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Breakfast with Jesus (Sermon April 14, 2013)

Scripture: John 21:1-19

The past few weeks I have asked what would happen if we really believed that Jesus rose from the dead, and how our lives would change if we lived as if that were the case. I know that it is an odd question because most, if not all of us believe this with our whole hearts. But do we live as if we believe that that power is available to us, even today 2000 years after the fact. Do we think of it as an ancient history that has no bearing on our current life or is the reality something that we can interact with even today?

This is a question that the apostles even 2000 years ago had to ask themselves. Their rabbi, their friend had been executed on a cross around two weeks before, they had been locking themselves in a room together waiting. Waiting. The greatest most amazing and unexplainable things have happened but they cannot leave this room out of fear. They had just spent the last 3 years of their life learning from and ministering with Jesus. Now the game had changed. Jesus is not physically at hand, he comes and goes like a mysterious wind, and they are at a loss for what to do. They are without direction and without a cause they lock themselves in a room and they sit in the cloud of uncertainty.

Then Peter gets tired of waiting and tired of sitting. He is a man of action and this waiting around is not for him. So he the leader of the apostles in many ways makes a bold statement, “I am going fishing.”

For those that like to fish this may seem like a very honorable thing to do and you would be at his heels, mainly because he has a boat. We might say that this statement of going fishing is a great way to relax and center down on God. But I want us to take a different look.  Peter, James, John and Andrew were all fishermen by trade prior to becoming the apostles of Jesus. This is not a simple statement of let’s go out and enjoy the day fishing, but one of defeat.

“I am going fishing.” Peter proclaims. I am finished and I am going to go back to the life I once knew. For three years Peter and the others had seen the blind receive sight, the lame gain use of their limbs, they had even seen the lepers cleansed of their disease, they had seen great compassion on the vilest of sinners worthy of death, and had seen charity beyond their wildest imagination when a group of over 5000 was fed miraculously. Yet after all of that, when the situation changed they fall back to what they knew once before. “I am going fishing.” After seeing the empty tomb, after encountering the risen Christ not once but twice, after seeing and feeling the wounds on the hands and in the side of their teacher and friend. The friend who was rejected, tortured, and executed by the religious establishment and the government, yet had stood in the room with them not as a ghost but as flesh and bone. And he say, “I am going fishing.”

They not only have seen marvelous feats of God’s mighty hand but they had seen that hand raise the dead of a small girl, a grown man, and their beaten teacher. They shared meals with him, sat and conversed with him. They are confused and in their confusion they look back and say, “I am going fishing.” As far as they are concerned everything they hoped for in Jesus was buried, buried in an empty tomb. At that moment there was no future through this cloud and the only path left to take is the path back through the mists, back to a time and place where all that was needed and required was to toss a net and pull in the catch. “I am going fishing.”

They left the room, they shut the door on their hopes and they settled. They were standing at the gates of kingdom but instead of walking forward through the mist they settle for a life they once left because to walk forward takes a faith in something that is unsure. They fish all night; they toil in the darkness only to come up empty.

Then a voice cries out from the shore. “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They are transported back to the beginning, back to where they started; back again to the first day they met the man that would change their lives. “Throw the net off the right side.” The man says to them and there is a familiar tug, a resistance that only a fisherman knows and they realize that even in their unfaithfulness God is gracious.

Peter dives into the water swimming to the shore while the others drag in a catch. There on the shore the friend they all rejected, the friend they each turned their backs on was stoking the fire, cooking fish, and asking them to eat. They turned their backs on their Lord, they returned a past life, yet there was their Lord cooking fish for them and extending a hand of grace.

So often times we face the clouds and turn. Something comes into our lives that challenges our faith, challenges our understanding, or our traditions and we turn. Instead of moving forward along the path we have been lead to, we turn and walk the other way. We turn from the grace of God and we lean on our own strength. We look ahead into the mist and we say “lets go fish,” which is in actuality saying let us go our own way and use my own understanding. Why do we turn? Why do we throw up our hands, why do we lock our faith up in a room and bury it in an empty tomb?

