Sunday’s Sermon for May 1, 2022

First a couple of jokes I came by:

 

They do not have much to do with the sermon, but If I worked at it, I could have included one or the other. lol

 

 

One day many years ago, a fisherman’s wife blessed her husband with twin sons. They loved the children very much, but couldn’t think of what to name them. Finally, after several days, the fisherman said, “Let’s not decide on names right now. If we wait a little while, the names will simply occur to us.”

 

After several weeks had passed, the fisherman and his wife noticed a peculiar fact. When left alone, one of the boys would turn toward the sea, while the other boy would face inland. It didn’t matter which way the parents positioned the children, the same child always faced the same direction. “Let’s call the boys Towards and Away,” suggested the fisherman. His wife agreed, and from that point on, the boys were simply known as TOWARDS and AWAY.

 

The years passed and the lads grew tall and strong. The day came when the aging fisherman said to his sons, “Boys, it is time that you learned how to make a living from the sea.” They provisioned their ship, said their goodbyes, and set sail for a three-month voyage.

 

Three whole years passed before the grieving woman saw a lone man walking toward her house. She recognized him as her husband. “My goodness! What has happened to my darling boys?” she cried. The ragged fisherman began to tell his story:

 

“We were just barely one whole day out to sea when Towards hooked into a great fish. Towards fought long and hard, but the fish was more than his equal. For a whole week they wrestled upon the waves without either of them letting up. Yet eventually the great fish started to win the battle, and Towards was pulled over the side of our ship. He was swallowed whole, and we never saw either of them again.”

 

“Oh dear, that must have been terrible!” said his wife. “What a huge fish that must of been! What a horrible fish.”

 

“Yes, it was,” said the fisherman, “but you should have seen the one that got Away. . . .”

 

 

The story goes that one day a Texan was celebrating 50 years of being happily married to the same woman. Well, that was quite an accomplishment, and his friends began to ask him what his secret was to having such a long and happy marriage. Old Tex replied, “Well anytime we got into an argument I always made sure that I had the last word!” Well, his friends asked how he exactly made such a thing work. Tex answered, “Well my wife would tell me what she wanted or thought, and I would say, “Ok dear.”

 

 

 

“Do You Love Me?”

John 21:1-19

 

“Do you love me?”

“Do you love me?”

“How many times do you love me?”

 

Have you ever asked your spouse such a question?

 

It has nothing to do with being unsure about someone’s love, sometimes the question can be more of a game that allows a person the opportunity to reaffirm their love for one another, and profess the reality of the relationship they share. With the question comes the likely response, “Yes, I love you.” That reaffirmation of love can be one of the small things that help to smooth out some of the wrinkles that will exist in any relationship. Through the good times and through the bad times, if nothing else there is love, and the question, “Do you love me?” It takes one back to the beginning of the relationship; back to remembering that love. The reality of that love is what changes life. if this can be remembered and lived into then there is hope.

 

Probably that is why Jesus said to Peter, “Simon son of John do you love me?” Do you love me? Do you love me? Jesus was not simply needling Peter about a personal failure, but he was working to meet a very deep need that Peter had; whether Peter realized it or not, and to bring Peter back to where he needed to be.

 

What was Peter’s need about? Well consider what Peter’s past experiences had been like. Peter seems to have been the impulsive member of Jesus group. Perhaps, his mouth ran a little bit ahead of his brain. You remember the stories of Peter.

 

Who do you say that I am, Jesus asked. “Why you are the Christ the holy one of God,” Peter answered but he did not understand what it meant to be the Messiah.

 

Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, and said, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come,” and then Peter stepped out on the water, took his eyes off Jesus, and nearly drowned.

 

And on the night Jesus was betrayed, it was Peter who swore that he would follow Jesus to the death. It was Peter in the garden of Gethsemane that took out a sword, and started to use it before Jesus stopped him. It was Peter who despite his fervor for Jesus denied even knowing Him three times, and we read that Peter wept bitterly when he heard the cock crow.

 

Even though the grave could not hold Jesus, and at this point in today’s scriptures Peter now knew that Jesus was alive, and his suffering and death had been foretold in the scriptures, still Peter must have been living with a lot of “You know this is what I should have ‘dones.'” Isn’t that the way it is when we find ourselves struggling to make the right decisions or just unable to be our best self When it comes to our relationship with God or someone close to us? We end up wondering why we did what we did and start thinking the next time I am going to do this differently. The next time I am going to be smarter; confident; more patient; braver or more persistent.

 

However, what happens when there cannot be a next time. Peter only had one moment to stand with Jesus in his trials and he failed to do so. Peter must have been wondering how he could ever make this right. How could his relationship with Jesus ever get back to where it was? Would Jesus ever trust him again? This could be why we read in v. 3: Simon Peter said to the other disciples, “I am going fishing.”

