Our Scriptures this morning are interesting and significant with much that could be unpacked, but it all comes down to one central concept, rooted in grace.
A Martin Luther quote was shared on Facebook, which read:
If grace depends on our cooperation then it is no longer grace.
It is true.
Grace, by definition, cannot be deserved, earned, or obtained by our merits/works.
Grace also cannot be kept, maintained, or even lost by our merits/works.
Grace is not grace if we have to “do” anything.
But, the question remains how do we respond to said grace?
That is the central concept and foundation of our Scriptures this morning.
Jesus, a rabbi (teacher), had been arrested, beaten, crucified, died, laid in a tomb, AND resurrected.
Although we do not know all of Jesus’ post-resurrection experiences, we do know Jesus visited the disciples but did not ever-linger at their side. This is a post-resurrection account.
Thus, the disciples have witnessed Jesus risen from the dead but do not know where Jesus is at the moment… so what do the disciples do?
Peter says, “I am gonna go fishin’. You wanna come with me?”.
Does this not seem odd? And yet, it speaks to a piece of our normal human nature.
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus has happened.
This is life changing.
This shatters EVERYTHING we know about our reality, our world.
Well, (looking at watch) that moment was nice.
It is time to return to our normal life.
It is time to return to the rout and to the grind.
It is time to return to the known and the comfortable.
It is time to return to the tested, tried, and true…
because honestly some times, we do not know what else to do.
The disciples, likewise, returned to their normal pre-Jesus lives.
Jesus breaks into their lives yet again, knocking on their door for a “Come to Jesus” moment.
Jesus basically says,
“Hmmm, hey. Did you forget about me? Did I tell you to go fishing? No!
I gave you a new mission and a new life, now I want you to respond to and embrace it.”
Jesus gives the disciples (us) a reminder of Jesus’ life, ministry, and mission.
While sitting on the beach, eating and talking with the disciples, Jesus looks at Peter.
Peter (the Rock) is the foundation upon which the church is suppose to be built AND notice the first to say ‘lets go fishin’ boys’.
Jesus asks Peter, “do you love me?”.
Peter responds, “what kind of question is that? Yes. I love you”.
Jesus, in not as many words, says:
Peter, I want you to respond to the grace I have given to you.
Peter, I want you to be forever transformed by my teachings, my example, and my life.
Peter, I want you to feed my sheep.
Jesus again, for a second and third time, asks Peter, “do you love me?”.
Peter frustratingly responds “YES! Why do you keep asking me this question?”.
Jesus asks Peter three times, which equals the number of times Peter denied Jesus.
Jesus gives Peter equal opportunity for repentance/forgiveness.
And thus, remember every second is a second chance so it is never too late.
Jesus tells Peter again, “then, do what I have told you. Tend to my sheep. Feed my sheep. I have called you into a new life, a new reality, and a new world”.
Can you imagine this conversation between you and your child?
This question about our response to grace continues in the Acts text of Saul’s conversion (later known as Paul).
Saul (Paul) is known as THE righteous and blameless man under the law (Torah). He thought that these ‘new’ people responding favorably to Jesus and his teachings were wrong, had errored, and therefore needed to be brought back into ‘right’ teaching, ‘right’ understanding, and into the family of God.
It is easy for us to judge to Saul, but he was responding to his understanding of God’s will. Then, Jesus breaks into his life. Jesus literally knocks Saul off his donkey, blinds him, and sends him to a follower of The Way (aka Jesus and early Christianity) to be healed in Jesus’ name.
Did we hear Ananias’ response to Jesus’ request to heal Saul?
Jesus are you CRAZY?
This man hates you.
This man wants to harm anyone following your teachings, way, life and ministry.
This man wants to hurt us.
Again, are you CRAZY?
Jesus responds to Ananias, saying:
I will use him.
I will use him in a new way, to bring my message to a new people (the Gentiles).
Oh, and by the way, do not worry because I will cause him to suffer.
Would you have responded as Ananias did?
“You want me to do what? Oh, well, if he will have to suffer than okay.”
How do we respond when God is doing ‘something’ new in our lives and in our world?
How do we respond when encountering one that does not look, think, talk, or act like us?
Again, how do we respond?
The truth is that we are given grace as a completely free gift, which we recognize and are reminded of in the waters of baptism and the elements (bread and wine) of Holy Communion. These are tangible signs of a grace that is truly grace, thus we cannot earn nor lose it…
But, grace is also intended to enact within us the ‘Second Kind of Righteousness’, which is a natural desire and passion to live into those baptismal promises that Josie’s family, sponsors, and all of us gathered will commit to for her and her sake in a moment.
We are called into the new thing that God is doing in our lives and in the world, even if we do not understand it or perhaps are fearful of it.
Thus, instead of returning to our fishing boats (life as normal) we are called to:
- to proclaim Christ is word and deed,
- to seek justice,
- to act with compassion and mercy,
- to love and serve ALL people
not out of obligation, not for the sake of self-promotion, not for a ‘pat on the back’, but as a natural and passionate response to the gift of grace that has been given to each of us.
May we ask God, through the Holy Spirit, to work in, among, through, around, and even despite us to ensure that that future comes into being. Amen.