Sermon – 05-12-19 – Easter IV – Good Shepherd – Cycle C
Scripture: Acts 9:26-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-27, John 21:1-17, John 10:22-30
Sermon Title: “Then Feed My Sheep”
Mother says to young Joey, “Joey, did you eat a bunch of cookies that I just made?” “I did not,” replies Joey.
Mother says to young Sarah, “Sarah, did you bring this dirt in the house on your shoes?” “No, I didn’t,” replies Sarah.
Mother says to young Ellen, “Ellen, did you let the cat go outside?” “Not me,” replies Ellen.
It is so easy to deny something that we did. It is our first natural reaction, especially when trouble looms ahead. Of course, it is possible that Joey and Sarah and Ellen are actually telling the truth. You know we are innocent until proven guilty. How often do we as parents and teachers blame someone for something they did not do? Where is love in that reaction?
In the Maundy Thursday scenario, when Jesus and his disciples were still together in the Upper
Room, Jesus and Peter have this scenario. Peter is insulted when Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Jesus three times before the cock crows. That passage is in John 13:36-38. Simon Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answers, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, why can I not follow you now?” I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answers, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”
We know what transpires during the night. Three times Peter is questioned by people who recognize him. Three times Peter says he is not that person – the disciple of Jesus. No! No! No!
So now? How can Peter live with guilt, this disappointment in himself? This impulsive soul really did it this time. How can he live with himself? What do you do when you have hurt someone badly, probably unintentionally? It certainly takes the wind out of my sails. I should know, I am way too much like Peter. First, I make excuses. Then the awful truth settles in. I am awful, just awful, I say to myself in a whisper – just awful, I say. Then I get serious in begging forgiveness from God. I say to myself, “God will forgive me, I know. That is not the problem! The problem is how I have hurt the other person; how I have disappointed the person!
Worse yet, can I possibly trust myself going forward? Will I ever learn to control my mouth? I am so bad, I keep saying to myself. But I know I need to keep going. I can’t just crawl under the bed and wait to die. Someone has to pay the bills. The next step is to think how this awkward and awful situation could possibly be turned into good. Did God actually allow, or even plan, for me to be in this place so that it is a turning point for me to help the person I disappointed and hurt?
Do you see where this is going? Maybe, just maybe, the Father had this all planned so Peter will be in position to do the work of Jesus when the Father calls Jesus to his place in heaven. Thankfully, Peter did not crawl under a bed and wait to die. He also did not buy a field in which to hang himself as Judas did after betraying Jesus. This Peter is tough.
As we move to the scene today when yet again Jesus is making sure that his disciples believe that he is the resurrected Jesus – not a ghost, not an imposter – but the real Jesus. According to John, the disciple and the author of the gospel of John, Jesus makes yet another appearance to persuade his close disciples that it is really he, their Savior. This group of disciples was fishing in the nighttime, as was the practice, but they had caught nothing. When Jesus asks if they caught any fish so he can place it on the fire he has started, they need to admit they have nothing to contribute to this surprise breakfast. So Jesus, knowing the plan, says, “Put your nets down on the other side of the boat.” They did. Aha!
There are enough fish for a hundred breakfasts. The nets should be tearing – there are so many fish! But the nets do not tear. Of course, this man with the glowing fire can be none other than their Jesus. Peter is so excited. Remember he is carrying his guilt. He jumps out of the boat and runs to the shore. This story seems to have a gap. It says nothing about Peter hugging Jesus or kneeling at Jesus’ feet. It just leaves a gap. They eat breakfast. Another mystery: The story talks about Jesus having bread. How does this happen? If you are a detail person, this could lead you off the main track.
The goal is to look at the main points. Finally after breakfast we get to the main point. This is the salvation of Peter. This very time in history is where Peter is forgiven his three denials, where he is dedicated to lay the foundation of the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus says to Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Peter answers three times, “Yes, Lord, I love you. Each time Peter tells Jesus that he loves Jesus, Jesus says, “Feed my lambs” and “Feed my sheep.”
So you see, Jesus does not picture this developing church to be a structure only. This developing church of Jesus Christ is about caring for the sheep of the world. This could be humorous as we picture sheep sitting in these pews with little lambs beside them. Sheep are used as symbols of the helpless people in our world – helpless in mind, body, or soul, . . . or circumstance. So the church of Jesus Christ is about helping and sharing. Some kind of building is nice for protection but not to be the focus of our existence.
I appreciate this story because it gives Peter the opportunity to get his feet on solid ground after his major lapse. But now it is being revealed to me that the program that is being placed in Peter’s lap is not about buildings as in a church building. It is about developing a dynamic, a movement, an open mind, a dwelling place for Jesus to be the center and the in-dweller. This Jesus with headquarters in heaven, has campus dwellings within groups of people. Furthermore, each of us is welcome to invite Jesus to dwell in our own hearts and minds and souls. We can be walking dwelling places of Jesus to be church wherever we go. That is what Christian families can be – places where Jesus dwells. So mothers and fathers and children are encouraged to function with Jesus in their midst – small communities of love, small churches of love!
Next Sunday, the concept of love will be carried to an even greater level by Cory Putt as he brings the message.