It goes down to that base question, what would happen if we really believed? What would happen in our life if we actually believed and lived an expression of that belief in everything that we do?

Jesus sat down and ate with his friends. He ate without judgment; he ate the meal pouring out grace to a group of people that did not deserve any love. These men ran from his side when the cultural leaders came to threaten. These men locked themselves in a room and then turned back to their old lifestyles, yet Jesus cooked for them and loved them. These men believed with their heads but that belief did nothing for them in the world because that belief was just an empty tomb.

Jesus then pulls Peter aside. “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Do you love me Peter? Do you love me more than these others, more than these fish? “Yes Lord; you know that I love you.” Peter answers. Then Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

“Simon son of John, do you love me?” Jesus asks again. Peter, do you love me more than these, more than a stable career and a steady income? Do you love me, Peter? “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Peter again answers and Jesus tells him to tend his sheep.

“Simon son of John, DO YOU LOVE ME?”            Jesus asks for the third time. Simon, do you love me more than honor, more than power, more than status or prestige in the community? Simon do you love me more than clothes, more than education, more than politics or religion? Simon Do you love me? And Peter is hurt now, “You know everything; you know that I love you. “Feed my sheep.”

Do you love me? I can hardly speak these words because this is the question that Jesus asks every one of us. It is the question that I myself was asked about 14 years ago while I sat in a park eating lunch waiting for my next class to start. Do you love me more than… Do you love me more than wheat, cattle, or corn? Do you love me more than computers, music, or games? Do you love me more than your father and mother, your sister or you brother…do you love me more than your son? This is what Jesus is asking every single person in this room that says they believe. Do you love Him?

He gives a very specific answer to those of us that want to answer his question. Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep. If you love him there is something that you must do. It is not a suggestion. If we love him it will show in a very specific way.

We show our love by feeding the lambs. By making sure that the children in our community, the children around us at any moment of time are brought up in a way that fosters healthy growth. This takes on many forms because there are many ways a child grows. They need the basic nutrition to survive. They need an education. They need encouragement, inspiration, and discipline. They need to play and imagine, they need to read and listen. They need to be challenged and they need to have fun. Without these things the child will not grow into a healthy adult. A child needs a balanced and stable life. And if we love Jesus we will feed his lambs. That does not mean we vote a certain way, but we personally feed his lambs, we take an active role in their lives.

We show our love for Jesus by tending his sheep. This is more than just gathering them in and making a large assembly. To tend sheep on must push back the wool and bring healing salves to wounds, sometimes you must nudge them to turn around and go a different way. It is taking a stand to protect the weak, as well as encouraging them to expand the herd. Tending the sheep is giving counsel, sitting in the hospital room, it is giving a mother a break so she can rest, it is providing a shoulder to cry on, and ensuring that they have a place to lay their head. We feed the lambs or the children, we tend the sheep or the adults but it does not stop there.

We show our love by feeding the sheep also. We also have to feed the adults. If wounds are going to heal then we need nourishment. If a sheep needs to turn then we better have something in that other direction for them to go to. If we love God we will feed those around us, both physically and spiritually. Adults as well as children need to be challenged, encouraged, filled, and supported. If we love Jesus we will actively take part in the feeding those around us.

These things are the fruit of a people that believe in the risen Christ, these are the fruit of people that live a life empowered by a risen Christ. Those that live this way have seen God do amazing things, because if we do these things we are asking God to work through us. Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. If he loved him more than that past life that after a time of uncertainty he decided to go back to. He answered him by saying if you love me then you will continue the ministry that I started.

There are two types of belief. One is locked in a room, buried in an empty tomb, and turning back to former ways. The other is one walking in the way of Jesus, feeding lambs, and tending to the flocks. One belief is left bound in a room and sitting in a mist of uncertainty. The other is boldly walking through the mist and expecting God to do amazing things all around. One is an empty net while the other is abundantly filled.