 

Can you not hear all of the “I should have ‘dones'” in that line? I should have been more faithful. I should have admitted that I knew him. I should not have denied him. I should have been loyal. Peter may have sat in a boat all night thinking about the things that he should have done. The one called to be a fisher of men returned to the nets and the sea from once he came. Peter needed to know that God still loved him and wanted him. That there could be a second chance.

 

Have you ever felt like Peter and asked, Is God there? Does God care? Have I failed in life in such a way that God has given up on me? Aren’t we all tempted to go fishing at times? Just find something to do, that we have always done and forget about the question. Let us reduce life and faith down to the non-challenging aspects and forget about the rest.

 

I have a small book entitled “Let Me Out.” It begins with an opening page that says, “What if God Himself gave next Sunday’s Sermon? (I wonder what he’d say?) He might say: “Let Me Out! I’m a prisoner in a stained-glass jail!” The author has this sense of frustration that the church is not everything God wants it to be. We have trapped God in a building and in our rituals by refusing to allow God to be part of our daily lives; by not using our talents for God’s glory and by not living a life of service as we have been called. There is the suggestion that our problem is that we have quit fully applying ourselves to the problems and questions –the real work that God has put before us. It is another way of saying that we sometimes find ourselves sitting in the boat. We have gone fishing. We have surrounded ourselves within a limited circumference and amidst a small number of things that we know best, and we have not continued to push ourselves to learn and grow and take chances, and truly answer the call.

 

Have you gone fishing? I not really trying to be negative, but sometimes I feel that one problem the Church has is that there are too many people out there in the boat with Peter. There are too many people who have become frustrated or discouraged, tired or overwhelmed, and have chosen to live only in the space that keeps them feeling comfortable. They would just as soon not challenge themselves spiritually or consider what God may want of them. They have gone fishing.

 

Peter did. Jesus was risen from the dead and Peter went fishing. I think he was discouraged with himself, and his ability to serve God, and make a difference in people’s lives. If I am right, then the sight of Peter in this boat is rather pitiful. Peter is questioning everything, and now he can’t even catch fish anymore; again. When Peter first met Jesus, his nets were empty and now he has fished all night and his nets are empty again. However, this did not last long. In the emptiness of the moment, as morning began, Jesus came along the seashore.

 

“Cast your net on the right side of the boat…” he tells them. That had to have sounded like familiar advice and suddenly after that long night of waiting their nets are filled –153 fish. They caught more than their nets should ever be able to hold. One Hundred and fifty-three fish –The number is symbolic of the overwhelming abundance and completeness of God’s work of which we are called to be a part. Jesus once said in Matthew 13 47  “…the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48  when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad.

 

Here Peter and the disciples are living out that parable. The catch becomes sacramental. It carries a meaning to those laying hands on it and to us reading it. The net is the kingdom of God, and the catch of fish are those God is talking up. The catch is complete, and the net does not tear. It will return all that it is supposed to return. God will sustain and enable every good work until it comes to full completion.

 

When the catch was realized the disciples knew it was a sign. “It’s the Lord,” and Peter jumps overboard to meet Jesus. Now that Peter is out of the boat and wanting so bad to reconnect to Jesus it is also worth noting that in verse 11 we are told that “Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, …” It was Peter that is seen as carrying this monster load of fish ashore without help. The idea of Peter hauling the load all by himself is a bit odd, but if we are thinking of this catch of fish as being a sign of the kingdom’s work then Peter is being seen as in charge of God’s catch of fish. Peter is called to bring in all whom God is rounding up.

 

After eating Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me? Feed my lambs. Do you love me? Tend my sheep. Do you love me? Feed my sheep.” The third time Peter was grieved that Jesus would ask him this, but listen this was a point of conversion for Peter. It was a change of direction. Whereas Peter had three times denied knowing Jesus, here he was allowed to three times affirm his love for Jesus. And Jesus also reminded him of the cost of that love. You will feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. You will follow after the good shepherd that lays his life down for the flock. Follow me.

 

Jesus is calling Peter again. He is confronting the unasked questions and the pain Peter may not even have known how to speak. Jesus knew that Peter loved him, but he wanted to renew and reaffirm that love. He was telling Peter through it all you and I are still and will always be friends, and I am still calling you, Peter. There is work to be done. Put your nets away. Follow me. This is not the time to go fishing. Jesus becomes for Peter once more the source of healing, the filling of the soul, and even the source of nourishment for the body. Breakfast was on Jesus. Peter came to understand that even with his situation, God allows for a do over. There is always a second chance, but now Peter had to live into it and not fail.

 

Many times, in life when we feel like Peter, we need may need that second chance as well. We may need that opportunity to change our direction and hear the Lord’s call once more. We may need to reaffirm our relationship with God and assume the responsibilities of that love.

 

The good news is that we can change our “I can’t” to an “I will.” Jesus is surely in our midst and calling us as much today as he did so however many years ago.

 

God is asking you, “Do you love Me?” Then follow Him! Amen.


 

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Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

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