Do you love me? Feed my lambs.
Emerson, aged eleven, in Sioux Fall, North Dakota, loves writing letters. She writes prolifically, usually including art, jokes, stories about her younger brothers, mention of her obsession with Taylor Swift, and enough questions to get a reply, her father, said. Recently, Emerson decided to thank her postal carrier, Doug, for the work he does in carrying this regular correspondence by writing one of these incredible letters to him. The letter included stories of her brother, Taylor Swift, and even a joke:
Q: Why do you never see elephants hiding in trees?
A: Because they’re really good at it.
The next day, a package arrived at Emerson’s with some stamps and two letters. Doug and his supervisor, Sara, both wrote back to Emerson out of sincere gratitude for her letter-writing campaign, and they began corresponding. Sara had shared Emerson’s note of thanks to the postal service with the postal carriers from the Western Jurisdiction of the United States, and responses began pouring in from across the Western United States. Postal carriers and laypeople alike have queued up to become pen pals with Emerson.
Emerson responds to the letters one at a time. Consistent with her commitment when she corresponded with a few people, she continues to do this now that her mail is received by the box load. Emerson wants to stay connected, and shares love even with people she previously did not know.
Five weeks ago, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus the Christ with Easter Sunday. As Jesus appeared to his disciples multiple times since that Easter day, each time, Jesus sought to remind them of something he had taught them before, comfort them, and give them guidance in the meantime, while they were waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Prior to the verses that David read for us today, you might recall that Jesus amazes the disciples again with fishing advice. The scene opens in the same way that Peter’s relationship with Jesus began long ago: Peter and the others in their boat having fished all night and caught nothing. Jesus urges them to lower their nets one more time. This time, the net is overfilled. This miracle gives Peter and the one that loved Jesus the confidence to know that the mystery man they saw was indeed Jesus! Peter’s response was instantaneous. He threw on his clothes and jumped overboard, bounding toward the figure on the beach whom he knew to be Jesus.
After breakfast, the time of teaching continues in earnest. Three times in the pre-resurrection days did Peter betray Jesus. Three times he said, I do not know this man, around the fires as Jesus was on trial. The possibility of repentance, reconciliation, and relationship must have seemed shut to Peter, with the death of Jesus.
Jesus is the eternal hope and love. Jesus models love, where hope seems lost. Jesus turned compassionately toward Peter. The echo of the rooster’s crow likely still reverberated in Peter’s soul, the pain of his three denials overwhelming. It had been a dawn much like this one, the stabbing light that day, exposing his fear and cowardice. But on this morning, the light encircled the gentle face of Jesus.
Do you love me? Feed my sheep
About 25 years ago, Dr. Win Arn, out of the Institute for Church Growth, surveyed 1,000 congregations asking both the members and clergy of these churches what they discerned the purpose of the church to be. Eighty-nine percent of the laypeople said that the purpose of their church was to take care of the needs of the members. The remaining eleven percent shared that the purpose of the church was to reach the world with the gospel. Contrast this with the pastors. Ninety percent of the pastors said the purpose of the church was to reach the world for Christ, while the remaining ten percent placed the highest import on caring for the needs of the members of the church.
Both pastors and laypeople are apt to say that the church was loving and caring with either a focus on members or on the community outside the walls of the church. It is easy to focus first on those who are closest to you, and become so involved there, that you do not get a chance to care well for others. However, our call is to love and care for those beyond the walls of our church. Our love is out of evangelism to share the good news of Jesus, and our care from fellowship and compassion.
One of the disciplines of a disciple is to continue onward. Let the journey unfold, even when there are unexpected turns and twists. Continue doing the next good thing in loving and caring for others. In this time of shelter at home time, we have watched a few more movies. I know our family is not alone. Streaming services report 35-50% increases in their streaming hours, especially between 10 am – 5 pm. Netflix added 16 million viewers, as of their latest reporting last month. The increase is similar on other platforms as well.
