Theme: Christ calls us beyond ourselves. Today’s scriptures address how and why we evangelize and reach out to others, and set the expectation that followers of Jesus will be challenged and stretched.
Excerpted from Taylor Burton-Edwards’ discussion of John 21 at www.gbod.org
When Jesus calls his disciples to “cast your net to the right side of the boat,” there are two things going on. First, since this is net fishing, there is little reason to expect that changing the location of the nets by at most a few feet would be likely to make any difference at all in the catch. So this was a call to try something with little prospect of success.
But it was also more than that. Fishing nets would normally have been cast to the left side of the boat so they could be hauled in more easily by the “culturally” stronger arm—the right arm. Casting to the right meant if they caught anything, they would have to anticipate greater difficulty hauling in the catch. We might say they would need extra strength, from God and one another, to complete the task.
These days, many of our congregations have become accustomed to “fishing” in a way that, no matter how hard they try, never results in much of a “catch.” They keep doing the same things because they think they work best, or because they’re used to doing them.
Jesus’s call to put the nets on the right side stretches the disciples to reach out in ways they hadn’t done before. And when they do, their catch of 153 large fish meant their call, and their catch, was the whole world. (153 was the number of nations believed to exist at the time.)
So we are called to fish differently, to reach out, to stretch beyond our usual capacity, until we are reaching all kinds of people from everywhere—no exceptions. We know up front we can’t do this on our own power. We will need one another. And we will need nothing less than the power of the Risen Christ. Indeed, it is the Word of God acting through us, and not merely us ourselves, that makes it so.
We are called to reach out to every kind of person there is. And we are stretched by Jesus’ call to keep fishing, even in ways that are odd for us, until the whole haul is taken in.
The second part of this week’s narrative, the story of Peter’s commissioning, is a stand-in for us all. Christ calls each of us, in the context of those whom we each shepherd, our own concrete communities, networks and relationships, to express our love and discipleship for him as he knows we uniquely can. If Christ calls another differently, to borrow his own words from the gospel, “what is that to you”? It is not about “finding” or “understanding” ourselves first, but rather of listening to Jesus first. He finds us and understands us and our capacities better than we ever can. The risen One is Lord, not our preferences or vision of ourselves. He calls; we follow, or come alongside, or go ahead where he sends us, confident in his sending, even if we are not confident in our own capacities as we understand them.
Jesus first asked Peter, “Do you love me” using the Greek verb, “agapan,” the term most frequently used to relate to the love of God. But Peter replied with a different verb, “philein,” usually referring to close friendship. The same exchange occurs the second time. But the third time, Jesus asks the question using the verb Peter used. That’s why Peter was grieved. It wasn’t just that Jesus asked three times. It’s that the third time he asked, it was clear he was now questioning whether Peter was even a close friend.
There’s another way to read this. It’s not that Peter’s love was defective (though it may well have been!). It’s that Jesus calls us from wherever our loves may be to carry out his mission in the world. Like he did for Thomas in last week’s reading, he does for Peter here, meeting him where he is and commissioning him to go and go deeper as he goes.
Reach out your hands, feed and care for others. Reach out your hands, be led where you do not want to go. Start where you are. I will stretch you to where I am.
“Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love”
“Lord, You Have Come to the Lakesore”
“The Summons” (John Bell) © 1987 The Iona Community (Scotland), admin. by GIA Publications, Inc.
Contemporary selection: “If We Are the Body” (John Mark Hall) © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Pay It Forward
Soul Surfer– At the end of the movie, Bethany goes on a mission trip to Indonesia to help in tsunami relief, and experiences how seeing the needs of others can transform one’s perspectives on their own life and tragedies.
Arthur Christmas- When the elves discover that the decision was made to neglect a child of their Christmas present, they question whether every child really does matter.
Call to Worship
“I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”
Let us act justly.
“I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you gave me clothing.”
Let us love tenderly.
“I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me.”
Let us walk humbly with our God.
May we see Christ in one another,
that we may be healers and peacemakers in Christ’s name.
(from UMC Book of Worship)
Redeeming God, we live in a world that is far too ready to say that you can’t be found, ready to choose punishment over mercy, judgment over compassion, to put energy into exclusion rather than working to be inclusive of all your children. We confess to you that, like Saul, we have been blind even in our sightedness, to what you are doing in the world. We need our eyes to be truly opened Lord. Let our blindness fall away, and let us see the good that we can do, through our prayers, our gifts, our service, to help usher in your Kingdom here and now. May the gifts we give this morning be just the beginning of our availability to be your tools for bringing about the world you desire. We pray it in the name of the risen Christ. Amen. (Acts
by Ken Sloane, GBOD UMC