Sermon Archives

Sunday, April 10, 2016
The Third Sunday of Easter, Year C
The Reverend Vicki Hesse, Associate
Jump In

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.

“Up and at ‘em and jump into the pool!”

This was our family wake-up call during my childhood’s long, hot, California summers.  And so we did.  Get up and jump into the pool.  And sometimes we would don our bathing suits, even.  Or just jump in with our pajamas on.  Hearing today about Peter’s jump into the sea, with his clothes on, like the buffoon he played, got me thinking about how Peter just, “got up and at ‘em and jumped in.”

The presence of Jesus on the beach served as Peter’s wake-up call during his long and difficult sleep of grief – the grief that “going fishing” was supposed to relieve.  Jesus woke him from the grief Peter thought would go away by the familiar spray of the sea mist, the sway of the boat beneath his feet, and the weight and texture of the fishing nets.

Of course, Peter wanted the familiar – just like we all do when a family drama turns our life sideways. We yearn for the familiar, we long for our sense of “normalcy.” That is why Peter went fishing in the first place.

And, the beloved disciple’s exclamation, “It is the Lord!” woke Peter out of his sleepy post-traumatic shock from the week’s previous events: Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, death, empty tomb and re-appearances. Seeing Jesus on the beach also brought back Peter’s guilt.  He had said he would follow Jesus all the way to the end, even to death. Yet, when tested, Peter succumbed to his own vulnerability, his own fear and so denied Jesus – not once, but three times, just as Jesus had predicted. 

That morning, hearing Jesus’ voice, “…cast the net to the right side of the boat!” triggered Peter’s heartache and angst. And in that microsecond, Peter wondered if he would ever be able to make it right with Jesus, to forgive himself.  Then, seeing the abundance of fish in the nets was the last straw. 

Peter got up and at ‘em; and as he jumped into the sea, the rush of water gushing past his ears rang out a memorial torrent of struggle, of vulnerability, and of Love:

the wedding party at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine
the way Jesus up-ended the tables in the temple
the meeting Jesus had with the Samaritan woman,
the hungry crowd Jesus fed with just the 2 fish and 2 loaves.

Once Peter and the disciples had hauled in their catch Jesus told them to bring some of the fish they had just caught, to add to what he offered. In this simple, yet, profound request, Jesus not only provided for the disciples, but he also invited them to contribute. To contribute what they had and, by extension, who they were.

In sharing a meal of food that each provided, Jesus drew them all back into mutual relationship.  In this way, Jesus informed the disciples: he needed them to partner with him as co-creators of God’s realm here on Earth.  And Jesus asks us to bring what we have – and who we are: our gifts and our gaps, our strengths and struggles, our love and our longings – to be part of the Jesus movement. 

In the meal we share, Jesus draws us into mutual relationship, to make, together, a world as God dreams it can be. After sharing that meal, Jesus and Peter sat together.  The charcoal fire must have reminded Peter of that other charcoal fire – where Peter stood, warming himself, on that awful night of Jesus’ arrest and torture, when Peter denied knowing Jesus. 

Now Peter faced his Beloved teacher and Lord.  Courageously, in his vulnerability, he met Jesus one-on-one and looked into the eyes of the one he deeply loved – and denied.  Jesus spoke first, “Simon Peter, son of John, do you love me?”  Peter responded, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep.”  Three times, he asked Peter to confess.  Three times, he did, though by the third time he was disheartened, even hurt.  Three times, he invited Peter to express his love, symbolically wiping away the three times Peter had denied him. 

Jesus got up and at ‘em and forgave Peter – and more. God was at workthrough the Risen Christ restoring Peter back into the discipleship community and giving him meaningful work to do. The good news here is that forgiveness leads to mission, restoration to purpose, and inclusion to calling. 

A few years ago, I read a book called The Five Love Languages.[1]  The premise of the book is expressing love in a way that the other understands.  The five love languages are:

First, “words of affirmation.”  In this language, spoken praise and appreciation is like rain on parched soil.  “I forgive you”, “thank you” or “you are important” shows love and belonging for those who speak “verbal.” 

Second, “acts of service.” In this language, actions speak louder than words: preparing a casserole for someone in crisis, making meals at Crossroads, baby-sitting for the neighbor, or planting trees & shrubs to beautify the Moross Greenway, serving means love and belonging for those who speak “show me.”

Third, “receiving gifts.”  In this language, love is symbolized. A cheerful Easter bouquet delivered to a friend who cannot get to church or a simple note card with a ribbon inside means the world for those who speak “gifted” love.

Fourth, “quality time.” In this language, undivided attention, such as sharing a cup of tea, sitting with someone in hospital, or even taking a walk around the block means so much for those who speak “be with me.”

Fifth, “physical touch.”  In this language, physical connection, such as a hand on a grieving friend’s shoulder or a simple handshake communicates love for those who speak “touch.”

Tell, serve, give, be, touch. Verbs of love.

Jesus asks us all, “do you love me?” and invites us to “tend my sheep,” to show our love, perhaps through words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time or physical touch.  And in so doing, we are restored. We have purpose.

God, through the Risen Christ, met and loved Peter right where he was. And that love inspired Peter to live his way into a new way of thinking, rather than think his way into a new way of living.[2] 

Today, Jesus gets up and at ‘em and forgives us– and more – he loves us, restores us and gives us purpose.  We the impetuous, clueless, head-strong ones who God entrusts to “feed my sheep,” to show God’s Love.

Jesus gets up and at ‘em and jumps into our pool – the pool of our life, individually and communally – our family, our work, our play, our callings, our worries, our quirks.  Today, Jesus’ love inspires us to get up & at ‘em and jump into the pool – the pool of God’s realm, the pool of the Jesus movement. 

May we all, today, jump in – whether in fishing clothes or pajamas – for the Love of God. 

Amen


[1] Gary Chapman, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, (Northfield Publishing, Chicago, 1992)

[2] Richard Rohr, “We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking,” as quoted in several of his books, including Falling Upwards and Everything Belongs.