Archive for the ‘Easter 3C; Acts 9:1-22; Revelation 5:1-14; John 21:1-19’ Category

Post-Easter Conversion!

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Third Sunday after Easter, April 17, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Click here for audio of this message

Anger, depression, gossip, and murmuring, envy, jealousy… where do these things come from?  I mean, we are Christians; we are living a victorious life as God’s beloved; we’re His redeemed, so why do we struggle with these things?  Well friends, I believe these things come to us when we lose focus on the Easter truth, that Christ is risen indeed!  When we forget that our lives are to be a living memorial of worship to the Lamb who was slain, and rose, and now sits upon the thrown, we can get lost within this world and ourselves!  The truth is friends, once we realize the true meaning of the resurrection—Christ resurrection and our own resurrection, life can never ordinary for us!  Ask yourself this question: Do the ordinary things of life really fill my days with meaning or do I need something more? 

In our first reading this morning, Saul tried to live as if Christ never rose from the dead, but on the Damascus road Jesus confronted, converted, and commissioned him to be his ambassador. In our gospel lesson, Peter and the disciples tried to go back to their fishing— they tried to go back to a business as usual mindset and they caught nothing. But the extraordinary forced its way into their attempt at ordinary living.  Jesus stood on the beach and called out to them, “Children, have you any fish?” Jesus presence that day changed their disappointing fishing trip into an extraordinary experience. 

Today, within the church there are two different types of faith stories.  One is the story of Saul, a zealous man of pride, but he was also who was dramatically confronted with his sin and then converted and regenerated into the spiritual realm. Saul represents those who like him have encountered both the mighty Law of God and the life giving Words of the Gospel, and because of this, they can testify that they have been radically recreated and justified by God even though they were the chief of sinners.  Many of these faithful saints, like Saul can even tell you the exact day they were “born again”!  The other faith story is that of Peter; Peter represents those of us who have walked and talked with Jesus for what seems to be a life time.  We have come to know the stories of grace intimately, yet many times we have fallen into a worldly way of living (that’s a nice way of saying we sinned), and like Peter, we too have needed to be converted back into our baptismal grace, once again living the reality of being justified by Jesus Christ. 

Well first, let’s look at the story of Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–20).  In Saul, we see a very zealous man who actually thought he was doing God a service by hunting down Christians. If you would have stopped him and asked why he was doing this, he might have said something like “God requires it!  Jesus was a fraudulent Messiah, and now he’s a dead Messiah!  And God’s put it in my hands to hunt down those who are still following Him!” 

In spite of his great learning (Acts 26:24), Saul was spiritually dead (2 Cor. 3:12–18); He didn’t understand what the Old Testament really taught about the Messiah. Like many today, he stumbled over the Cross (1 Cor. 1:23) because he was depending on his own goodness and not on the righteousness of God (Rom. 9:30–10:13; Phil. 3:1–10). The truth is friends, self-righteous “religious” people don’t like to be told that they are wrong… they don’t see a need for a full time Savior!  

When Saul of Tarsus found himself laying face down on that dirt road, the Lord allowed him to make some wonderful discoveries! He discovered that Jesus of Nazareth was actually alive! Of course, the believers had been constantly affirming this (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 5:30–32), but Saul had refused to accept their testimony. If Jesus was alive, then Saul was in big trouble—because you see, he had been living as if it was all a lie; if Jesus was alive, then he now had to change his mind about Jesus and His message of repentance and forgiveness; now he too, needed to repent.  What a difficult thing for a self-righteous person to do!  And for Saul that meant that he must admit that he was a lost sinner in danger of facing the judgment of God. It was God’s Law, which struck Him like a bolt of lightening and said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting!” (Acts 9:5, nkjv). All this time, Saul thought he had been serving God, when in reality he had been serving his own religion and pride, and in turn he was also persecuting the Messiah! 

Now let’s look at the story of Peter.  In our lesson for today the disciples of Jesus had lost their focus. They were confused and weary. They needed a break. They had been through so much. They saw their Master crucified on a cruel cross. It easily was the lowest point in their lives. They had invested everything they had into following Jesus—including three years of their lives. When they saw him nailed between two thieves, it was as if everything they had worked for had been without meaning. No one could know their pain and disillusionment. 

Now since then, they had already seen their risen Lord on numerous occasions.  They knew He had risen, but they hadn’t come to terms with what that mean for them!  He kept popping up in locked rooms and on dusty roads.  They had to be wondering, “When will He show up again and what will he find me doing when He does?”  The disciples were still trying to sort through all of this when it seems Peter said, “Come on fellas.  Let’s not worry about all of this.  Let’s go fishing!” And they all agreed. A familiar night of fishing would help them clear their heads and get focused once again. It sounded like the perfect remedy for their stressed out souls. They grabbed their nets, untied their boat and launched out. Unfortunately, they fished all night without any luck. Do you know how those tired men felt?  Haven’t you experienced that as well?  Isn’t it true that many times the same old way of doing things no longer seems to bring joy or meaningful results!  That’s how it was with the apostles; as the sun began to shine, their nets were still empty and they were tired, but then they saw a stranger on the beach.   We might say that the apostles lost their resurrection focus, because they didn’t even recognize Jesus.  Maybe this little humorous story will help illustrate the apostle’s problem, which might also be our problem at times as well. 