Do you believe? If you believe will it change your life? If it changes your life will you walk in the ways of Christ or turn back to the boat?

Just Breath (Sermon April 7, 2013)

Scripture: John 20: 19-31

Adam loves to know things. He is an armchair scholar. If you were to visit his house and look at the books you would probably find something that covers just about every topic you could imagine. Adam is a very intelligent man. He doesn’t seem to fit into that world because he is religious. On the same hand people in the religious realm look at him with skepticism because he embraces areas of study that some feel threaten their faith.

Adam is caught in that place where many people find themselves. They do not seem to fit. The communities they hope and wish to find comfort reject them, they are asked to compromise with little regard for their thoughts feelings or personalities. Adam like many in his position is tired of the fight, and is close to or has already left the assembly of believers.

We live in an era that is different then the others we have experienced. I have mentioned this several times. We are nearing the end of the age, but I think it is not the end that many of us think. We are nearing the beginning of a new age. An age that is different than the past ages. This frightens some because change is near. The problem with change is we do not have any clear view into the future. This new age is the age that Adam and many like him have already entered, but those around them cannot or will not encourage their growth. They cannot encourage them because they are in a cloud, a cloud of uncertainty.

The church is in this cloud of uncertainty. We unsure and because of that we hold tight to the things we once knew. I am sure that each of us have experience some aspect of this. We may feel threatened by the changing of our culture or we may be enthusiastic about the opportunities presenting themselves but frustrated by feelings of rejection. These clouds of uncertainty cycle through history, it has cycled since the dawn of time.

As we interact with the scripture today we look through a window into history where the world is in one of those clouds of uncertainty. We meet the disciples locked in a room for fear of the Jews. First off I want to mention that John is not being anti-Semitic when he says this, and we are not being anti-Semitic when we read this. The Jewish community is our spiritual heritage. When John says that they are locked in a room for fear of the Jews he is not saying that we should hate the Jewish culture, but that there was a clash between the established religious community and the emerging culture springing forth from that community. Religious establishments hold certain power over people, when that power is threatened those in control of the establishment begin to push back. This push is what causes fear, or uncertainty.

Jesus caused a balance shift in the religious community. He threatened the religious establishment and they pushed back. They pushed so hard that they wanted to totally discredit and eliminate the threat to the establishment.

We often look at the established religious organization of Jesus’ day with disdain but they were a very well organized, efficient religious community. They had programs that really promoted their faith. Not only in Jerusalem but they sent teachers throughout the world. Every major population center of the known world had a Jewish community within it. The largest, outside of Israel, was in Egypt, but there were communities throughout Europe and even deep in the ancient Persian Empire as far east as India. They were not just minding their own business in these communities, but they were ministering to the world. They were being what God commanded them to be, they were being a light to the Gentiles and were bringing people into the Jewish community. When we read the Gospels we can see this. We have Greeks coming to meet Jesus; we have Ethiopians making the pilgrimage to celebrate the Jewish festivals. There are an entire group of people known as the God-fearers who are gentiles who have not been formally initiated into the community as members but who engage in the worship and ministry of the establishment. The first century Jewish community was at the highest point they were the most efficient religion in the world, the only religion that came close to its power and influence over people was the cult of the emperor.

They had this massive religious enterprise that was teaching, training and expanding throughout the world, and suddenly a teacher comes that threatens it. He claims that this establishment that has done so much good was whitewashed tombs of dry bones. A cloud was dropping all around the community. Those that embraced Jesus were hopeful in this emerging community but suddenly the establishment pushed back and threatened them to submit. The disciples of Jesus locked themselves in a room because they agreed with Jesus and Jesus was killed.

But then Mary one of their own, a woman, the established religion did not allow women to rise in prominence but Jesus held them as equal to men, well Mary says that Jesus has risen. John and Peter agree with her and testify that the tomb was empty. But still they are all fearful. If they go out into the community and proclaim this what would happen? They are uncertain of the future. Then suddenly Jesus appears to them and says, “Peace be with you.”

