John 21: 7-19
“Do you love me?” Peter and Jesus work it out
Two things to tell you before I start this morning:
First – there is a subtitle: Peter and Jesus work it out... which I will go into shortly
Secondly, for anyone who follows the lectionary – I’m off lectionary today! This reading has been niggling away in the background since Easter, and this week it just wouldn’t go away, so I have answered that niggle and I’m going off lectionary, as it is another couple of years before this particular reading comes around again.
This has been an extraordinary week; it has been the General Assembly, and this year I was not a commissioner so I have only been there for one day – as part of the Ministries Council when they reported.
I have however watched via the live stream... and wow!
The debates I have seen have been passionate, and far reaching; there has been grace in hearing opposing views aired and debated.
And so many topics! From the independence debate; to theological forum; to violence against women; to international and ecumenical relations... and just about everything in between
There was tragedy when a commissioner was knocked down and killed after leaving the Assembly on Monday evening.
There was hope when the Assembly agreed to enter into a decade of ministry, setting targets to recruit ministers and to increase local mission and ministry involvement – courses are going to be made available to equip local churches to build up their own mission strategy in their own communities.
In all of this, there was a sense that the church is hopeful, but the church is hurting. The church is hurting herself... because divisions exist; conflict exists; differences of opinion and interpretation have created a great gulf between people. Being aware of that there was a strong and urgent sense that the time has come to move from outlining differences, to finding the things we hold in common, and celebrating the things we share.
It is so easy, when things go badly, to stay focussed on them.
It is easy to pick away at it, adding to the pain... but this is not what Jesus taught the disciples and us.
Jesus had every reason to be angry with Peter; he had every reason to choose someone else to be the leader.
But Jesus more than anything else, had a loving heart, and an openness to forgive and move on. And he knew that Peter needed to both know that, and to accept it for himself.
Peter – the bold, strong, compulsive man, who had sobbed his heart out after his fear overcame him and he pretended he didn’t know Jesus; he denied ever knowing him.
Peter needed to be forgiven, but more than that he needed to forgive himself and move forward.
It does no good revisiting old hurts; old slights; old arguments.
Raking up the past does not help us to move forward.
Jesus knew that for Peter to be able to carry on; to take up the task set for him, there needed to be closure.
That Pater needed to know Jesus had forgiven him; and that he could forgive himself. So Jesus took him aside, and explained it as it was...
Peter – do you love me?
Peter – do you love me?
Peter – do you love me?
Three times to deny
Three times to own
Three times to know it is done.
Three times the charge – look after my sheep, my lambs, my people.
It’s ok Peter
You are forgiven and free
This is what we need to do too
We are the church for our community
Our mission is not simply to gather here each week and worship God in our own little world
Our mission is to communicate WHY we do this
Our mission is to share the gospel message:
God loves you
God wants you to know him
God wants you to invite him in
God sent his Son into the world so that we might better know and understand that God loves us.
Becoming a Christian is the easy part: do you love God? Do you believe in God: Father Son and Spirit?
DO you believe Jesus died for us? So that sins will be forgiven?
If you answered yes- that’s it!
You’re a Christian
Living it out though is a different story: because as part of that we are all called to share the joy, the comfort, the hope we get from saying yes
We don’t have to go and preach to our neighbours!!
We simply live it out
We show kindness to others
We offer support
We live lives that are wholesome and restrained – that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun...
It just means we do not lead others astray, and we do not do anything we’d be ashamed to own in front of each other, or God.
Peter had acted impetuously, in a way he was ashamed to own.
But Jesus forgave him; let him know it was ok and then trusted him with the task ahead: go and tell others about me
Living the Christian life is about love in action; it is about restoration and reconciliation, because we are all human, we all make mistakes and we all have things that need to be forgiven.
The beauty of our God is that he already knows this in each of us
And continues to love us, to seek us out and to move us forward
We have a challenge
And be open to change
Just as Jesus told his disciples all those years ago
That mission, that earthly mission is for every generation and will lead us home to our eternal mission with him