A man showed up at church with his ears swollen and painfully blistered. After the service, his concerned pastor asked “What in the world happened to you?”  The man replied, “I was lying on the couch yesterday afternoon watching a ball game on TV and my wife was ironing nearby. I was totally engrossed in the game when she left the room and the hot iron near the phone. The phone rang and keeping my eyes glued to the television, I grabbed the hot iron instead of the phone and put it to my ear.”

“Ok” said the pastor with a smile, “but how did the other ear get burned?”  “Well” said the man, “I had no more than hung up and the guy called again.”

     Now there is a man whose focus was on the wrong thing. He was so caught up in watching the game; he didn’t know the difference between a telephone and a hot iron.  And so it was with the disciples.  They sere so caught up with their own cares and concerns that they thought the voice of their Savior was the voice of a stranger. 

“Any luck?” Jesus called out to them. “Nope!” they called back.  “Well, cast the net on the other side of the boat,” the stranger replied, “and you’ll find some big ones there.” So they did, and this time their net was loaded with fish. The disciple John turned to Simon Peter and said, “It’s the Lord.” 

Well duh!  Who else could it be? Who else has control over both land and sea?  Of course, it was the Lord. Like the hot iron on the man’s ear in our little story, Jesus was about to reenter their lives in a powerful way.  He was getting ready to readjust their focus.  It was time for Jesus to confront his disciples about what lay ahead of them. That’s why he was there interrupting their fishing trip. It was time for them to come to grips with what he expected them to do; not what they wanted to do!  It was time for them to wrap up their old lives—their old way of doing things and to move on. They wanted to go back to their nets; to that familiar way of life, but Jesus had bigger things in mind. Sometimes Christ comes to us and CONFRONTS us in order to pull us from one dimension of life into a more important one. 

 Christ comes to CONFRONT us when we would shrink back from our responsibilities at home, at work or at His church. He comes to CONFRONT us when we would rather murmur and complain, instead of becoming a part of His ministry and marching forward towards our destiny and our calling.  Christ comes to confront us when we prefer to live in the shadows rather than walking in the bright sunshine of service for Him. The disciples simply wanted to go back to their boat, but Jesus came to them. He CONFRONTED them. Their ministry, their service to Him was not over. 

The boat has been pulled up on shore. They’re sitting around a charcoal fire now. The disciples now recognize their risen Lord, but they just can’t figure out what His resurrection means for them. While they are lost in their thoughts the resurrected Christ takes some bread and breaks it and gives it to them. Then also the fish; how awesome this must have been, sitting at breakfast with God the Son as your host!  What do you say at a time like this?  Well, the disciple knew that there was nothing you could say, you simply confess your sinfulness and receive what ever the Lord offers.  So they sat there silently.  Then Jesus turns to Simon Peter and knowing his heart asks one of the most famous questions in the Scripture, “Simon Peter, do you love me?” I say he asked this knowing his heart, because he asked it three times.  How many times did Peter deny Jesus before His crucifixion?  That’s right three times!  Jesus, knowing Peter’s heart knew that Peter’s guilt over his betrayal was almost unbearable; that is why he asked the question three times.  Each time Jesus was acknowledging Peter’s confession of guilt for each separate sin.  The hammer of God’s Holy Law had done its proper work on Peter’s heart; he was already humbled, and now Christ would bring healing with the Gospel, “Feed my sheep.  Feed my lambs. Peter Feed my sheep.”  Our Lord was telling Peter as He tells us, you are forgiven.  You are still an important part of my body.  You are still an important part of my mission.  Take care of my church.  Carry forth the gospel.  Tell your story of faith in new ways.  Get involved and be a part of bringing God’s saving love to your community. 

This morning dear friends, we discover that Jesus’ focus was not on Saul and Peter’s inadequacies and sins, but on the vocation to which they were called; a vocation of simultaneous joy and suffering; a vocation of blessing and sacrifice.  It is joy, because Jesus’ resurrection means that we to will rise.  Death no longer has a hold over us.  So, ‘Rejoice believers!’  Your sorrow and fears are turned into joy. This morning, Easter joy calls all of heaven and earth to participate in our Lord’s resurrection.  But Easter joy is also an invitation to follow Jesus through the sorrow of passion, cross, and death.  In this call we will experience suffering, shame, disappointment, hurt, sickness and eventually death, but then that sorrow will once and for all give way to the eternal resurrection joy.  The lives of those who gather around word and sacrament within Christ’s church are full of the same sorrows and joys as Paul and Peter. We struggle, weep, and are grieved. We want to avoid these challenges just as they did, but the Resurrected Jesus invites us to follow Him into these things! He invites us to turn from our comfortable habits that give us a false sense of security and then turn towards Him so that we can then participate in His joy.  When this happens, then we can “sing together with all the company of heaven and earth, and join in the hymn of all creation; Blessings, and Honor, and Glory, and Might, be to God and the Lamb forever. Amen! – “Rejoice, rejoice believers!”

May God continue to lead us into a life that lives out this joyful resurrection reality, in Jesus name….AMEN!