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This Week's Sermon !

April 10, 2016 - Easter 3

Acts 9": 1-6
Psalm 30
John 21: 1-19

An About-Face — Embracing A New Vision

Let me tell you a story.

Let me tell you THE story - THE story about Jesus of Nazareth who lived, died, rose again, and is alive among his followers all over the world.

Yes, please let me tell you that story!

But, first, I will need to go back to the beginning - the beginning - the one that was written about in a book called “Genesis”, the story about the beginning of all that is. I can’t tell you the story of Jesus without mentioning the beginning; without speaking of how one is tied to the other - how Jesus is tied to the power of creation itself. But I need to talk about it in a different way, for you are a different audience.

This story of creator and created is one that continued for many, many generations and received fulfilment in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

However, as I try and tell you this story we will discover that we have at least one problem. One such problem is that the story has not finished yet; the story has no ending.

No matter how many times those who read this story think they have come to the end, there is always one more page to turn and there is yet another chapter in the great Christian drama of an encounter between the faithful and the God they have met in Jesus, risen and alive. The story I told my congregations 25 years ago had now been added to by a quarter century of encounters and living in faithfulness.

Someone who went by the name of “John” tried to write such a story, called a Gospel because that word means “good news”. John started at the beginning and it was all very philosophical at first. He was writing or philosophically minded Greeks. He talked about the logos; spoke of the light and the darkness. Then he got down to trying to make sense of the life of a country rabbi from Nazareth, named Jesus. Like other gospel writers he told his readers that this Jesus died a violent and painful death after a hasty trial on bogus charges. Like the other gospel writers he told his readers that the grave could not hold this Jesus and he was raised to life and appeared to his disciples on a number of occasions.

Well, you would think that the story would be over at that point! It took him what was later divided into 20 chapters.

Af0ter a while though, John, or someone else, decided to write a second ending - perhaps because it was noticed that there had been something left out. That’s the story Elaine read earlier. As this part finishes it warns us, or promises us, (you have to decided which) that the world would not be able to hold all the stories about this Jesus. That seems a little audacious, (after all his ministry was not THAT long). BUT perhaps he was talking about the stories that were yet to happen. Perhaps he meant that the Gospel will never really be closed because the story will go on as long as there are people to encounter the Risen Christ and to live out that love by following his call to feed his sheep and lambs.

What is this story about in 2016? We need to be perfectly clear here; the story of Jesus is not one which promises us either peace, order and good government or life, liberty and happiness as if the story was about how faithfulness can benefit us!

We know this because Peter, and many since, have died for their faith, or suffered because of it. Many since have found the most fulfilment in their version of sheep feeding.

We see that this passage contains Jesus’ warning to Peter about the perils of discipleship and it is a warning to all, who see faith as a way to gain something rather than to give something.

On the other hand, this “faith” and the ministry of its followers have had a great part in lessening the misery experienced by those suffering from hunger, loneliness and meaninglessness, to name just a few human ills, and this has been going on for about 2000 years - since Gospel writer John laid down his quill.

Today’s account from the Gospel of John is full of allusions to other stories earlier in the gospel story and you might miss some of them if you aren’t paying attention!.

In almost every newspaper there is a cartoon on the editorial page. The cartoon often pokes fun at a current social or political situation. In most cases you have to know what is going in the province, country or world to be able to see what the point of the cartoonist actually is. You have to have a some “background”. When you do you can see all sorts of connections and meanings that are difficult to put into words but through a simple drawing the cartoonist speaks a thousand words!

In this chapter the events narrated are like a newspaper cartoon; they are meant to comment on previous events and we are meant to hold both of them in our minds at the same time, without John specifically telling us that.

John’s Gospel story points us to matters that are far more important than the party politics that is often the fodder of the cartoonist.

In today’s passage the same Peter who denied Jesus THREE times just before the crucifixion (remember that?) is asked THREE times to declare a deeper and more committed faith. It is as if each affirmation becomes a reversal of the denials! They become his redemption.

The same disciples who were so close to Jesus went back to their old job of fishing but they were no good at it; no good at it without Jesus who taught them to fish for a totally different species.

Meanwhile Jesus has prepared a meal of fish and bread for these former fishermen. It is the carpenter who teaches them to fish. They had been persisting in their old ways, ways that had stopped working, and it was Jesus who taught them to do something different, something which would prove to be successful. And Jesus was a carpenter!

Notice that this chapter is about another feeding, not of multitudes this time but a feeding nonetheless.

This is another one of those stores of those who cannot see what is right in front of them! They have been with Jesus for his entire ministry, they saw him die and they have heard all of the stories of his resurrection YET they still don’t recognize him when he is right there in front of them, offering instruction, showing them life - offering them an abundance of fish.

We tend to think of the disciples, at least the original 11 as if they are shining examples of perfect faith and courage. Yet even with just a little effort you can see how flawed ALL of the disciples were -

but they were not bad people just normal flawed and imperfect human beings - who could not see what was right in front of them, who wanted (in some cases) fame and glory , who saw following Jesus as a road to success not to service and certainly not to suffering.

Does that sound like someone you know?

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have an imperfect person to lead the early church than one I could not identify with at all.

Jesus and his disciples lived in another world from where we live. His world was culturally and socially so very different than we are. Yet, if we are willing to see the parallels, our stories can form another chapter in the continuing story of Jesus and his followers.

Jesus says to us: feed my sheep. Look after the poor. Protect the vulnerable. Stand up for those who have no voice.

The season of Easter, as far as the stories of the New Testament are concerned, are about encounters with the risen Christ. Today’s passage tells us that we can be in that company.

Oh, I alost forgot. Christ is Risen! (Christ is risen indeed!)

1995- 2016 The Rev. Beth W. Johnston.

For some good stuff go to:
journeywithjesus.net-a weekly webzine for the global church

The United Church has a great online bookstore and here is the link. If you live in Canada they will even send you a book display for your event and people who dont get to see that many books at once can have a ball!

Links to My Other Pages at this Site

  • Sermon Ideas 4U Sermon Archive Site!
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  • The Kings United Pastoral Charge
  • Who is Beth Johnston
  • An Anniversary/Memorial Service Sermon
  • A Sermon for a "Covenanting Service"
  • Sermon on Teenage Suicide
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