Third Sunday of Easter – John 21:15-19
Sermon by Rev. Dr. Rolf Svanoe
Whenever I hear this story, I am immediately transported 6,000 miles to the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Next to the ruins of the city of Capernaum stands a church built around a rock that tradition says is the table on which the risen Christ served his disciples breakfast. That rock is called Mensa Christi, which in Latin means table of Christ. No one knows for certain if this is really the spot it happened, but it is based on a tradition dating back to the 4th century. Standing there in that church, it was easy to imagine Jesus and his disciples sitting there on that rock sharing some breakfast together. When we left the church we had the opportunity to walk by the shore. In my imagination I could picture Jesus walking along the shore, calling out to his disciples in the boat, “Have you caught any fish?” Nearby stands a statue of Jesus with Peter kneeling before him. Jesus hand is outstretched in a posture of blessing. “Do you love me Peter? Then feed my sheep.” In the statue, Peter looks as if he is desperate for Jesus’ forgiveness, and totally shocked that it is given him so freely. Standing there in that place it was easy to identify with Peter. We too have been extravagantly loved and forgiven by Jesus.
I think it is good to be reminded again of Peter’s role in this story. Before Jesus’ arrest Peter proclaimed that he was ready to die for Jesus. A few verses later Peter denied that he knew Jesus- three times. In our story today, Peter was given the opportunity to confess his love for Jesus- three times. And I love what Jesus did. He didn’t scold Peter and remind him of his cowardly denial. Jesus didn’t seem at all interested in assigning blame or putting a guilt trip on Peter. He seemed more interested in forgiving Peter and then telling Peter to get to work. Jesus accepted Peter just as he was, with his sins and failures.
And then they had breakfast. You know, sharing food is often a way of showing love and acceptance to another person. By giving them breakfast Jesus did more than just feed his disciples. In that simple breakfast he gave them grace and forgiveness. He gave them love. And when Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep, what Jesus meant is that Peter should do the same. We feed the hungry with food, but we do more than that. We feed their hearts with the good news of God’s grace and forgiveness. We feed them with God’s love.
As I thought about this story from John’s gospel, I was reminded of another story, one of my favorites that I loved reading to my kids when they were little. How many of you know the story, Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak? It was written in 1963 and has been a classic ever since. In fact, in 2009 a movie was made of the book by the famous director Spike Jonze. The story is about a little boy named Max who was very mischievous and got into lots of trouble. When his mother called him a wild thing, Max said to her, “I’ll eat you up.” Well, Max was sent to his room for a timeout, without anything to eat. There in his room, Max began to daydream about being a wild thing, and in his mind, he traveled to an island where the wild things lived. On that island, Max was so wild he became the king of the wild things. But soon Max grew lonely and he realized he wanted to be where someone loved him best of all. He decided that being king of the wild things wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. So Max traveled back home and left his daydreams behind. When he woke up in his bedroom he found his supper waiting for him. Some of you know how the book ends. His supper was still hot.
It is a picture of grace isn’t it? It’s a picture of a mother’s love that let her son know that even though he had been given a timeout for being out of control, he was forgiven, he was loved, and he was still part of the family. That is what Jesus did for Peter. And that is what Jesus does for us. We aren’t perfect. We often deny Christ through our words or actions. But Jesus comes to us, just like Peter, and offers us forgiveness and grace.
Come and have breakfast! Jesus feeds us. And now, just like Peter, Jesus calls us to feed His sheep, to give them the same food that has nourished us, a hot meal for their bodies, and the warmth of God’s love and grace for their souls. Feed my sheep!
Ten days ago, our confirmation class did just that. We served a meal at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester. It was a gift to the people staying there that communicated love and grace. And you participated as well, all of you who brought in donations for us to take with us. “Feed my sheep!” This is what Jesus calls us to do. Share the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ through our words and deeds.
Today is Confirmation for Addisson Hershberger. On her confirmation stole are symbols for the gifts God has given her. That stole represents the calling God has given Addisson to feed God’s people. Those gifts are the tools that Addisson will use throughout her life as she seeks to do that. All of us have been given gifts from God and today Jesus is calling us to use those gifts to feed others with God’s love and grace.
Third Sunday of Easter – John 21:15-19