April 22,2007 Easter 3, Year C
April 22, 2007
Easter, Year C
The Acts of the Apostles 9: 1-6 (p.1700)
The Revelation of John 5:11-14 (P.1919)
The Gospel of John 21:1-19 (Pp.1687-88)
Jesus calls us to him and then sends us froth to serve. The meaning of that service may be found in the words, “Feed my sheep.”
“Catch and Release”
Imagine a brilliant, sunny day in late spring on a university campus. The commencement ceremony has ended and the graduates are milling around in their caps and gowns, surrounded by adoring family members. It’s a moment for snapshots and heartfelt and heartfelt words of congratulations. For the graduates, it’s a bittersweet time: the joy of achievement, but also the sorrow that comes of so many partings.
In more than one little family group, an older relative – a parent or maybe an uncle or aunt – will walk up to a graduate and extend a hand. Then, with tear-filled eyes –and , gripping the graduate’s hand a few moments longer than necessary – the relative will say, “You may not realize it now, but these years you’ve just completed are the best yours of your life.”
Words kindly meant, to be sure – but they are among the deadliest words one human being can offer to another. Consider the implications of telling a bright-eyed young graduate, “These are the best years of your life.” The older relative, the guide, is saying, “You may think you’re at the threshold of something new, but don’t fool yourself, kid: “It’s all downhill from here.”
Thank you, older generation!
Peter is feeling something similar as he says to his comrades, “I’m going fishing,” and they reply, “We will go with you.”
THE TIME WITH JESUS
What a wild ride it has been! For several of them, it all began on a narrow strip of beach beside the Sea of Galilee. They had just hauled their boat up on the s and were tightening the knots of their fishing nets when this strange character walked up to them and said, “COME WITH ME, AND I WILL SHOW YOU HOW TO FISH FOR PEOPLE.”
Why they followed him, they couldn’t have explained at the time – although later on, they discovered God was in it. God was in it all – in their walking the length and breadth of Galilee and Judea, in the teachings, in the healings, even in the times they had to flee some village a few steps ahead of the “RIGHTEOUS ONES” who got so angry, so fast. God was in the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, in the sharing of bread and wine in the Upper Room, and yes, even in the blood and despair and pain of Calvary. God was in it all – but especially in those surprising, paradigm-busting moments when they saw the risen Lord and touched his nail-scarred hands and feet.
After all this, what could possibly come next? Peter is sure these have been the best years of his life. What is there to do now, but go back to the fish nets? Peter knows he will enjoy, one day, dandling a grandchild on his knee, and asking with a wink, “Did I ever tell you about the time Jesus invited me, the fisherman, to go fishing?”
Then a little voice will pipe up, “Oh, Granddad, you’ve only told me a hundred times!”
But that, as we all know, is not the way it will happen. Peter will have little time for fishing, ever again, He will devote the rest of his years to spreading the word about this man named Jesus, this man he has come to know as “MESSIAH.” And when the sun rises on the last day of Peter’s life, he will know that day for what it is. He will know that morning, that a cross awaits him, an upside-down cross, as he has requested of his Roman persecutors. For who is he to share the same mode of dying as the one he is proud to call “LORD”?
AT THE SEASHORE
There was one experience that turned Peter around, that convinced him the best years of his life lay not behind him, but ahead. It’s the story John tells in Chapter 21.
Peter and his companions are in their boat, after a long night of fishing. A stranger on the beach – who turns out to be Jesus – tells them where to cast their nets, and they haul them in, full to bursting. Then he invites them to join him for a breakfast of grilled fish on the beach.
After they’ve eaten their fill, Jesus turns abruptly to Peter and asks, “SIMON SON OF JOHN, DO YOU LOVE ME MORE THAN THESE?”
Peter stares bask, uncomprehending. “YES, LORD, YOU KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU.”
“FEED MY LAMBS.”
It’s not unlike another question the Master once asked, a question that seems, now, centuries old: “WHO DO PEOPLE SAY THAT I AM?”
