Third Sunday of Easter — Rev. Karen Barfield

John 21:1-19

In the name of the one, holy and living God:
who creates, redeems and sustains us. Amen.

The lives of the disciples have been quite topsy-turvy over the past weeks!

Things were going along just fine…
well, as fine as life can go when following a man who chooses love
over power.

But, despite scrapes with the law, and occasionally hiding out, each morning when they got up they knew they would do good that day…touching the outcast and healing the maimed, lame, blind and possessed.

They had committed their lives to following Jesus – whatever that meant.

Until the unexpected happened.

Jesus had really ticked off the powers that be, and Judas…
well, Judas had succumbed to greed.

So a detachment of soldiers along with the police from the chief priests and the Pharisees interrupted the quiet of the garden, and violence erupted as Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the chief priest’s slave.

From that moment nothing went right.

Jesus was arrested and bound and taken to the high priest for questioning.

As he was being questioned Peter stood outside,
warming himself by a charcoal fire,
and it was then that fear overwhelmed him,
and he denied even knowing Jesus
not once,
not twice,
but three times.

Three times!

The cock crowed,
and Peter hung his head…how could he have done such a thing?
He would never have done such a thing.

If this wasn’t bad enough, Jesus was flogged and struck on his face, and a crown of thorns pierced his head.

After he was condemned to die, he had to carry his own cross to the site of crucifixion.

Jesus,
their Messiah, their hope,
was to die a shameful, painful death for all the world to see.

His crucifixion was too frightening and painful for the disciples to watch, except for the disciple whom he loved and a handful of women, including his mother who already had endured the shame and pain of his birth and could not leave him to bear his pain alone,
despite her breaking heart.

This life upon which they had staked their hopes and dreams was over when Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished.”

With haste his body was buried, and the mourning began.

Until the unexpected happened.

Mary Magdalene showed up with the terrifyingly exciting news that his body was gone.

Could all he said have really been true?
Or did someone just run away with his body to play a trick?

And then Jesus himself showed up when the disciples had locked themselves up in fear… and not just once
but twice.

Perhaps it was not finished after all…Jesus was back!

But then he disappeared just as quickly as he had arrived.

Peter has had enough of false hope.

“I am going fishing,” he says.

“We will go with you.”

Now mind you Peter is not announcing here that since life has been so stressful recently that he’d merely enjoy a peaceful night’s fishing trip to help him relax a little bit.

No, Peter is announcing that his life of following Jesus, of preaching and teaching and healing and baptizing – those days are over…finished.

When Peter says “I go” the word in Greek means the final departure of one who ceases to be another’s companion or attendant.

Peter is breaking his relations with Jesus as far as any future service is concerned.

He is returning to his past life – a life of fishing, denying once again his commitment to follow Jesus.

And the other six disciples with him say, “We will go with you.”

They decide to join Peter and return to their former way of life.

But after a whole night of fishing they catch nothing;
the old way of living is just not fruitful any more.

Until Jesus shows up and gives them direction.

So, this morning at early dawn when Jesus appears on the shore, the emotional roller-coaster gets Peter’s heart pumping once more.

He jumps into the sea and heads for Jesus!

And lo and behold, when they all get to the shore, they see a charcoal fire there,
with fish on it,
and bread.

And Jesus says, “Come and have breakfast.”

Can you hear the tenderness in his voice?

“Come
and have breakfast.”

Jesus invites these confused, hopeless, frightened disciples to sit down to a meal on the shore…to be refreshed and renewed on their journey.

And then Jesus addresses Peter who not long ago had denied Jesus three times while standing beside a charcoal fire:

“Simon son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

Three times Jesus offers Peter the chance to proclaim his love and devotion.

Jesus offers redemption to a man who is passionate about life, even in his mistakes.

If you love me, Jesus says, feed my sheep.

The journey is not over…it is just beginning.

Tend the flock.
Sometimes that will mean going places you’d rather not…standing up for love in places that may cause you derision and flogging and pain and possibly even death.

Feed my sheep.

As followers of Jesus it is often not easy to do the right thing…we will make mistakes, sometimes denying him before we know it.

But the more often we do the right thing…the more often we stand on the side of the oppressed and poor and those who suffer in mind, body and spirit, the quicker we will recognize when we have stood by the fire and said, “I do not know him.”

This past week I had to chuckle when Susan Mitchell sent me the password to our new church email account: “feed my sheep” it read.

How perfect!

That is what we are called to do…each of us individually and all of us together as a community.

If you love me, Jesus says, feed my sheep.

I thought of Jesus’ gentle invitation: “Come and have breakfast” to those disciples who were confused and frightened and living without direction.

It was a gentle invitation to life…
to community,
to a relationship of Love.

We invite whoever wishes to gather here each weekday for prayer and breakfast. It is a time for conversation, for listening, for sharing joys and pains and struggles, for nourishing food, for community, for relationships of Love.

We are having conversations on Wednesday nights about racism.

We are not a post-racist society as some claim. Racism is alive and well in our schools and neighborhoods and prison system to name a few. We invite those who wish to come to share our stories, to hear the stories of the people of color in our community and nation, to name our repentance of our explicit and implicit complicity in racism, to move deeper into relationships of love.

Far more important to Jesus than Peter’s denials is God’s ever-present and ever-widening Grace.

Come and have breakfast.
Come and eat…
Feed my sheep as I feed you.

Amen.