Sermon – May 5, 2019 – Third Sunday after Easter


He Never Gives Up

Let’s remind each other here for a second, just to be clear.    Twice before this encounter the disciples had met the risen Christ, face to face, showed them his wounds.  “We have seen the Lord!” they told Thomas.  He is alive.   They had received the gift of the Spirit and they had heard this commission, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”   Yet they didn’t recognize them when he stood on the shore.

It appears they didn’t know what was up so they went back to work.  They go back out doing what they did before.

Sound familiar?  How often to we come into worship, and hear these commissioning words, these “follow me” words, these “as the Father sent me so I send you.”   You heard the same thing I did last week when Jesus spoke these words to the disciples.

And yet we still wonder what’s going on.  Now, when we hear these words proclaimed in the sanctuary, we know that Jesus is not just talking to the disciples.  He is talking to the church, he is talking to you and me.  “We have seen the Lord,” we proclaim.  “He is risen, indeed!” we affirm.  “Go in peace and serve the Lord,” we say as we part.

Yet we walk out not quite sure what that means.   I’m trying to make anyone feel bad, but the truth is that sometimes we just don’t get it.  We don’t know what it is we’re supposed to do, or what he’s done, and that the very call of our name is Christ’s claim on us.   So we default to what we did the last time. . . and we go back to work.

I supposed we could sit around and feel bad about that, or ashamed that we don’t quite get it after all this time. But it is clear from scripture that developing a vocation of ministry, developing faith is a process, it is a journey. And the good news is that Jesus never gives up on us.  The disciples had seen him twice and witnessed his wounds yet they still did not understand.  We, too.  We go to work..  Fish all without catching a thing.  Jesus will find his way along our shore, into our presence.

In spite of their history, and ours Jesus persists.  Jesus never gives up on us.  Try again he says.  “Having a bad day boys?”  he calls from the shoreline.  “Ya think!” they respond.   “Trying fishing on the other side of the boat.’  They did and everything changes.  And in that response, they recognize him again.  Jesus persists.  Jesus never gives up.  He helps us figure it out.  What is it I am supposed to do?  What does it mean to follow Jesus?

Do something differently.  Jesus is persistent in reminding us that he will challenge the ways we have taken in our lives that lead us nowhere or worse, indeed more that challenge, he will redirect us.  Try fishing on the other side of the boat.  And that calls us to bring our results, our fruits, before him that he might bless and share them.   Bring me your prayers, bring me your faith, bring me your repentance, bring me your hopes for yourself and the world, bring me your struggles, your works of justice, and joy of worship. . .  and we meet us and share with us.

And just so we don’t think that there is no way back from where we’ve gone. Just so we don’t think that maybe the last time we failed we be the last time for our Lord, Jesus looks at Peter, and says “Peter, do you love me?”  “Yes, Lord you know I do.”  Feed my lambs.”   “Good. Excellent.  That’s settled.  Work to do. I’m your man.   “Peter, do you love me?”   “Why, yes Lord.  You know I love you.”   “Tend my sheep.”   “OK. I’ve got this.  Maybe wasn’t clear.  Got it now. I’m feeding and I’m tending. OK.”     “Peter, do you love me?”   Well, by now Peter is offended.   “What?! Of course, I love you.  What’s going on.”   “Feed my sheep.”    Three times Peter was questioned.  And by now it must have occurred to him that the last time Jesus counted to three with him the cock crowed, and Peter’s heart broke in shame.  And now, Jesus is assuring Peter in the presence of the disciples and us that he doesn’t practice three strikes and you are out.  His forgiveness is his call.  He says even you, Peter, especially you Peter, take up my ministry.   Jesus never gives up.

Are we paying attention here?  Jesus has work to do with us, on us and for us.  Just because you got it wrong the last time, just because you didn’t show up for the work of the gospel, just because didn’t understand, Jesus will still persist with you, fill you, and feed you and send you.   He never gives up.

Because what we do matters, church, disciples, believers, followers. What we do matters.  We’re not sure of what our ministry is so we go fishing, thinking that ministry, discipleship will take us somewhere else besides the here and now.  Nope, the call to service is the call to serve in our daily lives, so what we do matters.  The decisions we make, the stands we take, the lives we shape.  Feed my sheep, look after my people.  Continue my ministry.  What you do matters , because I am equipping you with the gospel, with the means to feed and tend and care for my people, my creation.  It matters in your marriage.   It is a vocation into which you are sent.  Feed my sheep.  Tend my lambs.  It matters what you do at work as you called to witness with your integrity, your honesty, your forgiveness.   It matters what you do with your friends.  It matters what you do with the strangers.  It matters what you do when you look around this world and see heartbreak and need, and fear and despair.  Feed my sheep.  Tend my lambs.  Don’t be afraid.  I’ll never give up.  And when you are tired and uncertain and need to be fed, come to me, he says, and I will tend your, heal you, again and again. . . . . so that you may go out again with strength and courage.

God will accomplish mission and ministry through every one of us.  And no one is overlooked.  Even the most unlikely.

Consider Saul.   Persecutor of the church.  One who almost surely had the blood of Christian martyrs on his hands.  At the very least he was guilty by association.  The church feared him.  Yet, Jesus stops Saul dead in his tracks on the road to Damascus and says, Saul, from now on you’ll be fishing on the other side of the boat, and the change that I affect in you will bring you into a profound and important ministry, bearing my gospel to Gentiles, kings and the people of Israel.  You will serve with the very people you tyrannized.  Even Paul.

Jesus never gives up.  Jesus knows who we are and what we will do for his sake in the world.   When we stumble or fail, he forgives us and heals us. When we lose our way he will come and find us and bring us back.  When we need understanding and clarity he will call us before him patiently teaching, and leading. . . . doing the very things we are called to share, to tend and feed and comfort.

When our nets are coming up empty and we don’t know what to do, we feel we’ve gone too far or we hurt too bad, that death and darkness and evil have prevailed, listen for the voice from the shore that calls, “Try the other side of the boat.”  If we listen and respond, then everything will change.  And we will see that he is risen, claiming, calling and equipping us.

He will never give up.

Thanks be to God.