Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sermon -- 3rd Sunday of Easter (April 14, 2013)

JOHN 21:1-19
A RISEN SAVIOR GIVES A LIVING HOPE.

In the name + of Jesus.

M:       Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
Cong:  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

     St. Peter has a good reputation for saying what is on his mind and for spilling out the thoughts of his heart.  From St. Peter, we hear beautiful and bold confessions.  We also hear cringe-worthy statements made in fear and ignorance.  Whether he makes you proud of him or disappointed in him, Peter openly displays and honestly declares the contents of his heart.
     One day when Peter and some of the other disciples were fishing, Jesus was with them.  After a night of hard work, they had nothing to show for their labors but wet nets.  Jesus encouraged them to let down their nets for a catch.  They pulled up so many fish that their nets began to tear and their boats began to sink.  Peter made his confession: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8)  His confession was honest, and it was right.  But rather than departing, Jesus called Peter to stay with him, to follow him, and to labor with him in preaching and teaching the gospel.
     Peter, as you know, went on to prove that he was a sinful man.  When Jesus stood trial for being the Son of God, Peter denied him.  Three times, Peter could have made a bold confession—a confession he swore he would uphold even if he had to die with Jesus.  All three times, Peter refused to associate himself with Jesus.
     And now in our gospel, just a few weeks after Jesus had risen from the dead, Peter and the disciples are found fishing again.  And again, a hard night’s work has yielded up nothing.  In the grey of the morning, Jesus called to the disciples from the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.”  He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”  So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.  That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:5-7) 
    Once again, Jesus provided a miraculous catch of fish.  Once again, the risen Lord appeared to his disciples.  Once again, the Lord would bring comfort to a sinful man.  Once again, Jesus did not depart from Peter, but would give him a joyful confession to make.  And once again, the Lord would call that sinful man into the holy ministry.  A risen Savior gave a living hope.
     It seems that Jesus was practically reversing the past when he spoke with Peter after their breakfast.  Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”  ...He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:15-17)  Simon Peter was not nearly so bold in his answers.  He did not dare boast of his amazing love for Jesus or of his willingness to die for him.  He had failed at that already.  Peter’s faith would not rest on his undying commitment to Jesus.  It would have to rest on Jesus’ amazing love and undying commitment to him.  Peter again made a good confession.  Again, the little rock, Peter, was grounded on the true Rock, which is Christ.  A risen Savior gives a living hope.
     Perhaps you are not as bold with your words and actions as Peter was.  But that does not mean your words and actions do not make confession for you.  By them, you show the content in your heart and mind.  From the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks, and it reveals the sin that dwells within.  Why do you speak sarcastically to people?  To build yourself up by belittling them.  Why are you slow to take extra steps to help someone in need?  Because you are not willing to give up your time, effort, or money.  Why do you mock others for their opinions or their decisions?  Because you are convinced that you are smarter and better than them.  Your words and actions testify against you.  You have exalted yourself over others.  You have loved yourself far more than your neighbor, and even over God; for you delight in your thoughts more than God’s. 
     You can understand why Peter had begged the Lord to depart from him.  It seems easier to flee from the Lord than to flee from your sins.  However, you cannot flee from the Lord; nor can you shrug off your sins.  Your sins cling to you.  Or worse, you cling to your sins!  They condemn you.  Since you cannot rid yourself of sin and since you cannot escape God’s notice, you surely cannot escape the judgment. 
     You have not escaped God’s notice, but that is good.  For, it is the Lord Jesus who has made the payment for your sins.  Your risen Savior gives you a living hope.  By his words and actions, Jesus fulfilled God’s commands.  His words were always true.  His actions were always done in love.  From the overflow of his heart, he spoke and acted, and he revealed his righteousness to all who saw and heard him.  Even as Jesus was being sentenced to die for sins he did not commit, he did not try to avoid this cursed death.  He had taken notice of you in your sinful condition.  And so he acted to take your sins from you.  His love for you drove him to the cross to die in your place.
     But now Jesus has risen!  Your risen Savior gives you a living hope.  He forgives your sins, no matter how shameful they may be.  He pardons you for any crude or careless words.  He exonerates you for any harsh or heartless deeds.  It is not that he excuses them; it is that he has paid for them.  His blood has atoned for you.  And now he lives to tell you, again and again, that you are forgiven.  You are free from condemnation.  You are free to serve with words of kindness and deeds of mercy, with a grateful heart, a joyful spirit, and a chaste mind.
     Your risen Savior comes to give you a living hope.  And your hope always lives to comfort you.  Your hope is not wishful thinking.  Peter did not have to wish that he was back in Jesus’ good graces.  Jesus appeared and poured out his grace upon him.  And so it is with you.  God has poured his grace upon you in your baptism.  God pours out his mercy upon you as you are absolved.  Jesus Christ pours his grace into you when you feast in the holy supper.  These cleanse you of your sins and continue to testify that you are forgiven, loved, and saved.  Your risen Savior gives you a living hope.
     Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”  And three times, Peter confessed his faith.  Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.  Tend my sheep.  Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)  Jesus assured this weak, sinful man that the Lord would use him for great and glorious things despite his faults.  The apostle went to proclaim the same forgiveness that was given to him by his risen Savior.
     And it is true of anyone who is a Christian.  You will never be holy on this side of heaven.  Even on your best day you are flawed.  But the Lord is still pleased to call you his own.  He still forgives.  And he still works in you to do good, to be helpful, and to bless others through you.  Your confession may not be a martyr’s death as it was for Peter.  But like him, you do make a confession with your words and deeds.  Your light shines as a sinner who knows you are forgiven and whom God calls a saint.  Therefore, you are eager to serve other sinners, and to love as love has been shown to you. 
     Your risen Savior gives you a living hope.  He lives and reigns to forgive you and to bless you.  Therefore, you live to be merciful and bless others.  In this way, God is glorified.  You never lose your hope, and he never ceases to by your risen Savior.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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