Feed God’s Sheep
Good Shepherd – Communion Cafe |:| John 21: 1 – 19
This weekend the youth have been discussing ways in which we hunger: physical, emotional, spiritual. We even played a version of the Hunger Games. Our version ended with the winner finding the Mockeringjay pin as the last task, rather than working to eliminate the other players through death as the book and movie have it done. It has been a full weekend talking about ways we hunger and I have no doubt these students will rest well tonight, not to mention their youth advisors.
As we look at our texts this morning we have the conversion of Saul, a psalm conveying the greatest of praise and anguish of life to God, and a Gospel where Jesus appears to the disciples for a third time post resurrection. These three texts are steeped within devotions, prayers, and testimonials within church life. For today we will stay with our Gospel lesson for greater examination.
As the story was read just a minute ago there may have been a few aspects of the story that stood out to you. Perhaps it was that the disciples, once again, could not catch fish without the guidance of Jesus (when you read the Gospels the next time you will see the disciples were never able to successfully go fishing without Jesus’ help). It might have been that the disciple with whom Jesus loved was the first to recognize that the person telling them where to fish was actually Jesus. At the end of the text it might have been that Jesus asks Peter three different times if he in fact loves him. Or it could have been that the text notes that Peter put on clothes since he was fishing naked to swim to see Jesus. There is plenty about this text that will leave you with a raised eyebrow but the whole Peter swimming in full clothes seems to raise my eyebrow the most. Not to mention the disciples were only 100 yards away from the shore and followed Peter in the boat. As I read this text I couldn’t help but wonder if Peter, drenched in his clothes standing before Jesus joined by his clothed, dry colleagues looked down at this wet clothes and thought, “I really didn’t think this through.”
Each of these pieces of the texts which stood out to me also has meaningful insights to our present day journey as disciples. This story in the Gospel of John is full of nuggets of wisdom to ponder.
In this story there are two distinct reactions from two well-known disciples when they encounter Jesus. First there is the disciple with whom Jesus loved realizing first that it was in deed the risen Lord speaking to them & helping them catch fish. Secondly there was Peter, who did not realize it was Jesus right away but once he did he jumped into action making his way to shore.
If the Beloved Disciple is the first to understand, recognize, or hear The Lord – something that is utterly necessary for faith – such recognition is not yet manifest in action. If Peter is the first to act – which symbolizes […] the human response of committed faith – such action must always be grounded in authentic recognition. Neither understanding nor action alone constitutes authentic faith, and thus one needs to unite the best of Peter and the best of the Beloved Disciple if one is to be a person of true faith. (Theological, 422)
Hearing this story of Jesus appearing to the disciples brings to mind the story of where Peter denies Jesus three times before Jesus’ crucifixion. Some have “come to call this scene between Jesus and Peter the rehabilitation of Peter and an installment of Peter as a leader of the community.” The basis of Peter’s rehabilitation and leadership is based upon his love for God and his love for humanity. We are reminded that it is not Peter’s unfaithfulness he is to be remembered by but rather that in Christ’s “divine willingness to engage and entrust the ministry, even to someone whose life so far has been marked by impetuosity and denial.” (Homiletical, 425) Peter is captured as the disciple who is ready to act but often questions and doubts when his belief in Christ is put to the test or reaches a new level of faith.
This weekend at the retreat we talked about how people also hunger spiritually and emotionally. How their past actions may be what others define their life by and how that can lead to great emotional hunger to be allowed to be recognized for the person they are today and not the person they once were.
How being known for one aspect of yourself, rather than the fullness of your personhood, can lead to having imbalanced relationships between God, self, and others as we allow ourselves to be known for one aspect or try to overcompensate for the areas of ourselves we wish we would be known for, too. I love from this story of Peter that we can learn it is not our unfaithfulness to God that is remembered by God but the moments of grace when we do respond faithfully to God that is remembered.
The odd addition in the text of Peter putting on his clothes to swim to Jesus because he was naked in the fishing boat may seem like a random addition but if we keep in mind that the writer of John has referred to themes found in Genesis before then verse 7 deserves a closer look.
