The Third Sunday After Easter, May 5, 2019
The Rev. Anna C. Shine
Readings: Acts 9:1-6, (7-20); Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strong rock and our redeemer.
We encounter two call stories in today’s readings from Acts and the Gospel of John. Two very distinct and different calls. Saul, whom we call Paul, is on the road to Damascus, in pursuit of people who follow Jesus, those who are members of the Way. A blinding light and an echoing voice stop him in his tracks. Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?I imagine this voice reverberating throughout his entire body. Not in a painful way, but in an all-encompassing way. A soul-reaching way. Who are you, Lord, he asks. I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.
Peter, on the other hand, seems unsure what to do after Jesus dies and is resurrected. He has already received the Holy Spirit from Jesus’ first encounter with the disciples. But he seems lost, and so he does what he knows best. He goes fishing. Several other disciples join him. They are unsuccessful until Jesus arrives and tells them to cast the net to the right side of the boat, whereupon they catch more fish than they can handle. Jesus once again becomes known in providing sustenance and nourishment to his people. Jesus invites his disciples to breakfast. Then, pulling Peter aside, Jesus asks him three times, Simon son of John, do you love me?To which Peter responds Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.This threefold confession of love undoes the threefold denial of Christ, and Jesus gives Peter his ultimate call: to feed and tend God’s sheep and lambs.
Notice that Jesus first feeds Peter before asking Peter to feed his sheep. They have breakfast together and Jesus ensures that he is well-nourished before giving Peter the chance to redeem himself of his denial. In addition to this, the setting includes a charcoal fire. The only other time the Gospel of John uses a charcoal fire is when Peter is warming himself outside of the gate of the courtyard, where he denies being a follower of Jesus. Jesus gives Peter the opportunity to reclaim his discipleship so that he can become what God has called him to be, the shepherd of God’s flock.
God meets us where we are. God can transform weakness and evil and use it for good. Peter’s denials turn into professions of love and he is later seen as the solid rock of the Church. Paul’s zeal towards the imprisonment and martyrdom of people of the Way is turned into passion for love and messages of unity and universal salvation. Imagine what God can do with us?
We have seen a lot of violence in places of worship these past few weeks. Shootings in mosques and synagogues. Churches burned down. Churches bombed. Many of these tragedies occurred at the hands of people of faith. People of faith who lost sight of the God of love and misplaced their love of God in killing others who believe differently. Like Saul, they breathe threats and murder. They are blinded, not by the light of Christ, but by the burning of hate. And so we must become the light. As members of the body of Christ, we can be the vessels of God’s love in the world!
Holy Cross is an amazing church! We are an incredible community of faith that truly aspires to living into the call to feed the flock and tend the lambs. We live into the call for love of God and love of neighbor. And we strive together to live into that call to follow Jesus. It is a daily task. It is a difficult task. And it is a communal task. We cannot do it alone, which is why we come together here. We come before this table and ask God to give us that nourishment that will help us continue along God’s Way. We ask for forgiveness of those things that we do willingly or unwillingly. We seek peace amongst one another. And then we go out into the world to spread that peace and love throughout God’s world. I invite you to reflect on the ways in which God is calling you deeper into this ministry of love. Into the ministry of unity. Into the ministry of feeding. Where might that call take you? And how can we live into it together?