jonah, Barnabas and the pastor walked a short distance to a disco. It was clear that Barnabas knew this was the place and said, “Uh pastor. We are here.”

The pastor was taken aback. “This is the place you are donating to the church. A disco?!”

Yes pastor. Well, not the disco. The disco is closed, I mean permanently. I feel kind of bad. Many good people worked here, it was there livelihood, and I had to lay them off. I will make it up to them. I just need to think a bit on how best to do it. But the building, yes the building, that is for the church to use.”

Barnabas stepped in. “Jonah has shown it to me before. It is a big place with a large main room. It might make a great church building, or youth center, or inner city outreach.”

Jonah, I don’t want to sound ignorant or foolish,” said the pastor, “but even though it is called a ‘disco’ it really is a strip club and a… well… brothel, correct?”

Pastor, before, I never really thought in those terms. I thought of it as a dance club to entertain people. But yes, it is… was… a strip club. I wouldn’t call it a brothel, but customers could talk to the floor manager and, well– work out something. But that is the past! Now it can be used for something better. I have found something better for the building, and I will find something better for the workers.”

Barnabas jumped in. “You know, pastor, it is a good building. I think the church can really do great things with it.”

The pastor responded, “But what are people going to say? ‘Oh that’s the church the meets at the disco… at the strip club… at the whorehouse!’ We could hardly accept such a building… free or not.”

We have accepted Jonah, haven’t we?” said Barnabas.

The pastor could have said, ‘But we did not know he was an owner of such a place.’ Thankfully, he said, “Yes, of course we accept him.”

Thank you, pastor,” said Jonah, “and I hope when I invite my former employees to church, they would be welcome as well.”

Of course,” said the pastor, although wondering whether they would be truly accepted by the church membership.

Of course,” repeated Barnabas, but also wondering how prepared the church would be for such an influx.

Then it seems silly that there would be any problem in the church with a mere building,” responded Jonah. “God can use anything. And if need be, renew and use. I am not a Bible expert, but I have learned a few things in these last few weeks being guided by Barnabas. I learned about Jesus calling St. Peter. But I learned that Peter wasn’t a saint when Jesus called him… he was a poor, sweaty man… probably poorly educated… who smelled like dead fish since he spent his time fishing. Yet Jesus told him, “Follow Me” and Peter became a great man… a great leader of the church.”

True,” said the pastor. “God can do great things. And sure Jesus invited Peter to become His disciple, but Jesus saw the greatness in Peter. It’s not realy the same.”

Ah, but pastor,” said Jonah, “Peter wasn’t a great man. And he wasn’t a great man even after Jesus called him. He did not really become a great man until after Jesus called him a second time, and said ‘Follow Me.’”

You see, in the days before He died, Jesus went to pray and he asked Peter to stay awake and pray as well…. but Peter fell asleep. Three times, he fell asleep. And then on the night of the arrest of Jesus, Peter ran away and then denied that he knew Jesus. Three times he denied that he knew Jesus.

Yet after Jesus rose from the dead, He took the time to travel to a poor little village by a lake. And there he found a poor smelly fisherman, and He walked up to Peter who had fallen asleep when he was needed and who had denied Jesus. And as Jesus was standing before Peter, Jesus asked, “Do you love Me?” And Peter responded, “Yes Lord, You know that I love you,” and Jesus said “feed my lambs”.

Jesus asked Peter again, the same Peter who had fallen asleep and who had denied Jesus. And Jesus asked this man “Do you love Me?” and Peter confessed a second time, and Jesus said “tend my sheep.”

And Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and Peter who had fallen asleep three times when he was needed, and three times denied Jesus, who smelled of dead fish confessed, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.” and Jesus responded, “Feed my sheep.”

And then Jesus did the most amazing thing. Jesus for a second time, after all of the foolishness of Peter, Jesus said to Peter, “Follow Me.”

Pastor, I may not be a Bible expert but I believe in recycling. Peter was not a great man. And when Jesus called him to follow Him, Peter still was not a great man. He was undisciplined, cowardly, and unreliable. But Jesus recycled him. The past was thrown away, and he started anew. And Peter became a great man… a great leader of the church.

I think God is very ecological. He renews, reuses and recycles. I bet he can use this building.”

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