It is a strange statement, but it speaks deep into their heart. They were not at peace their hearts were filled with the exact opposite of peace. Fear dominated their life. Peace cannot exist where fear dominates. Love cannot live in a fear-dominated world. Hope does not grow in an environment of fear. This was not enough for them. Jesus showed them his hands and his sided and then repeated, “Peace be with you.”

He then does a strange thing. He breathes on them. Have you ever really thought about this action? He breathes on them. This action takes them back, it opens a window into the most ancient of history, to the giving of life to the clay formed Adam. Breath is life. When you live in a cloud of uncertainty there is tightness to our breathing. There is tension, to the point we hold our breath. We cling to the air in our lungs like we are grasping at the very life giving power in that air only to be forced to release it and rapidly gather more air quickly. Peace be with you. Jesus is saying relax. Let out the air and breath.

Breathing only gives life if it is regular and consistent. That breath is a symbol of the life given by God in the form of the Holy Spirit. Relax, breath, and be at peace. The air will come the Spirit will be there if we are willing to receive it. Jesus is directing their prayers, he is encouraging them to see through the cloud and let go. To embrace the emerging culture growing out of the established community and they rejoice.

But Thomas was not with them. They unlock the door and they hurry to find their friend. Thomas says to them “unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the marks of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Because of this Thomas inherits the name Doubting Thomas. I believe that Thomas has a reputation that he does not deserve. He expresses nothing more or less than each of the other disciples, but he is singled out. Thomas is different then the others. He is the type of person that observes the situation and once he grasps an understanding, he fully embraces it. Thomas knew that Jesus was walking into certain death when He wanted to head to Jerusalem but he spoke out above all the others saying “let us go and die with him.” He was fully devoted to Jesus and His mission and willing to die for that mission with his lord.

Thomas the skeptic, says let me see for myself, and Jesus honors his request. Have you ever wondered why Thomas received such a special privilege? Jesus told Mary not to touch him, the others were not given permission either, but Thomas was asked to touch the wounds of Jesus and to reach out and put his hand into Jesus’ side. Why was this?

Thomas whom we all mock as the skeptic was very important. Thomas is a voice of reason, if he is convinced the rest will be also. It is Thomas that proclaims, “My Lord and My God.” It is Thomas that made the jump that Jesus was not just a great teacher but also the very incarnate, Emmanuel, and God with us. None of the others made that leap, but it was after this statement that the emerging church was lifted out of fear and into the place where they could embrace the mission that Jesus was giving them.

That mission is something that so often we forget. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Jesus is giving us the power of God. He is giving us the control of the Spirit. We can forgive and release people from bondage or we can hold their sin over them and keep them from experiencing God. Yes that is right Jesus is giving them the keys of the kingdom.

This is where the cloud of uncertainty seems thick. These keys were in the hands of the temple leaders, but Jesus is passing them to the disciples. They now hold the power to forgive or retain sin. Thomas tells them why they hold that power is because Jesus is not just a teacher but God. This turns everything upside down; they know what great power they hold.

We close with a statement of purpose of why the Gospel of John was written. “…These are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” Jesus gave them the power of God so that they could bring life, peace, and forgiveness. It is through Jesus that this can be obtained. The established religion was not good enough because it focused on the retention of sin, to control the population, Jesus came to free people from the bondage of sin to release people from fear, and judgment. He came to remind us to breath.

As we enter this time of open worship, as we experience communion with God in the manner of Friends. I ask again like I did last week, “what will it take for you to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, and what will that belief cause you to do.”  I ask you to take it a step further this week. We are entering into a new age, and age where skepticism is the norm; we are living in an age of uncertainty. As we center down into this time of silence, consider you breathing and what it is telling you. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you…Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Breath in the spirit and release with each breath the pain, and judgment, exhale the tension and the rejection, inhale the love and peace of God and let us all know the peaceful life with Christ.


Meeting Times

Meal at 6pm
Bible Study at 7pm
Bible Study at 10am
Meeting for Worship 11am
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