Sermon for Anglicare Sunday
Easter 3 John 21:1-19 Revelation 5:6-14 Psalm 30 Acts 9: 1-6
X In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Amen.
We are still in the Easter season and thinking about what was achieved by the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. As a result, we begin to understand what it means to be forgiven; to have a feeling of worthlessness lifted from our hearts; and to begin to understand how God loves. In today’s gospel we see an example of what it means to be reconciled with God, to be loved, and how we can demonstrate our love for him.
The first part of the gospel sets the scene for Jesus’ appearance to the disciples while they were fishing, a further revelation of his human and divine nature and for his reconciling conversation with Peter. Only John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, recognized Jesus in the dim morning light. Here we have Jesus on the shore with a clear view of the shoals of fish close by and a fire burning with breakfast ready. Here on the beach, Jesus leads Peter through an experience, not without pain, that would remove the cloud of his denial of Jesus while Jesus was on trial with his accusers. Peter had disowned Jesus three times. Three times we hear Jesus asking Peter if he loved him. Peter would have remembered with remorse his denial, but Jesus gently leads him to revisit this moment of failure in their relationship and offers reconciliation.
After another spectacular catch of fish, three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved him and when Peter said “yes” Peter is asked to accept a commission. There is the concept of a great harvest. The ones who had failed - they had all deserted Jesus some time during the preceding weeks - are invited to re-join and renew the relationship and become stewards of the harvest.
They are invited to “come and have breakfast”, they are welcomed by Jesus into fellowship with one another around the fire and in this symbolic table relationship they are welcomed by God.
In this scene, we are invited to revisit the account of the last Passover supper with Jesus and the intimate relationship of that meal, when Jesus washed their feet. One had gone to betray him, one to deny him and the others, except “the disciple Jesus loved” to abandon him. We now hear Peter answering “Yes” to Jesus’ questions. Peter is still feeling hurt that he is asked three times for a profession of love, but Peter is reassured that forgiveness is complete. Peter who thought he was pretty hopeless is led again into a trusting relationship and given a commission. Peter is told to feed his sheep, he is told to lead the small fragmented Christian flock.
Jesus doesn’t settle for quick superficial answers. He has a way of getting to the heart of the matter. Peter had to face his true feelings and motives when Jesus confronted him. We wonder, how would we respond if Jesus asked, “Do you truly love me?”
For us to consider: It is one thing to say we love Jesus, to say “Yes” but the real test is our willingness to serve him. Peter feels Jesus’ forgiveness and his love and when Jesus asked him to commit his life. he is willing to do it. Peter’s life changed when he finally realized who Jesus was. His occupation changed from fisherman to evangelist, his identity changed from impetuous to “rock” and his relationship to Jesus changed. He finally understood the significance of Jesus’ words about his death and resurrection. Peter realises just who Jesus really is and learns that God’s faithfulness can compensate for our greatest unfaithfulness.
He learnt it is better to be a follower of Christ who makes mistakes and fails, than to be one who fails to follow. Peter’s enthusiasm was backed up by faith and understanding.
In the symbolism of the biblical texts Jesus is pictured as both a Lion, a symbol of authority and power and a Lamb, a symbol of submission, in reality, of submission to God’s will. The song of God’s people praises Christ’s work. He was slain. He purchased them with his blood. He gathered them into a kingdom. He made them priests and appointed them to reign on earth. Although he was the sacrificial Lamb he is in no way weak, but lives in the strength of God’s eternal power. Jesus has already died and conquered eternal death and is now gathering all into his kingdom. Only Jesus holds the future, he is in control and he alone is worthy to set into motion the events of the last days of history.
If we are honestly saying “yes” to Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?” how is it that as reported in the recent Anglicare North Coast media release “it is extremely difficult for people on any type of Centrelink benefit to find an affordable rental property anywhere in the region” and for “single people on both Newstart and Youth Allowance, there were no available affordable properties at all.” And how is it that we read reports in the Daily Examiner on 30 April of 230 homeless youth sleeping rough in our area. How is it that in the recent data from the NSW Bureau of Crime, Statistics and Research, the statistics for South Grafton and Grafton for the numbers of people suffering and being involved in Assault, and Domestic Assault or Violence are astonishing and unacceptably high when compared to our surrounding areas and to the national norms.
Arm in arm with these statistics are the figures for the use of amphetamines which means that people’s lives are so miserable and out of control that self-medication is the only way relief can be found.
If we are people who can truly say to Jesus that we love him, how can we then say to our neighbour, “we don’t care a dam about how you live your life, we don’t care if you can’t find a place you can afford- it’s not our concern.” If we think about the work to which God is calling us as a people of faith at the Cathedral, this isour concern. And there are a few ways we can do something about it. This morning after the service we will have morning tea in the Edwards Hall followed by a presentation of the Dean’s Forum by Estelle Graham, CEO of Anglicare North Coast. We will learn of the valuable work of Anglicare North Coast in our region and how we can be supporters.
Many of us due to circumstances live alone in a house with more bedrooms and bathrooms than we would need, some of which if we were willing, could, with Council permission be converted into a 1 bedroom flat. This would provide a home for a single person, with a good Christian neighbour and who knows what God would be able to do with that?
Our understanding and belief about God’s universal triumph has an impact on our conduct in the present moment. We say we love God and the work which God began with Christ, God will bring to its fulfilment, division will finally give way to communion, hatred to love, fear to hope, and failure to success. Before we stretch out our hands, for someone else to fasten a belt around us and take us where we do not wish to go. can we be part of the sheep feeding crew, take heed to the call of the Christ who loves us, and be about doing his business? Amen.
The Reverend Camellia Flanagan tssf