Peter had replied instantly, on that occasion, saying, “YOU ARE THE MESSIAH, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD!” The memory stings, like sand in the eyes on a windy day. How naïve Peter had been back then, in his childlike enthusiasm! Would he have spoken out with such eagerness, had he known then what he knows now—had he known about the cross? Surely not….
“SIMON, SON OF JOHN, DO YOU LOVE ME?”
“YES, LORD, YOU KNOW THA I LOVE YOU.”
“TEND MY SHEEP.”
If only it would dawn on Peter what Jesus is doing, why he stops on his way to eternity to grill fish, of all things, with these down-on-their luck fishermen. Jesus is turning back the clock. He’s allowing Peter the rare privilege of traveling back through time, to undo the biggest mistake of his life.
“SIMON SON OF JOHN, DO YOU LOVE ME?”
“YES, LORD, YOU KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU.”
“FEED MY SHEEP.”
John tells us Peter feels hurt because Jesus asks him the same question three times, as though Jesus doesn’t believe him. But that’s not it at all. Jesus knows this disciple’s stout heart and he knows that that heart is broken. Three times the shepherd commands the fisherman to care for his sheep, this flock he is now entrusting to him. On the third invitation, the fisherman’s broken heart is mended.
It only remains for Jesus to hint about the martyrdom that is in Peter’s future. Once he has done that, the risen Lord concludes by saying once again, “FOLLOW ME.”
They have come full circle: from one Galilean beach to another. “FOLLOW ME AND I WILL SHOW YOU HOW TOCATCH PEOPLE.”Catch people, indeed!
FEED MY SHEEP
Those who are fond of fly-fishing know that the best waters are often labeled, by the game wardens, “CATCH AND RELEASE.” That means they are reserved for sport-fishing only, for those who cast their lines into the water for the sheer joy of it. Every fish that’s hooked, in a Catch and Release area, must be returned to the water immediately.
“Catch and Release” describes what Jesus accomplishes that day, on the Galilean shore. For the second time in their lives, the Lord catches a few fishermen. Only this time, he releases them. He set them free, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, to fulfill their destiny.
Christian motivational speaker and writer Win Arn ws once making a short film entitled Circus. Starring in the film were some young people who also happened to be real, live trapeze artists.
During a break in the filming, one of the young stars went up to the producer, pointed up to the trapeze and said, “WHY DON’T YOU TRY IT, MR. ARN?”
Well, after some further prodding from his young stars, he did --- even though the thought of climbing one of those high towers terrified him. Fifty feet above the sawdust of the circus ring, Win crawled out onto the tiny platform, looked down and noticed that the safety net was all but invisible.
He almost scrambled back down the ladder, but the shouted encouragement of the young circus performers convinced him. He grabbed the swing and launched out into space, grabbed the second one in mid-air, and before he knew it, he’d landed on his feet on the opposite platform. His young actors cheered.
Writing about the experience later, Win recalled that he make three important discoveries that day:
Discovery number one: You can’t hold onto the old bar while you reach for the other.
Discovery number two: You don’t have forever to make up your mind.
Discovery number three: It is a frightening experience to make that kind of commitment.
The commitment we make, in resolving to follow Jesus Christ, is equally risky. At one time or another in our lives, Jesus turns to each one of us and asks, “DO YOU LOVE ME?”
We reply, without hesitation, “YES, LORD, YOU KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU.”
Then he tells each one of us how to prove our love:
“FEED MY SHEEP.” We have, each of us, different callings, based on the various gifts the Holy Spirit has distributed, but every disciple’s calling can be summed up in those three words of our Savior: “FEED MY SHEEP.” Our life’s journey, in faith, is discovering what, specifically, Christ’s call means to us.
If you listen, you may hear him calling to you. There he is, walking the narrow strip of sand, that borderline between the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God. Can you see him, in your mind’s eye? He is beckoning: inviting you to join him on the adventure of discipleship. You are his catch – but no sooner will he catch you, than he will release you into the world, to witness and to serve. Amen .