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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Easter 3C John 21 What Jesus does with failure

That night of arrest started out well for Peter. He cut off the guard's ear in defense of Jesus and then followed at a distance even after the others went away. But when he got to the courtyard where the soldiers were abusing his friend, he lost his nerve. When questioned about his association with this alleged criminal, in the heat of the moment, he chose the answers that would save his skin. According to the Gospel of John, this story is the 3rd appearance Jesus had to his disciples. Peter has seen Jesus. Yet obviously Jesus thinks Peter needs some reassurance that he is forgiven. So Jesus comes to meet Peter where he had first met him. On the shore of the lake.

Seven of the disciples have traveled the 2 day journey back home…back to Galilee, back to familiar faces and familiar smells of the sea. Peter says, "Let's go fishing." I don't know if any of you have ever been criticized for going fishing, but poor Peter and six have been torn apart for that fishing trip for 2000 years. Poor guys. Probably they just wanted the familiar…after the worst week of their life, why should they not do something to keep busy? But many, many people have said this is a sign those 7 gave up after Jesus died. He told them to fish for people but instead they go back to the fish. But really, I think it is ok, Peter, it's ok that you wanted to go fishing. Don't grief counselors advise that we return to our comforting routines after loss? It's ok. Go fishing. Even if they were trying to run from their assignment to do Jesus' work, guess what? Jesus found them where they were.

When we return to the familiar after living so long at the forefront of life…Jesus will find us there.

When are you going to stop looking at your failures and look at me instead? When are you going to feed my sheep?

When are you going to stop looking around at what the others are doing and do what I ask you, Peter?

So what did Peter do?
1. Preached message at Pentecost
2. Went to jail for healing a crippled man and was flogged
3. Arrested again and rescued by an angel
4. Baptized the first non-Jewish believers.
5. Led the council at Jerusalem where it was decided that we didn't need to be Jewish to be Christian.
6. Wrote 2 New Testament books
7. Is credited with being the "rock" of the church.

Jesus sits across the table from you. You have failed. Whether it was simply a test or a serious sin or betrayal, his response will always e the same as that of the one he gave Peter. Feed my sheep. Get back to work. It's not over. You are not going back to what you did before. I have called you. I have given you a purpose greater than you ever dreamed possible. You are valued, skilled, and you are just what I need for this task. You will put aside your insecurities and go forward, doing my work and you will be remembered as one who did not let their failure stop them.

When I was a senior, I encountered my most difficult class to date. Church History Raise your hand if you have taken that class. I studied until my eyes were about to drop out of my head for the crazy tests and would make a barely passing D. After making A's and B's in all of my classes until I reached this one, my self esteem began to suffer and I began to question whether I was cut out for this thing we call college. Yet one day one of my other professors said, "We don't hold it personally against you when you make low grades." I had realized I was ashamed of my low grades…and I was trying…but I kept going and even though I never brought that grade up as high as I wanted it, I kept going.

Jesus wants us to give people the same chances he gives to them. We don't want to do this, usually, until we experience failure ourselves and want forgiveness.

I used to judge people who claimed depression and their reason for not working. A friend of mine lost his job and became seriously depressed to the point he would spend days doing nothing. In my counseling with him, I encouraged him to keep trying and to feel better….but in my heart of hearts I judge saying, why don't you get off your backside and go find another job?

Until one day depression struck me. I found myself on the floor in a fetal position unable to work. I had managed to get 2 college degrees by the age of 23, become ordained at 24, married, had 2 children, and was pastoring a church. I was superwoman. Yet I could not work. I felt I had failed. I hated myself and what I had become. I tried a long time to simply hide it. I only broke down when alone. And I remembered judging someone else for the same thing and I did not want to be judged. I sat in front of my therapist and told her the same. She said you are in school to learn how to respond to people who feel the same way you do.

And as I walked along the shore of Galilee with Jesus after eating that fish and bread in the cool morning fog, I heard him say, do you love me?
"Feed my sheep."
But I have failed you, Jesus.
I am not worthy of feeding your sheep or anyone else's.

Do you love me?Yes, of course.
Feed my sheep.

I have failed.
Do you love Jesus?Only you know the answer to the question.
If your heart is crying out right now YES
Then he is asking you to move forward. Keep going. Finish the semester. Finish the year. Finish the course. Keep the faith. Leave behind the failure. Think of it only as a bump in the road that drew you closer to him. Get to work.

On April 21, 2004, Jennifer Hudson stood before the judges and world on American Idol. She saw the score and realized she was voted off the show, finishing seventh out of twelve. I don't know how she felt but I can only imagine how her heart sank all the way to her shoes and she may have wondered if she would ever face success.

But most of you know but to Jennifer Hudson that was a small bump in the road. In December 2005 she landed the role of Effie White the smash hit movie Dreamgirls and recorded the famous song "And I'm telling you I'm not going, which hit the top 20." She received 29 awards for that role including an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.

I can hear Peter singing to the disciples after that conversation with Jesus.
"And I'm telling you I'm not going."
But Peter let's go fishing
"And I'm telling you I’m not going"
But Peter let's forget about this discipleship stuff. It may get us killed.
"And I'm telling you I'm not going."
I'm staying in this faith. I'm staying as a disciple
. I'm staying in relationship with this Jesus I betrayed.

He could only say this to that group that knew what he had done in the courtyard when faced with the question did he know Jesus?
Only because of what Jesus had said to him that day at dawn by the Sea of Galilee and what he says to us.

Tear down the mountains,Yell, scream and shout.You can say what you want,I'm not
walkin' out.Stop all the rivers,Push, strike, and kill.I'm not gonna leave
you,There's no way I will.

(From And I'm telling you I'm not going Written by Tom Eyen and Music by Henry Krieger)

And I'm telling you
Jesus will never give up on you.


Roberta said...

You have not been blogging! Now that I am back following the lectionary, I thought you might have some inspiration. Hope you are doing good. Come to the water?

Kelly said...

sorry! I will try to get some sermons on...
yes, come to the water? you?