Tuesday, May 7, 2019

In Christ everything is different. . .

Sermon for Easter 3C, preached on Sunday, May 5, 2019.

     In Luke 5 and Matthew 14 we have another fishing story.  This one happened before the resurrection of Jesus.  The one we heard today happened after the resurrection of Jesus.  In the first one St. Peter is fearful and Jesus ends up calling him to be a fisher of men.  In both the disciples have fished all night with nothing to show for it all and Jesus tells them where to fish and they come up with enough fish to sink the boat.  We heard that account in February and it was a good sermon, as I recall, since I preached it.  This story, though different, has the same center – the center of it all is Jesus.

    Simon Peter found himself filled with questions and fears.  Who wouldn’t?  Jesus had died and now appeared risen from the dead twice.  What to make of it all?  So he did what he had done a million times before.  Perhaps we would have sought out comfort food, St. Peter returned to the comfort of his first vocation.  He went fishing.  Since a goodly number of the disciples found themselves in the same boat, literally, they went along.  It was a long night and again the nets were empty.  They had nothing to show for their efforts.  To make matters worse, Jesus stood on the shore and asked them if they had any food.  Nothing makes a bad night of fishing worse than somebody asking to see your catch.

    In both, Jesus intercedes.  Though He is a carpenter by trade, it did not stop Him from offering fishing advice.  Put the net on the other side of the boat – like they had not thought of this.  Any fool knows one side of the boat should not matter yet it did because Jesus was the one directing them.  John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, knew it was the Lord and let Peter know.  Peter slipped on his outer garment and plunged into the sea to get to Jesus.  The rest of the disciples had to drag to the shore the nets filled with fish and eventually they took some of those fish, put them on the fire, and ate their fill.

    In the first account, Peter did not want to be near Jesus at all.  Depart from me, Jesus, for I am a sinful man, he said.  But in this case, Peter jumped into the water and left behind the boat, the fish, and the disciples to be the first to get to Jesus.  So what changed?  The resurrection had changed everything.  It changed how they saw Jesus and it changed how they saw themselves.  The resurrection drew them and they came because their sins had been forgiven and they had been set right with God in Christ.

    The risen Christ has changed not only the future but the past and the present.  Nothing can ever be the same again.  Once our sins have been forgiven and death has been overcome, everything has been transformed.  Today we find ourselves in the same place as the disciples of old.  Easter has come and gone.  The sins that distanced us from God have been forgiven and the death we feared has been overcome.  We want to be near Jesus.  That is what Sunday is all about.

    This is now the third time Jesus showed up unannounced and where his disciples least expected.  For the third time Jesus showed His disciples that He was Himself, death had ended and sin had been overcome.  Though the end of the story has a different conclusion, the meaning is quite the same.  Will you be My fisher of men?  Is now phrased differently:  Do you love Me?  Feed My sheep.  Jesus is all business.  No small talk here.  The business of the Kingdom is first and foremost.  Simon Peter knows Jesus has been crucified and risen, that his sins have been forgiven, and that his death has been answered by Jesus’ resurrection.  Now Peter will be sent to those who do not yet know, so that through this wondrous knowledge, they too may live new lives.

    Peter had been in charge of his life until Jesus came along.  He had plans and dreams and it was relatively normal.  When Jesus entered the picture, everything changed.  Peter had a new vocation and there would be danger and even martyrdom in Peter’s future.  But Peter was not to fear.  For the death that awaited him was not the end of him or even his defeat but his death would glorify God.  Death has been put under Jesus feet and He rests His feet upon this enemy as well.  The last enemy to be overcome is death and now it is done.  Even death will become a tool for glory in the hands of God, the means through which we past with Christ to our own joyful resurrection.  Without death to fear, we can be busy with the things of life that matter.

    You and I have plans and dreams, some big and some relatively routine.  But our lives are no longer our own.  Our past has been swallowed up into Jesus’ death, our present has been transformed by the new birth of baptism, and our future directed to the goal and purpose of Christ and His eternal kingdom.  Nothing is the same.

    That which steals away our hope, our confidence, and our purpose is life – life with all its burdens, distractions, and joys.  The devil uses these cares and concerns of life and the things this life treasures most of all to take our eyes off the prize and back on ourselves.  The devil’s ploy is to turn our gaze away from Christ and on to ourselves, the world in this moment, and all the things of this world.  He works to make us love these more than the rich and glorious treasures Christ has so lovingly given – the forgiveness of sins, everlasting life, and salvation.  The problem we face is not simply seeing our future directed but understanding that the past and present are also transformed.  Everything that is wrapped up in the moment is now wrapped up in Christ and the goal of our lives is to love Christ more than these and follow Him to the future He has prepared.

    Christ’s resurrection changes everything.  It is not simply that we shall not be laid down into the dust of death and God is going to do something about it.  It is that in Christ we shall not die, but have already passed with Christ through death to the life that death cannot end.  Eternal life does not begin in us when we die.  Eternal life is our baptismal gift and we live this gift today before we live it eternally.  The resurrection of Christ changes everything.  Nothing is the same.  This is the truth that we wrestle with everyday.  What does the Gospel matter?  It changes everything or it changes nothing.

    Perhaps Peter should have been more fearful of Jesus after Easter than he was of Jesus before Easter, when meeting Jesus while fishing caused him to tell Jesus to leave him alone.  Perhaps we should be somewhat solemn given the news of Christ’s resurrection.  For what changes is not something that happens after we die, but our past and right now.  For now we live by faith but soon we shall see face to face all that risen Savior has prepared.

    The worst thing that can happen to us is that we end Easter’s message with a yawn and simply go back to the old ways we do things, we think of things, and that order our lives.  There is no yesterday to go back to.  The past has been swallowed up in Christ, complete with all our sin.  The present cannot satisfy a people who have been given the taste of eternity.  We do not wait for this day to begin but we live in that day now, now by faith and soon by sight.  We are not looking for the end times but live in them right now.  Christ’s resurrection of the dead has signaled the end of everything.  The past is gone with our sins and death is undone.  We live in anticipation of that eternal future which Christ’s resurrection has made possible.

    Nowhere is that more clear than here.  Here is the foretaste of the feast to come. Here in the crucified and risen body and blood of Christ, we are fed not for the moment but eternity.  Here in this blessed communion is hidden our everlasting future.  We taste it by faith now but soon we shall see Him face to face, just as He is, and the transformation He has begun in us will be complete.  Do you love this more than today? Do you love it more than yesterday?  Do you love this future and will settle for nothing less that the full promise of Christ and His resurrection?  It was never Jesus who was in doubt.  It was always Peter who needed to discern that future and grasp it by faith and follow Jesus into it. . . and so do we.

Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia.  Alleluia.


Maria Findo said...
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Anonymous said...

Great sermon, Pastor Peters, thank you!!

Scarlet Klark said...
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