Howdy doody friends! I know it has been awhile since I’ve posted, and there is so much that I want to share, but don’t quite know how to put into words. So in the meantime, I offer you my very first sermon.
Today, I delivered my first ever sermon. Now, it’s not a particularly good piece of work here, but it’s now yours to consume. Enjoy
I watch this show back home called Once Upon a Time, and in the show these fairy tale characters are stuck in a curse where they have lost their identities and been taken to a foreign land to live new ‘fake’ lives. The show hinges on the ‘savior’ coming and breaking the curse so that they can all reclaim their lives, and return to their land. This show is in its second season, but at the end of the first, the savior breaks the curse, with true love’s kiss. When this happens, you expect the world to change. The curse is broken, so now they should go back to their fairytale land and live happily ever after right? Wrong. Though the characters regain their identities, nothing physically happens to them. Those who were once magically gifted, have not received their magic back, and they don’t go back to their land. Now in season two, they are trying to find out how to get back to their homes, and how to live their lives where they are in the meantime. How to create their happily ever after.
I feel like when we come upon this scene in the beginning John 21, the disciples are kind of in the same place. Jesus has come, made disciples, changed hearts, performed miracles, and has been persecuted and killed. Then Jesus, after three days, rises from the dead. I feel like if I were an apostle I might be thinking, ‘well now what?’ What does this mean for my life? Is the kingdom of God coming now? What does this new world, with a risen Jesus look like? So what do a few of them do? They go fishing. They start to return to some kind of pre following Jesus around normalcy. Then Jesus shows up at their outing and tells them what their lives will now hold.
If you recall, right before Jesus’ death, Peter messed up a bit. At the last supper Jesus foretold that Peter would deny Jesus, three times before the cock crowed, and that very evening Peter did just that. He betrayed Jesus with his denial. Showing his humanity, and his sinful nature. Here in this section of the gospel, Jesus offers Peter grace and forgiveness. Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him, and to each of Peter’s answers, Jesus calls Peter to evangelize and take care of His people. Therein telling Peter, I know you messed up. In your denial, you sinned against me, but I still love and cherish you, and though you’re broken, I want you to go and build my church. Peter is not just forgiven in this moment for denying Christ, but he’s drawn into discipleship. Peter receives yet another calling to work in God’s mission. To commit his life to spreading the message of Jesus.
We are all more like Peter than maybe we’d like to believe. We may not all be called to be preachers and teachers, as Peter was, but we are called to change our lives and live as Christians. The scripture says, “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go…. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” When we declare ourselves as Christians, we become a people that seek the direction of God’s will on our lives. Now, this doesn’t mean that we all have to become preachers or missionaries, but it does mean that we need to make sure that we are actively seeking God’s will, and living out a Christian life in deed and word–being good stewards of the earth, caring for the poor and needy, giving faithfully to God, acting towards others out of love, speaking truth without hate, fighting for justice, and of course sustaining our spirit with fasting, prayer, and scripture reading. We, the body of God, are who others look to for guidance for their own lives, and for what it means to be a Christian. All of us can look to someone in our lives, as being that amazing Christian example for us. For me, all of you impact my life and give me guidance, even though it may not be explicit. Of our married couples, you give examples of what Christian marriages are. Every time we break bread together, each of you show me the fullness that is achieved through sharing what we have. Every one of you, though you may not know it, are living examples of Christ’s desire for my own life every day. Sometimes you’re good examples, and sometimes you are cautionary tales.
Like Peter, we too are called again and again to work in the mission of God. Jesus, could have said, Peter, I called you before to be a fisher of men, and then you went and messed it up. So now I have no choice but to send a better person. Instead Jesus extends Peter grace, and recalls Peter to life with God. There are times every day, where I fall short of God’s will. There are times when I am less loving than I should be, less forgiving, less humble, and we all fall short from time to time. In this passage, God offers us grace for our shortcomings, and tells us that even though we will fall short, we can still be living examples to believers and non-believers alike.
We have a saying in English that says, “if you want a job done right, do it yourself.” I have to fight this desire in myself a lot. I frequently would rather wash my own clothes, fix my own bed, buy my own groceries, because I know if I do it myself, it will be done just the way I like it. I will have purchased just the right tangerines, and have put the dishes in the correct place. I infrequently ask for help. Some would say I have control issues, I like to say I’m just an independent woman. Because of this independence, I have always thought that it was crazy of God to choose us to carry His message. To do the work that He is so much more capable of doing. God is after all infallible, and who better to spread the message than the Creator Himself. God would never have to worry about preachers preaching about hate, or believers showing the world a bad example of Christianity. God would just show up and say this is the way it is, you can choose whether or not you want to believe, but this is the truth, follow me. Instead God chooses these broken sinful creatures to spread His gospel. To spread His good news. He delights in choosing people like Peter, Volodya, Ira, and Oleh to go forth and be His hands and feet, to be the shining example, and to be, as much as we are able, Jesus to the world. That’s a big responsibility, charged to each of us. We carry the weight of this responsibility with us. As we go about our lives, changed by our faith, sent by God with His message, we are enabling the kingdom of God. Every time we act from love and not hate, we are bringing the kingdom of God closer. Every time we share the hope of Christ with another person, we are bringing the kingdom of God closer. Every time we denounce evil and choose to follow God, we are bringing the kingdom of God closer. We hold in our hands, just as Peter did, the privilege to go and not only be disciples, but to make disciples of God through our words and actions, and therefore making this world a little more Christ -like.
And just like with Peter, there will be times of failure. Failure to love and not hate, to be truthful instead of telling a lie, times when we wander off the path of righteousness. But know, that God calls us again and again into communion, discipleship, and faithful living with our Creator. That is the beauty of grace, and where sin abounds, so too does grace . Romans 5:20-21 says, “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The grace of God covers our sins, and sets right all of our failures to be as faithful as we should be. That is precisely why Jesus gave his life, so that we may live in the truth that forgiveness and salvation is ours if we ask for it.
As a final thought, I kind of love that this story is the last one in the Gospel of John. The end of John’s Gospel isn’t an ending at all, it’s a beginning. It is setting the stage for what is yet to come. Peter’s sinning and Jesus’ death, these two events aren’t the end of the story. If they were, we’d all be doomed. They are the beginning of a story still being written. One of a revolution built on broken people working to bring about the kingdom of God, for His glory. A revolution full of grace, mercy, justice, and love. We, as the body of God, get to be a part of this ongoing movement through the end of our days, and what a blessing that is. As we go from this place today, go out knowing that God delights in using each of us, broken though we are, as blessings to others for the transformation of the world.