Risen. Renewed: Forgiveness - Rev. Michael F. Bailey

Risen. Renewed:  Forgivness
John 21:1-19
Rev. Michael F. Bailey
April 10, 2016

John 21:1-19: After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yardsoff. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’

I feel a need to start this morning by offering congratulations to this great congregation. We finished the week in a strong fashion. This church could almost be renamed Hunger-busters United Methodist Church! On Friday and Saturday, we collected over 5000 pounds of food outside Harris Teeter at Friendly Center. All of us are so grateful for the incredible leadership offered by our local missions team in doing this. We are thankful to all of the folks that came out, including you rather blue looking folks who worked in the cold yesterday! I had a great time on my shift. Greensboro Urban Ministry provides stick on identification badges for their volunteers. It says volunteer in blue block letters with a white background. I had one gentleman come up to me and the first thing he said was, “I can’t help you, I’m a Republican.” To which we replied, “Sir, we’re glad to take Republican, Democratic or Independent food help feed the hungry!” He looked more closely at my name badge and then rather sheepishly said, “Oh, I thought you were campaigning for Hillary Clinton.” Come to think of it, he didn’t give me any food when he came out. 

Then, yesterday “Helping Hands for Hunger” exceeded their goal of packing 60,000 meals. Prior to the first shift, the headquarters guy indicated that over the years Christ Church had packed over 430,000 meals. What this means is that either yesterday or certainly on our next packing occasion, we will have packed one half of 1 million meals. Steve Danford, who coordinates this effort for us, indicated that our meals from last time went to orphanages in Nicaragua. There, they are used as a great incentive to keep children in school. What a great project that is! And even our children participated in fighting hunger. They provided a hot dog lunch to provide funding for a local hunger project. What a great congregation this is and how blessed we are to be a part of it!

And truthfully, I needed this good win at the end of the week after that heartbreaking loss by my Carolina Tar Heels on Monday night. I told my bride that I couldn’t take that kind of an emotional roller coaster ride again in 4.7 seconds. I went on to say that I was swearing off college basketball. She knows me well and said, “Sure, that will last until the last week in October when late night with Roy rolls around.” She was out of town on a church consultation and asked me how I was able to sleep. I told her the only way I could go to sleep was just to be a Calvinist for a night and believe it was all predestined. I must admit to waking up as a Wesleyan, however. I decided that rather than being predestined the Tar Heels shouldn’t have defended the paint so much on an obvious three-point play!

Today we have our second sermon in our series entitled Risen. Renewed: Life after Easter. In this series, we’re looking at how the risen Jesus renewed the life of those He encountered immediately after the resurrection and how He renews our lives today. Last week, we looked at how Jesus renews faith life and we did so through the lens of Thomas. This week, through St. Peter, we will consider how the risen Christ, through forgiveness and being redirected toward love, renewed Peter and continues to renew all of us. 

When I have conversations with people about their favorite Biblical characters, Peter is always high on the list. I suspect this is because nearly all of us can relate with Peter: he is so sublimely human. Luke was a physician and, by legend, also an artist and Matthew was an accountant type tax collector. Peter was in the down-to-earth vocation of being a commercial fisherman.The Bible paints St. Peter as a person with strong feelings and strong pronouncements. Often, he was a man who took action first and thought later. 

Consider some of the highlights of his life: in the midst of the storm he began walking on water toward Jesus but nearly drowned when he paid more attention to the raging seas than to the Christ. And Peter was the one that Jesus called the rock upon which he would build his church. This came after a conversation where Jesus asked Peter who people thought he was. And Peter answered “You’re the Christ,” but then, in his next breath, he denied the possibility of the cross. And Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan.” 

On another occasion, when Jesus shared with the disciples about the whole forthcoming events in Jerusalem, Peter strongly and boldly stated that he would never deny Jesus. And yet, you know the story: prior to fleeing with the rest of the disciples he denied Christ three times. And the Bible records that right at the moment of the third denial Jesus was looking right at Peter. And in pain and in shame, the Bible says that Peter wept bitterly. 

I believe that the internal pain and shame Peter had from that look from Jesus is a key to our passage today. I believe that Peter still hurt from his own failure. And even though Peter had heard Mary Magdalene’s proclamation that she had seen the Lord, and even though he had seen the empty tomb, and even despite being in the Upper Room when Jesus appeared two times–I believe that the pain of that look from Jesus, at the third denial, still wounded him deeply. And despite having received the commissioning of Christ in the Upper Room, a commissioning to offer Grace and love through Christ, Peter headed in a different direction. 

Rather than living out the commissioned life of sharing Jesus, he took control of his own life back from Christ and went back to the tame, familiar life of fishing that he had before he met Jesus. And truthfully, sometimes we are so like Peter, aren’t we? Think of it! We may have had a religious mountaintop experience, or we may have made a great commitment (perhaps even on January 1), to strengthen our life of faith through prayer, giving and regular worship. But then, one day, we find ourselves removed from those commitments. And for most of us it happens bit by bit. You know how it happens. We might neglect our daily spiritual health and disciplines and awake one day only to realize we are not praying anymore. Or, we miss a couple of Sundays for vacation, and then recreation, and then out of a desire to just sleep in, and those couple of Sundays stretch into a couple of months. Sometimes we fall behind in our giving and then just give up! And more commonly, we simply plateau in generosity, giving the same amount for decades even in response to our limitlessly generous God. 

You see, in our own ways, often incrementally, like Peter we ease back into our own pre-Christ lifestyles. If that in any way remotely describes you, there is good, great news for you this morning. When we look at Peter’s life we see that Christ will have none of us going back to our pre-Christ ways. While Peter, perhaps out of the pain of failure, or out of thinking he was unworthy to carry on the ministry of Christ, seemed to have given up on Jesus, Jesus never gave up on Peter. Nor will He give up on us or our loved ones. 

Peter fled from the cauldron of Jerusalem and from all of the memories there. He fled far away from the last place he had an encounter Jesus. He went as far as he knew to go, out on the boat in the Tiberius Sea. He went back to the old pre-Jesus lifestyle of fishing. And as dawn began to break, Jesus was there on the shore. And then, because of a miraculous catch, Jesus is recognized by John to be the Lord. Peter dressed and jumped off the boat and half swam and half ran to Jesus, who in the scene reminiscent of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and even the Upper Room, fed Peter and all the disciples. 

And I believe the Risen Jesus loves us so that He pursues us as well! He pursues us in this very congregation through the loving support and encouragement we receive when we were broken in body, relationship or spirit. He pursues us in all of the opportunities to grow and to serve that are offered in this congregation. And of course, He comes to us most saliently through the holy meal of communion. 

One miracle in this story is the huge catch a fish and the un-torn net. But there was another miracle here as well. It was the miracle of forgiveness and restoration by Jesus of Peter. Jesus gave Peter the chance to pronounce His love for the Lord three times to cancel out each denial in the past. Jesus, you see, wiped the slate clean for Peter. And then He did something else that was wonderful for Peter; He redirected Peter from the mundane life of fishing to the holiness of loving tending to and caring for Jesus sheep. And that’s what He offers us today, this very moment, right now: He offers us a time to experience His grace. He offers us forgiveness and a renewed life redirected toward loving. And here is the only question remaining: Will you accept His offer of grace? Will you respond to His redirecting your life toward being more loving? In doing so, you will find that the Risen One has renewed and is renewing you through forgiveness and love.  Let us pray.


Sharing Starters:

Share your favorite mission at CUMC.

Share about some of the ways people incrementally slip in the life of faith.

Share about a time when your faith weakened.

Share about how Christ renewed, restored and redirected you.