The Third Sunday of Easter; Year C (4/14/2013)

Lessons:Acts 9:1-6 [7-20] Psalm 30 (11) Revelation 5:11-14 St. John 21:1-19

Prayer of the Day: Eternal and all-merciful God, with all the angels and all the saints we laud your majesty and might.  By the resurrection of your Son, show yourself to us and inspire us to follow Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

21:1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 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. 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.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 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. 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. 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.

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.”

St. John 21:1-19 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Feed My Sheep

What pastor-liturgical student-flyfisherman wouldn’t love this passage? It contains the church’s very first call and response refrain: Saint Peter:  I am going fishing. The Church:  We will go with you.

Saint Peter and the others have just endured the hardest week of their lives. It was painful, troubling, exhausting, discouraging… you name it. They saw their hearts go from soaring on Palm Sunday to despairing on Good Friday. Jesus has appeared to them twice, but it seems as though these experiences are more confusing than encouraging for them. At his wits’ end, Peter decides to go back to what he knows best, and the others join him for a night shift on the Sea of Tiberias.

Speaking from some experience, there is hardly a better way to soothe one’s soul than to spend some time on (or in!) the water. I know that when I’ve been struggling, a day on the South Platte near Dekkers sends me home in a much better frame of mind. I wonder if that is what Peter is after in this weekend’s Gospel test.

If Peter is seeking renewal, that is what he will experience — but in a much more powerful way than he could ever imagine. He carries with him his own pain from Good Friday. It is pain from being a witness to the death of Jesus, but even more so, pain from the memory of how he failed Jesus. A pain much deeper than anything a night on the water is able to soothe.

Jesus seems to know this, and when Peter arrives on shore he addresses it immediately. “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these… Feed my lambs.” “Simon son of John, do you love me… Tend my sheep.” “Simon son of John, do you love me… Feed my sheep.” Three times, Jesus invites Peter to make public affirmation of his love. Three times Peter declares his love for Jesus. Three times Jesus invites him to shepherd this young flock of believers.

The parallel between Peter’s threefold denial on Good Friday and his threefold declaration at the Sea of Tiberias is unmistakable. Peter has been given the gift of renewal, not from a night away from town, immersed in the waters, scouting for a catch of fish, but from these powerful words of absolution and commissioning. Jesus loves Peter, forgives Peter, and renews Peter’s call to serve as a leader of disciples; as the rock on whom this new church will be built. (Matthew 16:18)

It is a remarkable day for Saint Peter. It is also a remarkable day for the church. In the redemption of Saint Peter, the church is born. At the heart of the church is the ministry of forgiveness; of absolution; of redemption.

We too are called to this ministry. At the very center of our life together is the call to help one another experience renewal and new beginnings. We do so, not simply by creating pleasant experiences — diversions from the nuisances of life (diversions like a night on the Sea of Tiberius). We do so by helping people to receive the power of forgiveness and the beauty of a new beginning (like Peter’s call to shepherd the early church). When this happens the church becomes a source of new life for us all, and a witness to the world of nothing less than the power of God.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why do Peter and the others leave Jerusalem for the Sea of Galilee?
  2. What must Peter be thinking and feeling when he realizes it is Jesus on the shore?
  3. How do these three exchanges with Jesus change Peter’s life?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I experienced the gift of forgiveness; the gift of a new beginning?
  2. How might I help my church to become a community that values forgiveness and reconciliation?
  3. In what ways can the church witness to the world that this is what we are all about?