“Do you love me?”

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Third Sunday of Easter; Year C, May 5, 2019

Acts 9.1-6 [7-20]; Psalm 30; Rev. 5.11-14; John 21.1-19

Pastor Renee Splichal Larson

 

Grace and peace to you from the One who has risen from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

What does it take for someone to change? What would it take for you to change? Your life? Your opinions? Your habits or behavior?

Perhaps we don’t think about this question much. We fall into routine or what’s familiar or comfortable. Many of us in this chapel this morning probably struggle with change of any kind, and yet, some of us may long for change, doesn’t matter how it comes.

We, as human beings, are quite complex. We may think we know ourselves, or how we may act in any given situation, only to be surprised by our thoughts or actions. Or, we may think we have changed, and then go right back to what’s familiar, whether it’s good for us or not.

I invite you to continuing thinking about what creates change in our lives as we take a look at characters in our Scripture readings this morning.

First in our reading from Acts, we have Saul, who by the time our reading ends, his life is altered so much, his name changes to Paul. How does a person go from “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” to proclaiming Jesus so that “all who heard him were amazed (Acts 9.20-21)?”

This is a very radical transformation in a short period of time. For Paul, the change in his life came when he encountered the voice of Jesus. Keep in mind, this event happened after Jesus was crucified, was raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven. Paul never sees Jesus face to face, he simply hears him speaking to him on the road.

“Saul, why do you persecute me?” Jesus asks him. Saul seems to have no idea who is talking to him or what the voice is talking about.

Who am I persecuting? Saul thinks he is doing good work, God’s work, by arresting Jews who are starting to follow Jesus, who “belong to the Way.” He believes they are wrong, and his practice of Judaism is right.

But then everything changes when Jesus calls him by name and asks him a question.

I would venture to say that not many of us have the pleasure (or curse depending on the way one looks at it) to hear the voice of Jesus directly. If we hear the voice of Jesus, it’s generally through the reading of Scripture or through other people.

For those of us, like Saul, who had yet to see Jesus face-to-face, Jesus voice, his Word, has the power to change us.

We come to this chapel each Sunday and hear his voice:

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you (John 15.9),” he says in John 15.

“Because I live, you also will live (John 14.19).”

“I am the Good Shepherd.”

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life (John 8.12).”

“Love your enemies and pray for them.”

“I will go and prepare a place for you, and will come again, and take you to myself (John 14).”

In Jesus’ voice we hear comfort, challenge, and assurance. His Word molds and shapes us into who we are meant to be.

“Feed my sheep,” Jesus says to us and to Peter in the last line of our Gospel reading this morning.

Now Peter is someone who saw Jesus face-to-face both before and after his death. The changes in Peter’s life came about much more gradually than Saul’s. Peter was always a work in progress. He said some really great things, and terrible things. He trusted and then he doubted. He promised Jesus he would never deny him and then he did.

As we hear in our Gospel reading, Jesus serving breakfast on the beach was the third time he appeared to his followers after his death and resurrection. [Seriously, wouldn’t once be enough?]

Earlier in chapter 20, Jesus enters into a room full of scared disciples and says: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Jesus breathes on them and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and commissions them for continuing Jesus’ work on earth.

And then what do they do? Peter says, “I’m going fishing,” and the rest follow.

I don’t think fishing is what Jesus had in mind for Peter and the disciples. They are not supposed to go back to the life they knew before meeting Jesus. They are supposed to fish for people, remember?!

So, Jesus finds them again and patiently stands on the shore, observing them catch nothing all night. He invites them to try the other side of the boat and they catch more fish than they can haul in.

They know who is on the beach waiting to serve them breakfast. I just love that the Son of God whips up the most important meal of the day for those he loves.

I wonder what was going on in Peter’s head. “Geez, will he never leave me be? I just want to fish. I don’t want to do hard things like feed people, forgive people, tell the Gospel … and die.”

But Peter’s life does not go as planned. Jesus keeps finding him, trying to get him to claim who he is and live into his identity as a child of God and follower of Christ. Jesus is relentless with Peter, no matter how many times Peter screws up or tries to go the other way.

Finally, at the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus asks Peter 3 times if he loves him. Each time Peter says, “Yes, Lord, I love you.”

“If you love me,” Jesus says to Peter, “You will feed people, forgive people, tell the Gospel, and in the end, you will lose your life.”

After all of the years of being with Jesus, losing him to death, and being surprised by his resurrection, Peter finally accepts who he is, and what his life needs to be about. Fishing is comfortable for Peter, loving people as Christ loves him is not. Yet, Jesus changes and compels him to live into a more meaningful, and abundant life.

This story of Jesus serving breakfast reminds me of another breakfast story, except it took place in this chapel on Easter Sunday a number of years ago. You know what Easter breakfast is like here … lots of good food, tables spread out everywhere … good conversation.

Well, a change took place in one of the students here at Easter breakfast. Let’s just say his attitude about being here at YCC and here in worship wasn’t always great. This particular student had a certain four-letter word tattooed on these four fingers. After he had come and had breakfast in the chapel, on the way back to his cottage he asked his staff if he could have four band aides. His staff asked him, “Why would you like them?”

“Because I don’t want these tattoos to show anymore.”

When he came back to the chapel for worship at 10am I noticed four band aides neatly wrapped around his fingers covering up the letters. He didn’t say a word about them, and he never told me what created the change in him, but I noticed he was different. From then on he was kinder, and more open to positive things and people. He seemed have a little more hope and was letting go of some of his anger.

Again, what created the change in him is between him and God, but it shows me that Jesus is always working on us, opening us up to change and new life no matter what has happened in our past. Sometimes the change is gradual over time, like Peter; and sometimes it hits us like a ton of bricks, like Saul.

So we return back to our question: What creates change in your life? Maybe an even more important question is: What in your life needs to change?

Maybe it’s deleting a Facebook page and creating a new one?

Or having a conversation with someone who has a different opinion?

Maybe you need to watch some Marie Condo and get rid of some stuff.

Or give away one more percent of your income.

Maybe it’s to find an AA or NA sponsor or simple a change of attitude.

Maybe it’s to pray for someone you are having trouble with right now or read your bible daily.

Say yes.

Say no.

We are to let Jesus make the necessary changes in our lives, in order for us to live into our purpose as children of God, and care for other people.

Jesus asks Peter and all of us here today: “Do you love me?”

It’s an honest question expecting an honest answer. And depending on what our answer is, it has the power to change and transform our lives.

Regardless of what each of our answers are to Jesus’ question, he will never stop seeking you out, and he will never stop loving you.