SER # 13W
FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
SUNDAY MARCH 29TH 2020
5TH SUNDAY IN LENT
TEXTS: JOHN 21: 12, 15 – 17
THEME: FROM COWARDICE TO COURAGE.
This Lent season we are focusing on a study by Adam Hamilton called “Simon Peter: Flawed but Faithful Disciple.”
God is good, all time, God is good. Today is the fifth Sunday in Lent.
Our scripture for today is John 21: 12, 15-17 “Jesus said to them come and have breakfast. None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord……..When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon son of John, do you love me more that these? Yes Lord, he said, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said ‘feed my lambs. Again, Jesus said, Simon son of John, do you love me? He answered, Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Jesus said, Take care of my sheep. The third time he said to him, Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, Do you love me? He said, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, Feed my sheep.
We keep thanking God for the opportunity that he has given us to be a blessing to our family, friends and community. I realize that some of us are finding it difficult to maintain social distances and we are truly missing our old ways of socializing. Sometimes in life we learn new things because of the situation we find ourselves in. Think for a moment in this life if you are born right-handed you never know how useful your left-hand is until when your right hand is injured and you are forced to use your left-hand. You quickly discover that your left hand has been underused all this time. You develop new ways of making use of it. Sometimes when things happen in life they take us to a different level that we were not expected. This coronavirus has made us think outside the box. It has made us value relationships and gathering more than we used to. It has challenged us to invent new ways of doing things. The church has to learn how to minister to people scattered. We used to minister to people gathered. We used to pass the offering plate. We are implementing on line giving and facebook like to reach the people. Let us remember that in all this God has remained constant in terms of his presence and love for us. I would like to encourage you to ask God to give you a new purpose and new ways of not only serving and loving your family but also your community. The church is learning the importance of online giving. People like me who belong to the generation writing checks, I have to figure out how I support my church. This too shall pass.
In the scripture that we read about Simon Peter we met him at the Lake with other (7) disciples having been there the whole night fishing. We have to remind ourselves though Peter was so determined in his ways to be there for Jesus things did not work out that way.
- Simon Peter Denies Jesus three times: (John 18: 15 – 27). Simon Peter was determined to follow Jesus no matter what happened. In the process he finds himself at a place where a maid was able to pick him out as one of the disciples. You would have thought having come this far Peter would have been the one to say ‘yes’ that my teacher. But he did not. For three times when someone tried to associate him with Jesus he denied. It is very easy for us today to think that Peter should have done otherwise, but he was fearing for his life. I know today we have Christians who have willfully been persecuted because they didn’t want to recant their faith. To these we know their blood becomes the seed of the new birth in faith. We have seen this through church history and even in recent years we saw it in Uganda during the reign of President Idi Amin Dada. It was in the 80s when Amin persecuted many Christians but the number of believers increased in Uganda. How do you think we deny Jesus today? a) Today we deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ by allowing other things to occupy that throne. Some have allowed their financial blessing to seat at the throne, their position in society even I have read of where people have put their pastor above Jesus. b) When we fail to speak the truth and stand for the truth. c) When we allow injustice to continue when we are in a position to oppose it. d) When we let any form of discrimination gain root in our community whether is targeted to group or nationality. This time of coronavirus we have read stories where our brothers and sisters from china have been targeted. Immigrant have received a share of injustice too. We have to remind ourselves each day that we operate under the grace of God. when things get hard is when we need to stand and be counted. The disciples other than John the beloved disciple decided to hide when the going got hard. So, in hard times like now is when we are called to stand up for others. Nobody is advocating for you to expose yourself to the virus but you can do small things like making a phone call, sending a birthday or anniversary cards. Send a text or email to the shut in. If you check with the church office, they let you know where you can step in. Simon Peter once again with the other disciples chose to hide for fear of their lives
