Beach BBQ Commission Mission
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I want to congratulate us all on coming out to church this morning. You came back! In some churches this is known as Low Sunday. We had our big week last week. Our Superbowl as it were. A lot of people in here. The joy of Easter. What does it mean now? What does it mean when the Easter eggs are gone and the new clothes aren’t new anymore and it’s back to life. I talked after Christmas about wanting to keep the Christmas spirit going. How do we keep the Easter spirit going? What does is mean for those of us who profess to be followers of Christ? For those of us who said “Save us Lord” back on Palm Sunday? For those of us who said “He is risen indeed!” when we said last week “Christ is risen!” He is risen indeed! But so what? I said at the beginning of our look at the Gospel of John that this book was written so that people may come to believe. It’s also written so that people may continue to believe. I’ve said that the concern for many of us and for our loved ones is not whether or not we believe that Jesus has risen, but that it doesn’t seem to be making much of a difference in our or their lives. This story that we’re looking at this morning is about what happens when Easter is over. What does this news that Christ is risen mean for us? What does it mean in terms of who we are called and enabled to be? Let us look at this passage from John 21 and see what God may have to say to our hearts.
I want to start by saying what this message is about. What I believe this passage to be about. It’s a call to discipleship. I read recently an article in which the author talked about seeing the church’s role as one of calling people to discipleship. The author called it rigorous discipleship. I like the term radical discipleship. I want this for myself. I want this for our little faith community at Blythwood. That’s not to say I want little faith. I say little as we’re about 80 people right now on a good Sunday morning. We talk about wanting numbers and needing numbers. If we had 80 people committed to radical discipleship here. If we had 80 people committed to being learners of Christ and committed to being formed into the image of Christ. If we had 80 people who were like this and who gathered here and went out from here and represented Christ in their homes, in the workplaces, their schools. If people who knew us knew there was something different about us and heard from us why this is and knew they could ask us about matters of faith and doubt and that we wouldn’t judge them or condemn them but would simply love and accept them. If all the things we were doing together – hearing the word, praying singing, gathering around this table, studying the Bible. If all the things we did alone – praying, reading, resting in Christ, waiting on the Lord, longing for holiness, longing to know God and to make God known being filled with the Holy Spirit to the point that it was like a stream gushing up in us to eternal life – pointing to life eternal, life from above, life that is from God. If we did all those things for the next 20 years and we were 80 people that whole time then I would consider this church a success. I would consider my ministry here, my service to God here a success. The fact that you’re here this morning says that you believe the same thing. At least to some extent. There’s at least some sort of the same yearning in you. You came back after all!
For many I suppose faith is viewed as something that is in their mix. Like other things are in their mix – family, job, hobbies, entertainment, kids, sports, God, exercise. You participate in religion the way I go to the movies. Twice a year. Sometimes three or four times. “Isn’t it enough that I believe these things to be true?” we say. We don’t want to get too fanatical about it. Once Easter is over it’s back to life. We may sometimes feel the same way about church. When is this guy going to finish so I can get on with my day?! Particularly lately. J
The disciples are in this situation in Galilee in our story. “After these things…” is how our story starts. We don’t know how long after these events our story occurs. We know that seven disciples are back in Galilee. Peter says “I’m going fishing.” They go out with him at night. There’s a certain fatalism here I think. What else is there to do? Let’s get on with our lives. Is this all there is to being disciples? Getting back to our lives? Jesus doesn’t coerce his followers, as I always say. We have choices to make. He’s not going to make them for us. It doesn’t go well for Peter and the others. They’re out all night and haven’t caught any fish.
Jesus doesn’t leave them alone though. Isn’t that good? Jesus is always searching for us. He’s standing on the beach. They don’t know who it is. He’s watching them and he calls out “Children, you have no fish, have you?” I don’t often quote Dr. Phil but it’s like his “How’s that working for you?” They have the courage to answer honestly. “No,” they say. “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” Listen to me, in other words. They do and the net’s so full of fish they can’t haul it in. The disciple who Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Ever impetuous Peter puts his clothes on, jumps in the water and heads to shore (leaving the rest of his friends to do the heavy lifting- literally). He wants to meet with Jesus.
He wants to meet with Jesus. He wants to spend time with Jesus. Jesus is waiting on the beach with a charcoal fire going and fish and bread. What do we think of when we smell charcoal? I know what I think of – Webber Kettle Grill time! Pork shoulder bbq time! Why is this detail even in here? Because Peter could not have smelled charcoal without thinking of the night Jesus was arrested. Peter had stood warming himself by a charcoal fire in the high priest’s courtyard and the woman who guarded the gate to the high priest’s courtyard said to him “You are not also one of this man’s disciples are you?” “No I am not,” Peter replied. A little later they asked him again, “You are not one of his disciples are you?” “No I am not.” Again. A relative of the slave whose ear Peter had cut off in the garden of Gethsemane said “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter said, “No that wasn’t me.” He had messed up. After saying “Even if everyone else deserts you I will never desert you,” Peter had deserted him. He’d messed up. We get that. We mess up. It’s one of my biggest fears as a pastor. Messing up. Getting in between someone and God due to something I do or something I fail to do. Part of what it means to be a disciple, a student of Christ, is realizing our own insufficiency in following Christ. We need to realize that. I talk about this scene quite often but I think it’s important. The prophet Isaiah has a vision of the heavenly throne in Isaiah 6. He cries out “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips…” Peter has said something similar on the shores of the very lake he’s on now. When Luke tells a similar story of a miraculous catch of fish so large it was breaking the disciples nets, Peter falls at Jesus’ knees saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Do you know what happens to Isaiah? A seraph takes a pair of tongs. The seraph picks up a coal and flies over and touches it to Isaiah’s lips. “Your guilt is departed from you and your sin is blotted out.” While the charcoal undoubtedly reminded Peter of that night, here is Jesus with charcoal and he’s brought the fish and the bread and he’s also brought forgiveness. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them (and this should be reminding us of something that we’ll get back to in a while) and did the same with the fish.
