Spotting Jesus and Jumping in the Water 4/18/10

John 21:1-19

I.         When you enter the ministry, you end up hearing a lot about call.  Some people are called to be preachers; others are called to be spiritual directors, while still others are called to Christian education or pastoral care.  Call is something very important in an individual’s faith journey, but we tend to save talks of “call” to those leading the church formally.  Every one of us has been called to the Christian faith and to a particular use of our gifts and talents.

  1. The theme of call is written all over our two passages.  Saul is literally blinded and pointed to a new way of seeing – an event that completely alters the course of his life … and the course of Christianity, we might add.
  2. Peter returns to the shore from which he was called and the others followed.  In a scene remarkably similar to the calling of the disciples in Luke (down to the miraculous catching of the fish after hours of no success!), Peter again steps out of the boat.  The boat was where he was when he first encountered Jesus, when he walked away from his livelihood, and walked with the man who would give him life more fully.  And once more, Jesus calls him from the lakeshore.
  3. I see two responses I think speak to us today … the beloved disciple John and Peter, the rock.  One spots Jesus on the shore and recognizes his savior when no one else does, and the other jumps from the boat and swims to meet his savior.

II.                 The beloved disciple (John?) does not get much air time in this passage so most people spend the bulk of the time on Peter, but John does something rather remarkable that the others weren’t capable of – he recognized Jesus.

  1. This is more of a challenge than we like to admit today, but very often we are the goats in the parable that Jesus told asking, “But Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty?  If we had known it was you …” (elaborate on this)
  2. We might ask ourselves, how could he do this when no one else could?  In answering this, Gary Jones asks a series of questions that help us to riddle out the importance of the Beloved Disciple’s spotting of Jesus:

“All of them see the Lord, but only one of them, the Beloved Disciple who reclined at Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper, recognizes the Lord … Could it be that ‘reclining with Jesus,’ spending tender time with the Lord in prayer, resting our mind at his heart … could it be that such quiet immersions of ourselves in the presence of God are the key to recognizing God in our daily lives and ordinary routines? … Could it be that our need to stay on the move and remain productive, instead of ‘wasting time with God’ in prayer, often keeps us from recognizing the presence of the Lord in our lives?”[1]

  1. Who are the Johns in our congregation?  Maybe they are the ones who seem to dwell with God in prayer easily, comfortably.  Or perhaps they are the ones who suggest, seemingly out of the blue, that it’s time to start a new project or restart an old project that got left behind, or let a struggling project flicker and ash for awhile.
  2. These are important people to listen to, not just in the church, but also in our lives because these are the individuals who will be able to tell us where the Holy Spirit is moving in our midst when we were just feeling frustrated because something wasn’t working.  To you would-be Johns out there, this is Jesus’ message to you: It’s OK.  Come and rest your head awhile on my chest.  Tell me about your concerns and worries, and listen to my heart beat for awhile … rest assured that I am near.

III.            Peter, bless him, did not recognize Jesus immediately; however, once John points him out he jumps out of the boat and swims to shore.  It’s a rather odd story really, Peter puts on his clothes before jumping out of the boat (I’ve taken a lifeguarding course or two, this would not make it easier to swim!).   He races to the shore … and then stands there dumb-struck, unable to speak.  So he turns and goes to get the fish for breakfast.

  1. You can almost see the wheels turning in Peter’s head, wanting to be with his savior, feeling compelled to do something, say something to bridge the gap that he feels between them.  (His failure of denying Christ still rising unwittingly in his mind).  Three times, Jesus asks him “Do you love me?” and three times Peter says “Yes!  Absolutely!”  Peter is restored to his full status as an apostle in this encounter with Jesus … he is also commissioned to Christ’s service.
  2. Love – Agape and Philo.  Again, the writer of this passage seems to be putting an emphasis on relationship and spending time close to Jesus.  There are four Greek words for love and they, for the most part, are used interchangeably.  In these three questions, Jesus speaks of “friendship love” and “unconditional love.”  Jesus models for us how two friends who love each other may overcome past denials and betrayals and restore their relationship.
  3. Who are the Peters in our midst who, upon seeing Christ on the shore, leap from the safety of the boat and swim through the messiness of self-doubt and fear to tell Jesus, “I love you”?  These Peter’s are very likely the ones who rush around doing work that is important, work that needs to be done, but work that they need to called from in order to be asked about their faith.
  4. Are you a Peter?  Afraid to speak because you might reveal your weaknesses/ vulnerabilities?  Afraid because those imperfections keep you from a full and complete relationship with those around you, especially God?
  5. The message Christ speaks to you, Peter, is this:  It’s OK.  I know you love me.  I just want you to know that you love me.  And I have a job for you.

IV.              Feed my sheep.  Where is Jesus calling you?

  1. “Feeding the Lord’s sheep is a tangible way of staying in relationship with the Lord, as well as the surest way to express our love for him, ‘not only with our lips, but in our lives.’”[2]  (180 people at the community dinner!!)
  2. Peter took his message to the world: healing the sick and the lame, proclaiming the good news of Christ.  The church is taking its message to … the poor and downtrodden, the widows and orphans, the outcasts of society that nobody wants,
  3. c.       As we do this work in Christ’s name, it helps, I think, to identify the varied gifts within our congregation, to recognize that all of them are different and necessary.  We should not only allow for differences, but learn to rely on one another.

V.                 Some of us are spotting Jesus and pointing out who it is that needs love and care.  Others of us are jumping out of the boat and rushing to Christ’s side.  Some of us are dreamers and idea people, others are planners and strategists.  All of us need help and encouragement – be that the prayer of fellow disciples, or Peter thanking John for sharing his perspective, or maybe it is even being Jesus helping Peter to find his way back to wholeness and purpose.  In this passage, we get a rare glimpse of the disciples modeling for us how the church might be able to work toward Christ’s future.  If we return to our thoughts on call, the question is not “are you called?”   The question should be “How/where are you called?”

VI.              John, Peter, beloved disciples of Christ – may we all faithfully listen and respond to God’s call in our lives.  Let us pray, Lord, dwell with us this day.  Be with us in waking, sleeping, walking, talking,  eating … help us to draw near to you so that we may rest with you in prayer and jump out of the boat to hear your voice.  We love you, and we will feed your sheep.  Amen.

Children’s Sermon:  Acts 9:1-6(7-20)

Have you ever made a mistake before?  Have you ever been mean to someone?

-Saul was a Pharisee and he was really mean to the very first Christians (even had one of them stoned!) until one day he was blinded and through being forced to rely on others, he began to see in a different and new way.  He became a Christian, his name became Paul and he was responsible for a very large number of people becoming Christians.  In fact, he wrote a lot of the books in the New Testament!

What do you think of Saul?  What do you think this story means for us?

Think back to the mistake you thought of earlier … or think of the worst thing you’ve ever done.  Don’t tell me, just think about it.  Now … I think what God is saying is this:  It’s OK.  I know who you are.  I know you’ve made mistakes.  It’s alright.  I still love you.  And I have a job for you.

How does that make you feel about God?  (Relieved, happy, excited.)  This is a very good thing to share, and that’s probably why Paul told so many people about God.

Let’s pray:  God, thank you for showing us forgiveness through Paul, and teaching us that you always love us.  Help us to live better lives for every day.  Amen.

[1] Gary D. Jones in Feasting on the Word, John 21:1-19.

[2] Gary D. Jones in Feasting on the Word,  John 21:1-19.


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