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The sermon for week April 10, 2016

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End of the Story

Sermon “The End of the Story” April 10, 2016
John 21

Introduction: Easter time and a Preschool teacher was teaching her students about Easter. So she asked them what was Easter. A little boy shot his hand up, “I know, I know.” Easter is that special day when all of your family comes home and we have a big meal, we eat turkey, and then everyone watches a football game.
Teacher: “I believe that you are thinking of Thanksgiving.”
Little girl: “I know what Easter is. On Easter at our house, when we wake up and come down the stairs, there is a tree full of presents under it.”

Teacher: “I believe that you are thinking of Christmas.”
Another little girl: “I know what Easter is. We learned about it at church. Easter is when we celebrate Jesus, who died on a cross and was buried in a tomb and rose to life from the tomb.”
Teacher: Smiling. “Very good.”

Little girl continued: And on that morning when he came out of the tomb, if he saw his shadow…. there was going to be 6 more weeks of winter.”

Now that I have your attention, maybe as we approach this text we can see it with open eyes, see it in a new way. We think that we know the story, but maybe there is more to it.

I have always tended to read this text in a straight forward manner. When I read it that way, it is all about the risen Christ revealing himself to the disciples, and it is about the disciples, especially Peter, coming into his own as a follower of Jesus.
Many times over I have suggested that you place yourself in the story. Allow it to become your story. Today I want you to do just that. Place yourself in this story.

To help you do so, think about a time in your life when you did something that you regretted, really regretted. Maybe when you treated somebody badly, or when you followed the crowd even though you knew it was wrong, but you did it anyway. Now you have to face the consequences. You have to face the one you wronged.

Mr. Rogers from PBS children’s show said, “The most personal is the most universal.” Who among us has not hurt somebody and regretted doing so, knowing full well at some point that she or he would have to face the one they hurt. In this text, Peter is that person. Just days earlier in the story, when Jesus was on trial and about to be crucified, Peter, who had journeyed with Jesus, one of his closest friends, not only did not come to his aid, but denied, not once but three times, that he even knew Jesus.
Ashamed of his actions, unwilling to face Jesus, he walks away from everything that Jesus taught him and returns home. Here we pick up the story…Read John 21:1-

Verse 4: “Children, have you any fish?” Now it has been a long night. You are already upset with yourself. Because of a long night, you are tired, grouchy and frustrated for the lack of any fish. – A simple curt no. No excuses, weather, late start….
Verse 6 – “This stranger says, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat.” What is your respons?……Mine may not have been as gracious.

(Aside)…cast on the right side, not the other side. Right side is the side of blessing, to be seated on someone right side…I wonder, is he offering a blessing?

I can imagine the conversation among those in the boat that followed that crazy suggestion. How stupid. Why bother? Or, possibly some comments on what the stranger might do with the suggestion. With nothing to lose, or maybe out of spite so that when the net comes up empty they can put the stranger in his place, they cast the net…and….

First response, “It is the Lord.”

Now remember, you are Peter, remember what you have done, the hurt that you have caused. The time has come that you feared. You must face the one you hurt. It is time to take responsibility for your actions. What will Jesus do? What will he say? I will give you a clue. Earlier in the story, as they were traveling with Jesus, they were at his feet when Jesus told parable after parable.

There was one parable that stood out. It was one about a prodigal son who had squandered his inheritance and embarrassed his father. He had done numerous things that he regretted. With no place to go he returned home. Peter was just like the prodigal in that parable that Jesus had told. He had squandered his time with Jesus and had embarrassed him. He was living now with those regrets. With no place to go, he too returned home. But this time, it is not a parable. It is real life. In the parable, the son had to face the father. In real life, Peter has to face Jesus. What will Jesus do? Jesus had every right to call Peter out (big time) on Peter’s denials.

What does Jesus do? He prepares a feast for Peter and the rest, just as in the parable the father prepares a feast. For once Peter is silent, he is speechless. Just as Jesus had done countless times before, he invited the sinners, the outcasts, those seemingly far from God to join him at the table. This time it was Peter he invited. He broke bread for him and shared fish with him.
Jesus was a living embodiment of that love that he had taught.

Peter and the others realized in that moment that they were forgiven, that they were beloved. Years later, Paul in a letter to the Romans would give voice to this love when he wrote, that there “is nothing in all of creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In that moment, Peter and the others knew that they were welcomed home. Not only were they welcomed, they were home. All was well. This story is a story about belonging and being welcomed home. What Jesus had told in parables, he was now telling them through his actions. You are home. You are home where you belong. You are loved. You are a child of God….(I can only imagine the joy of that gathering on the lakeshore.)

But the story was not over and neither is ours. Belonging was not enough. There was something more.

Jesus goes on and asks Peter three questions. Really one question asked three times. “Do you love me?” In the asking, I can imaging Peter getting more and more nervous as he likely has to confront those three times that he denied Jesus. Each time Peter responds, “Yes Lord.” With each response, Jesus gives Peter something to do. It is not three different things, but one thing that he repeats three times. Feed my sheep. Code words for follow me. Do as I do. Live out what I taught you. What did Peter do? John does not tell us. He leaves it for us to write the end of the book, for he goes on to say that there is much left unwritten.
Returning to what Mr. Rogers said, “The most personal is the most universal.” This was a very personal experience for Peter. It was also universal for who among us has not has not done as Peter has done and betrayed someone. Just as Peter’s betrayal was personal so was the welcome he received from Jesus on that lake shore. The good news for us is that welcome that Jesus extended is not only “most personal” it is also “most universal.” That welcome is extended to all of us. Nothing can separate us from that love. That is what it means to belong to Christ.

Knowing that, truly knowing what it means to belong, to be loved by Jesus, Jesus now asks each of us, “Do you love me.” You see, the story is not only about belonging and coming home. It is also about purpose. It is about living out the life that Jesus calls us to live. If we love him, if so, live out that love, care for the ones that Jesus cared for. Love your neighbor as he loved them. Give welcome to those who are outcast. Just as Jesus did, pay extra attention to welcome those society tends to devalue. Welcome the foreigner, the refugee, the migrant fleeing war and looking for a better life for themselves and their children. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, stand up for justice.

And now the question is, how will you end this story?

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