We recently watched Onward, a feel-good family movie produced by Disney and Pixar. Two elfin brothers go on an epic journey to reconnect with their father. Ian, the younger brother, receives a gift from his father, who died before he was born, that his mother has held in trust until he turned 16. With some magic, his father can return for 24 hours! However, not everything goes according to plan. The boys discover early their differences in approach to travel, addressing challenges, and even how they think about each other.
Like self-conscious and awkward people everywhere, Ian practices over and over before squeaking out an invitation to a few acquaintances for his birthday cake at his house. Just as he manages to get the words out, his older brother, Barley shows up complete with costume, weird voices, and embarrassing charades to offer to drive him and his new buddies home. Ian is horrified by these cringey antics, but he ultimately goes home to celebrate with his family. Doing the next good thing sets him on a steady course. Along the way, there are some vital discoveries he makes about himself and his relationships. You will have to take a look. Heads up for our families of youngest friends, it is rated PG for action and peril that comes from adventures and fire breathing dragons. In our own unique times, we find ourselves journeying onward.
Do you love me? Feed my lambs. Going onwards requires the kind of faith that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus about. “I have heard about your faith in Jesus and your love of all the saints.” Your way of living and going onwards is catching the attention of those around you. They can not help but share where they have seen Jesus in you. May God put an undeniable spirit of wisdom and revelation within you, so that with the eyes of your heart, you may know the hope to which you are called.
Moving onward, you and I are each called to hope, a part of our inheritance, and the power of God. Hope is not exclusive to the foolhardy and the optimistic, but God’s sustenance and inheritance as we take the next steps in our journeys. Some of us have been on this road for decades. Did you know that we are blessed as a congregation to have 33 persons who have eight decades or more experience? That is 24 people who are 80 or better. 8 people who are 90 or better. And one person, Mrs. Lena Douglas, who is 100 years old! We give thanks to God for those who give us examples of the longevity of hope.
We also give thanks for those with quadrenniums of years in this journey. We will celebrate our college and high school graduates later in the service. As our college and high school graduates approach their milestone celebrations in brave and unprecedented ways over the next month, communities have been surrounding them (from a distance). Drive-by parades, care packages on the doorstep, and Zoom graduations have become adaptations to expression care and love in these unusual times.
And this is what our faith calls us to do in the meantime. We press onward with the gift of hope that God has given to us, an imperishable and glorious inheritance that Christ is present among us bringing resurrection here and now, as well as then and there. Go on, do the next good thing showing the love and care of God, participate in God’s way.
This my friends is the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
New Testament Lesson: Ephesians 1:15-23
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Gospel Lesson: John 21:15-19
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, May 17 ~ Saturday, May 23, 2020
Sunday: “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason.” Ephesians 1:15. As graduates of colleges and universities are graduating, join us in lifting them up in prayer. Pray that this time be a rooting of faith and growing in love. We pray God’s abundant blessings on the next steps in the journey.
Monday: “I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” Ephesians 1:16. Who are you giving thanks for today? Who is a part of your faith story? Who shared with you the matchless name of Jesus Christ? Give thanks to God for them. Ask God’s continued blessings upon them.
Tuesday: “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him,” Ephesians 1:17. As high school seniors finish their final year of high school, join us in praying for their wisdom in the next steps. In this unique time, we pray for wisdom and revelation that each one may know Jesus the Christ.
Wednesday: “so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,” Ephesians 1:18. The hope to which God calls each one of us is onward to our glorious inheritance, both here and now, as well as then and there. May God grant you hope to fill your days, even when your moments find challenge.
Thursday: “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.” Ephesians 1:19. Consider that the power of God has only been glimpsed by the miraculous and wondrous works. Depend on the working of God to demonstrate the glory of God through God’s power in time to come.
Friday: “God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.” Ephesians 1:20-21. Where have you seen the power of Jesus Christ in your life? Where have you seen the compelling movement of God to continue onward in the face of dominion and trial?
Saturday: “And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1: 22-23. God is all in all. Are you anxious and concerned? Are their situations that fill you with dread and fear? Our Lord and Savior will care for you. Give it to him.