The writer of this Gospel […] may allude here to Adam’s hiding from God in the garden in Genesis 3. If so, John […] may imagine the significance of the resurrection as undoing the shame of Adam. Yes, Peter, in verse 7 put on his clothes – he is aware of his nakedness and shame. In contrast to Adam, Peter does not allow his shame to stop him from moving toward the one he loves.. Peter does not hide any longer in shame but leaps toward the risen one in joyful desire. For the reader who catches the allusion to Adam, Jesus’ later questions about Peter’s love confirm what is already glimpsed in this scene of immediate responsiveness. (theological, 424)
Each of these snapshots of this story between the resurrected Jesus and the disciples allows us in this Easter Season to grow further in our journey as Disciples of this Risen Lord.
The story found in John 21 captures the importance of being in close relationship with The Lord, to understand and recognize how God moves and reaches out to us in our lives – much like the Beloved Disciple recognized Jesus. This life has many twists and turns of joys woven in with woes and keeping close to God’s teachings and Spirit allows for us to learn over time how the divine is intentionally and intimately interacting with each of us.
The quick action of Peter is part of our journeys, too. Our lives are full of shame, guilt, sin, blemish, harm, even so none of that is too great to keep us from rushing to the presence of Christ just as we are. The Lord does not remember us for the areas in life where we are in disharmony. Just as the Gospel of John highlights that Peter was not remembered for his denials of Christ or his disbelief, neither are we. We are remembered for embracing the grace of Christ. For trusting that when we accept the grace of God we will receive love and mercy, just as we saw Peter trust Christ.
At the end of the story we are given a picture where if Peter loves Jesus then he is to feed Jesus’ sheep. You see to love Jesus is to be active participants in caring for all of Jesus’ sheep. To respond to the needs to bring about harmony to the foundational relationships we have with God, creation, others, and self. It is through the invitation of Christ that we are asked to participate in bringing forth the Kingdom of God to the here and now. Providing glimpses of what God’s reign will be.
This weekend we talked about how in the Hunger Games there were signs of revolution happening when District 12 holds up the 3 fingers to Katniss, the Mockingjay Pin, and when Peeta and Katniss go to eat the nightlark berries and ruin the Games. With the youth this weekend we talked about how we can find ways to address the overwhelming needs of all forms of hunger in this world, our own ways of bringing hope to this world like the Mockingjay Pin symbolized in the Hunger Games. We see in this Gospel that Jesus is inviting us as he invited Peter to bring God’s hope to this world.
We are not called to be passive towards any of the ways we hunger in life. We see with the Beloved Disciple that we are to actively create space for ourselves and others to be receptive and in tune to the ways in which God interacts with us. So that when God does we can respond with understanding and belief. In other words, we are to actively create space in our lives to be spiritually renewed and fed and invite others to do the same.
When we see those or ourselves experiencing physical hunger we are not to simply wish those who are hungry God’s peace but are to bring about God’s peace in their lives by working to provide them with food and water. This is where knowing what causes hunger and how it can be combated on global, national, and local levels is significant. Christ does not ask us to evaluate the worthiness of those who are hungry before we work to feed them, but simply says, Do you love me? Then feed my sheep. As disciples of the Risen Lord answering yes to the question means we are compelled to feed Christ’s sheep.
In preparing for the retreat I made the statement to one of our advisors that hunger sucks and their response was, it doesn’t suck it’s a signal that something is wrong. I loved the way they put that. Hunger is a signal that something is wrong. When we experience spiritual, emotional, or physical hunger we are being given a signal that something in our life is out of balance or in need of nutrients. When we feel the pains of hunger in our lives may we have the strength to remember nothing in our lives is too shameful or bad to keep us from running to the feet of Jesus to be given hope. When we see the pains of hunger in the world around us may we not be crippled by feelings of being overwhelmed but may we find small, yet tangible, ways to bring about rejuvenation.
The youth ministry at Good Shepherd, if you Love Christ then feed his sheep. Good shepherd church, if you Love Christ then feed his sheep. For all of Christ’s disciples, if you Love Christ then feed his sheep. And when the disharmony of our lives keeps us from feeding his sheep let us turn to each other for strength and remember that God’s grace envelopes us to heal the disharmony so we can eventually find ways to feed Christ’s sheep. For today, for tomorrow, for always we are invited to live into God’s grace and Love Christ by feeding his Sheep.
Thanks be to God.