Jesus then takes Peter for a walk. I only realized recently (and by recently I mean two weeks ago) that this next scene with Peter happens away from the others. I had always pictured it happening around breakfast. Jesus gets to the heart of the matter. Jesus gets to the number one qualification for being his follower. “Do you love me?” The first time it’s “Do you love me more than these?” We’re not sure if he means more than these other disciples or more than the fishing paraphernalia. If Jesus means more than the other disciples he might be thinking of the night Peter claimed to be more loyal than anyone. Either way Jesus doesn’t bring it up again. It’s not about making comparisons. “Do you love me?” “Yes, Lord; you know I love you.” It’s the key thing. It’s the first half of the greatest commandment. Then comes the second half – “Feed my lambs.” We’re always coming back to the lambs! Jesus asks a second time and the answer comes back, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” “Tend my sheep.” Different words. Sheep. Lambs. Feed. Tend. Service – working - in Christ’s name and for his sake will be all encompassing. It will be different for different people. Feed. Tend. Lambs. Sheep. You’re going to be the shepherd now, Peter. We are all going to be shepherds. Imagine! Jesus isn’t asking Peter if he’s thought about what he did. Jesus doesn’t say, “That was quite the big mess up after your big loyalty claim wasn’t it?!”
Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. However can we do this? Does it seem unlikely? It should because we know ourselves right? We know what goes on in our hearts and minds and souls. If you’ve followed Jesus for any length of time you also know what he’s done to change your heart. We don’t do this on our own friends. We do this in the power and with the accompaniment of the risen Christ who appeared to his followers and breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This is the Christ with whom we are walking. NT Wright puts it excellently in his book John For Everyone:
“Here is the secret of all Christian ministry, yours and mine, lay and ordained, full-time or part-time. It’s the secret of everything from being a quiet back-row member of a prayer group to being a platform speaker at huge rallies and conferences. If you are going to do any single solitary thing as a follower and servant of Jesus, this is what it’s built on. Somewhere, deep down inside, there is a love for Jesus, and though (goodness knows) you’ve let him down enough times, he wants to find that love, to give you a chance to express it, to heal the hurts and failures of the past, to give you new work to do.”
I always say we don’t do this alone. There’s no such thing as Lone Ranger Christianity. Lone Ranger following of Christ. We do this together. Peter is reminded of this as he turns around and sees the beloved disciple following them. He must have thought “I cannot catch a break with this guy! Reclining against Jesus at the Passover meal. First to the tomb. First to recognize Jesus on the beach!” Jesus had just told Peter that following him would mean a death like his. After this he said, “Follow me.” While we don’t follow Christ alone, we shouldn’t get hung up on comparing our follow to others – whether that puts us in what we see as a favourable or unfavourable light. Whether this causes us to say “Well at least I’m not like that guy!” or “Why can’t I do what that guy does?” We all have our thing to do. We all have our role to play as Christ’s body. Don’t worry about that guy, Jesus tells Peter. “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” Don’t worry about my plans for the beloved disciple. Follow me.
Follow him. This is our invitation friends. May God stir our hearts to accept it, whether we first made the decision years ago, or whether God is stirring your heart to make the decision for the first time today. Who knows what God might do in us and through us. As a postscript I want to talk about a sermon this same Peter would give in Acts 10. He couldn’t have imagined that God would call him to preach to Gentiles. He didn’t even think it was right to visit them. God gave Peter a vision It led to Peter visiting an Italian centurion named Cornelius in Caesarea Maritima – Caesarea by the Sea. Cornelius was a man who feared God and gave alms and prayed constantly to God. He didn’t know Jesus. Yet. Cornelius also has a vision which leads him to send messengers to Peter and when Peter came Cornelius had gathered all his relatives and close friends so they could hear Peter’s message. This is part of what Peter says, “We are witnesses to all that he did in both Judea and Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” Jesus didn’t appear to all the people. He appeared to these men that day on the beach. They ate and drank with him. His Spirit was breathed out on them – they were literally inspired.
How is God going to inspire us? Do you count yourself among those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. We’re about to eat and drink with him. What might this mean for us? Peter and Cornelius both had visions. This was the promise – “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” This promise is for everyone. Who wants this? What will we dream? What will we envision? Over 20 years ago you envisioned a group of people being shown hospitality on a Saturday night. Look at what that has turned into. Look at the lives that have been touched. The lives that have been changed. The relationships that have developed. Five years ago we envisioned a summer camp in Lawrence Heights. Look at what God has done. Five months ago Pastor Abby envisioned a group of people praying before our Sunday service. Look at what has happened. May God stir our hearts to want to be part of this. May God gives us hearts that dream. May God give us thankful hearts for the great things He has done through the power of His Spirit and through hearts that have been willing to heed Jesus’ call – “Follow me!”