- Simon Peter Abandons his Calling: “I am going out to fish, Simon Peter told them, and they said, we’ll go with you so they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing (John 21: 3). Sometimes we lapse in our faith walk and find ourselves doing the things that we used to do. For those who have tried to stop smoking, or drinking or use of illegal drugs know it is not easy to get clean. I know it because I struggling with my smoking habits forty years ago (I hope this does not tell you how old I am). Simon Peter was a fisherman and that what he was doing before Jesus called him remember, “Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be fishing for people. As soon as they brought the boat to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus” (Luke 5: 10b – 11). Simon Peter had missed important happenings in a short order: he missed to hear the final words of Jesus on the cross, to see Jesus being taken off the cross, when Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus prepared Jesus body for burial, Jesus being laid in the tomb, stone being rolled to shut the entrance of the tomb, and sealing of the grave. You never take time off when it comes to loving God and loving your neighbor. It is a life time commitment. As a believers Jesus has called you and me to labor in his vineyard. The truth of our faith is that it calls us to be the one who are making Christ known to the world. Remember Jesus calls us sheep. And it is the sheep that begets the sheep not the shepherd. You are the one that Jesus met at the lakeside like Peter and invited you to team with him in the world you live in. If your student your mission field might be among the students. Remember Jesus used the metaphor that was familiar to Peter of being a fisherman to fisher of people. It is very easy to go back to what we know and fail to see what God is pointing us to a new direction. Is Jesus pointing you to serve in a new way given what we are going through as country. If there is one lesson that the Covid19 has reinforced is that we are a global village. We can never ignore what happen in other parts of the world for we are interconnected. The lesson is to try and work together for all of the humanity.
- Simon Peter is re-instated: Simon Peter even after deserting his call and going back fishing Jesus went looking for him. It starts from the day Jesus came out of the grave. When Mary Magdalen went to that grave and saw that man the instruction was to inform Peter. “Don’t be alarmed, he said, you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen. He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you” (Mark 16:6-7). Peter was included in this message. We also read from Paul that Jesus revealed himself to Peter again “And he appeared to Cephas and the twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:5). When Simon Peter decided to go back fishing it was Jesus who went looking for him. a) Jesus comes looking for us: It is true that Jesus never gives up on us. Even when we have made mistakes like Simon Peter Jesus is always looking for us at our lakes where we are hiding or busy with other things. He may look like a stranger at first but he is surely the Lord. b) Jesus cares for our immediate need: When he visited Peter and the other disciples, he knew that they needed something to eat and there we see him preparing some breakfast on the charcoal fire (Bread and fish). c) Jesus cares for our long time needs: Here we see a repeat of what had happened when Jesus called Simon Peter and other disciples for the first time. They had stayed the whole night fishing and caught nothing. But when Jesus instructed them to go deep and threw their nets on the right side, they had such a big catch. This time Jesus meet them when they had been out the whole night without any catch and instruct them what to do, “He called out to them, Friends, haven’t you any fish? No they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some. When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (John 21: 5 – 6). d) Jesus invites us to self-evaluation: this came to Simon Peter when Jesus asked him this simple question, “When they had finished eating Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon son of John do you love me more than these? Yes, Lord you know that I love you” Jesus said feed my lamb” (John 21: 15). Sometimes serious discussions happen after people have eaten, Jesus knew that trick too. After he had provided this physical meal, he now wants Peter to get back to what he had told him to be ‘the rock.’ Peter had denied Jesus three times when seated at the charcoal fire and Jesus ask Peter three times if loved him seated by the fire charcoal. it did not sound too well for Peter but Jesus was making an important point. Three times he denied Jesus and three times he repeats that he loves Jesus. With this confession Jesus invites him not only to be a fisher of people, but to also tend of God lamb or sheep. Jesus is inviting us not only to go inviting people but caring for them. That why this time of crisis we have to tend the lamb of God in whatever way that we can. Finally, we know that Simon Peter moved from denying Jesus, hiding, going back fishing to the rock that Jesus had told him he would be. The full picture of Peter’s courage shows after the day of Pentecost when Peter stands without fear and claimed the name of Jesus. From there on his fire would not be stopped. Even when it came to a time when he was to be crucified by the authority after many years of preaching, he requested to be crucified upside down for he believed he would not measure to be crucified like Jesus was (upright).