By The Rev. Sherry Deets

3 Easter – April 14, 2013

John 21:1-19

Redemption. Today’s scripture readings have me thinking about redemption. And according to the definition of redemption is: 1) an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed. 2) deliverance, rescue. 3) deliverance from sin, salvation. 4) atonement for guilt.

Simon Peter had been one of Jesus’ most ardent disciples but, when the chips were down, he had stumbled. On the night that Jesus was arrested, Peter denied Jesus three times, and by a charcoal fire. He had good reason, of course. He had seen the power of Jesus’ enemies. He had seen Jesus taken away by the soldiers. Jesus had not even resisted. Everyone had expected that Jesus would drive out the hated Romans but, when push came to shove, Jesus had not even put up a fight. As one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter was at risk. What happened to Jesus could happen to Peter. And so Peter said, “Not me! I am not his disciple! Never heard of the man!”

But then the story took a turn that Peter could never have imagined. There had been a cross, of course, but there had also been an open tomb. Peter had seen the risen Christ! God had turned the defeat into victory! Jesus had won, but Peter felt lost! Peter could not forget his night of shame.

Chafing at their inactivity after the resurrection, the disciples went back to that which they knew best–fishing. It wasn’t recreational fishing. They weren’t fly casting. It wasn’t just something to get their minds off the events of the past few days–of Jesus’ death and all the strange things that happened afterwards. But fishing turned out to be just what these men needed . It was familiar–and comforting. It would go too far to say that they were enjoying themselves. They were not, after all, catching fish. Still, the hard work–the familiar feel of the nets in their hands–the water lapping against the side of the boat–all these served as a balm to these men so worn down by the events of the past few days.

Jesus came to them where they were–in their workday routine. He did not wait for a convenient time to reach out to them, but came to them where they were. He still does that, you know. He comes to us where we are. He comes to us at the strangest times–at work–at school–at home–in the solitude of our dark nights. Note that it was a hard time in the lives of these fishermen. Jesus often comes to us in the hard times of our lives. He comes to save us, and sometimes we don’t even know that we need saving. When times are hard, though, we know. When times are really hard, we know that we are in desperate need of help.

Jesus came to these fishermen to dispel any doubt that they might have had about the resurrection. He was not a ghost or a vision. He talked to them. He said the word that led to a great catch of fish. He sat with them. He prepared their breakfast. He ate with them.

But, most important, Jesus gave Peter a chance to redeem himself. During his night of shame, Peter had denied Jesus three times. Each time, someone had asked if he were one of the disciples, and three times Peter had said, “I am not.” Now, Jesus came asking three times if Peter loved him by a charcoal fire. He looked at Peter and said, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” It must have been excruciating for Peter to be put in the spotlight like that. Everyone knew his shame. Peter knew it too, and he was probably waiting for a rebuke. Jesus didn’t rebuke Peter, though. He didn’t need to. Peter knew that he had failed Jesus. He didn’t need to be told. Jesus asked only if Peter loved him. Peter replied, “Yes, Lord; you know that I (love) you” .

Jesus repeated the question three times, and Peter answered three times. Each answer must have been just a little harder for Peter than the last. But there was also a healing taking place with each answer. “Yes, Lord; you know that I (love) you.” With each affirmation of his love, a bit of Peter’s guilt melted away and a bit more of their relationship was restored.

Christ works that way. He doesn’t come to embarrass us, but he doesn’t let us off the hook either. He doesn’t minimize our sins, and he doesn’t encourage us to do so. He doesn’t say, “It makes no difference.” He doesn’t say, “Forget it.” He asks, “Do you love me more than these?”

* He asks, “Do you love me enough to really commit yourself to true discipleship?”

* He asks, “Do you love me enough to set aside your girlfriend and to be faithful to your wife?”

* He asks, “Do you love me enough to set a new standard of honesty and integrity at work?”

* He asks, “Do you love me enough to tell your neighbors about me?”

Having said that I want to share that advice that says it is “Better to get up and dance badly than to sit and watch the dancing”. I know, I know, doing anything badly freaks some of us out. We like to pretend we are absolutely excellent at everything we do. Or maybe it’s just me. As if life is being graded by God…or at least other people.

We are invaded with that message, that life has standards to which we must rise. We inflict it on ourselves and others. Think how many magazine articles are aimed at being your best self (whatever that may mean), decorating the perfect home, rearing highly accomplished children, or dressing exquisitely. Even the church isn’t exempt. Competitive Christianity is alive and well when we hold up our high average Sunday attendance, the balance of our endowments, or the number of small countries we single-handedly saved from the zombie apocalypse as validations that we are doing Church the “right” way.

Of course, the season of Lent reminds us that we fail…more that we care to admit. We fail at showing love, forgiveness, compassion, and mercy to ourselves and others. Good Friday is the epic fail of humanity.

And God shows up on Easter to say, “Yep, you failed, and I love you.” God is not concerned with perfection. God is concerned that we keep trying to love, to forgive, to show mercy. God is concerned with the genuine effort and attempt. God is concerned with our trying our best in our dancing, our joy, our tears, and our love, and keeping at it, even when we fail.

Resurrection means failure is not the last word, that we have permission to attempt and fail and succeed. Far too many of us worry about doing something fabulous in ministry, but get stuck counting the cost when we form a task force. We dream about a Church that bursts forth from the tomb of stasis, but worry that we’ll look foolish if we spoke our dream out loud. We may even hear music God plays for our souls, but are afraid we aren’t good enough, so we sit rather than risk looking like a bad dancer.

Resurrection gives us freedom to try…to love, to dance, to sing, to minister, and to dream. Resurrection reminds us that failure happens, and so does life. Resurrection calls us to dance to the music God allows us to hear. Resurrection announces to us that perfection is not the standard, but love. Yes. That. (Laurie Brock from the blog Fifty Days of Fabulous)

Christ comes to us, saying, “Do you love me?” “Do you love me more than these?” “Do you really love me?” Each time that we tell him that we love him, he says, “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.”

Copyright 2008-2012 Episcopal Church of the Trinity.

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