Fed, Forgiven, Sent

Sabbath Day Thoughts — “Fed, Forgiven, Sent” John 21:1-19

“Feed My Sheep”

—Mary Baker Eddy

Shepherd, show me how to go

“O’er the hillside steep,

How to gather, how to sow—

How to feed Thy sheep;

I will listen for Thy voice,

Lest my footsteps stray;

I will follow and rejoice

All the rugged way.

Thou wilt bind the stubborn will,

Wound the callous breast,

Make self-righteousness be still,

Break earth’s stupid rest.

Strangers on a barren shore,

Lab’ring long and lone,

We would enter by the door,

And Thou know’st Thine own;

So, when day grows dark and cold,

Tear or triumph harms,

Lead Thy lambkins to the fold,

Take them in Thine arms;

Feed the hungry, heal the heart,

Till the morning’s beam;

White as wool, ere they depart,

Shepherd, wash them clean.”

What’s next? It’s the question of the Easter season.  The sanctuary is still decked in Easter white, but the lilies are beginning to fade. The Easter crowd has ebbed and may not be seen again until Christmas Eve. Yet, we have rejoiced together and affirmed that Jesus has risen and God has won the victory over sin and death.  So, what are we to do and how are we to live in this post-resurrection world? Our reading from John’s gospel suggests that Eastertide is all about being fed, finding grace, and going forth in Christ’s purpose.

What’s next? That question must have been on Peter’s mind. After the disciples encountered the risen Lord on Easter evening, they had made their way back to the Galilee.  After the chaos and trauma of Good Friday, Peter must have felt the comforting pull of the familiar, and so he returned to the well-known rhythms of fishing.  With six of his friends, he climbed into a boat, pushed out into deep water, and spent a fruitless night casting his nets.

As the sun rose above the Golan Heights, Jesus stood on the beach and guided his friends to a surprisingly bountiful catch.  When the disciples returned to shore, Jesus knew that folks who have been out all night long, rowing and towing a drag net, need to be fed, so he invited them to a breakfast of bread and fish, grilled on a charcoal fire.  Have you ever noticed how good food tastes when it is fresh, simply prepared, and eaten outdoors?  As the disciples filled their bellies in Jesus’s good company, I suspect they felt “fed” in more ways than one.

We all need to be fed.  If life is a spiritual journey, then we need good food to sustain us along the Way.  In our Lenten Study this year, a dozen of us considered what sustains us along life’s spiritual journey.  We all need nourishment.  We all need ways in which we connect with God — because it is there that we find the refreshment and energy that are needed to live faithfully.  In fact, the class brainstormed a list of things that are bread for our journey.  On the list were worship, scripture, the Lord’s Supper, meditation and prayer, fellowship, nature, the arts, and more.  How are you fed for the spiritual journey?  This Easter season invites us to know the risen Lord and to deepen our relationship with him.  As we spend time with Jesus — in church, with others, or in nature — we are filled and energized.

I am certain that, as Peter enjoyed that fish breakfast on the beach with Jesus, the apostle was struggling with guilt and shame.  After all, he had promised to follow Jesus, even if the way led to suffering and death.  But on the night of Jesus’s arrest, fear had gotten the better of Peter.  The last time that Peter had warmed his hands at a charcoal fire, he had been in the courtyard of the high priest.  There he had repeatedly and vehemently denied even knowing Jesus.  Jesus, seeing his friend’s inner turmoil, gave Peter a second, third, and fourth chance—a Mulligan, a “do-over.”  Peter found much-needed grace and forgiveness as he affirmed his love for Jesus three times.  It was the perfect, poignant remedy to those three haunting denials.

We all need mercy and grace.  We may not have denied Jesus three times to save our own skin, but we all stumble and fall short in right living.  We have treated our relationship with Jesus as an after-thought to be sprinkled around the edges of our lives at our personal convenience.  We have made mistakes in our personal lives.  We have been impatient with our spouse, insensitive to our children, or unavailable for our friends.  We have remained silent at injustice, indifferent to suffering, and unwilling to share with those who need our help, compassion, and generosity.  Where do you need grace this morning?  In this Easter season, we remember the enormity of God’s love for us.  If Christ can forgive a repentant thief, his executioners, and the Apostle Peter, then we can trust that Jesus forgives us.  In this Easter season, we can trust that grace and forgiveness abound for us.

As Peter was fed and forgiven, he learned that Jesus had a purpose for him.  The Lord asked Peter to feed and tend the flock that was being entrusted to his care.  Through Peter, Jesus would continue to reach out, heal, and bless a world that was desperately hungry for good news.  When we read the Book of Acts, we note that Peter answered that calling.  Peter would heal a lame beggar on the doorstep of the Temple.  He would raise from the dead the beloved Dorcas, who had so generously cared for the widows of Joppa. Peter would venture into enemy territory, taking the gospel to the household of Cornelius the Centurion in Caesarea.  Through Peter, and those other disciples who answered Jesus’s call, Christ’s love would be made known and shared from one side of the Roman Empire to the other.

Jesus continues to entrust his ministry to flawed people like Peter, to flawed people like us.  Jesus’s flock needs faithful people who will love and feed them, and the Lord trusts that we, too, will reach out with healing, help, and blessing for neighbors who hunger for good news.  When we plant the church garden and we bring food offerings to the pack basket at the side entrance, the flock gets fed.  And when we pray for others in the Prayers of the People or share concerns with the Prayer Chain, the flock is tended.  When the deacons reach out with calls and cards, or we invite a hurting friend to church, the flock is blessed.  In this Easter season, we find our purpose and fulfill our calling when we answer Christ’s call to love and serve the neighbors that he entrusts to us.

What’s next?  It’s the question of the Easter season. What are we to do and how are we to live in this post-resurrection world? According to Jesus, Eastertide is all about being fed, finding grace, and going forth in his purpose.  May it be so. 

“Shepherd, show me how to go

O’er the hillside steep,

How to gather, how to sow—

How to feed Thy sheep;

I will listen for Thy voice,

Lest my footsteps stray;

I will follow and rejoice

All the rugged way.”

Resources:

Thomas Troeger. “Homiletical Perspective on John 21:1-19” in Feasting on the Word, Year C, vol. 2. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

Gary D. Jones. “Exegetical Perspective on John 21:1-19” in Feasting on the Word, Year C, vol. 2. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

Robert Hoch. “Commentary on John 21:1-19” in Preaching This Week, April 10, 2016.  Accessed online at workingpreacher.org.

Joy Moore. “Commentary on John 21:1-19” in Preaching This Week, May 5, 2019.  Accessed online at workingpreacher.org.

David Lose. “Two Things Everyone Needs” in Dear Partner in Preaching, April 5, 2016.  Accessed online at davidlose.net.

Longyear Museum. When The Heart Speaks: Feed My Sheep. Poems by Mary Baker Eddy set to music in the Christian Science Hymnal. October 1, 2021. Accessed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xI1J5sGbEM


John 21:1-19

21 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”


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