Sunday, April 18, 2010

John.21.1-14; Third Sunday of Easter, 2010; April 18, 2010

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “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!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. ” (John 21:1–14, ESV)

“Our God is the God for people who make mistakes.”

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Alleluia! Christ has risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

You’ve heard that old joke. Earlier today I was sure I had made a mistake. I wasn’t sure because it is so rare for a guy like me. But upon reflection, after thinking about it for a long time, I realized that I was mistaken. I didn’t make a mistake after all… oh wait; I guess I just made one. Maybe the other thing was a mistake after all? Well, that’s not me. I make mistakes all the time. Lot’s of times the mistakes I make are right out in front of everyone. Have you made a mistake this morning? Preparing to come to church, did you use the wrong toothpaste, use too much hot water in the shower and leave everyone else cold? Make a wrong turn? Say the wrong thing to your spouse?

Really though, those kind of mistakes are one thing, we’ve all made mistakes like those, but we’ve all made another kind, too. I’m talking about the ones that keep you up at night. The ones you have to keep pushing into the back chamber of your mind. I’m talking about relationship destroying mistakes, bridge burning mistakes. Things you did that change your life in ways you never liked. The ones you say to yourself even years later, “If only I had done that differently.” I’m talking about the kind of mistakes that eat away at you in regret. Now they’re not always big mistakes either, sometimes the littlest thing can bubble up in your memory, like a minor offense against a long lost friend that can now never be taken back.

Now before we go on I want to make a point. It would be a mistake to classify all our sin as mistakes. That makes it seem that all our problems are accidental, as if somehow we weren’t to blame because (as we often say) “nobody’s perfect.” That’s just an excuse to try to push the blame away. Let’s be clear. We are sinful people. We live in the sin that we were born with. We can point at our parents and blame them because we inherited our sad state from them, but we have plenty of blame on our own. The mistakes that we make accidentally are only a by-product of that sin. In confirmation class we talk about “not living in a perfect relationship with God.” The First commandment says, “You shall have no other Gods. What does this mean? We should fear and love God above all things.” And we don’t. Primarily we love ourselves above all things. That’s the real nature of sin. We want to be god instead of letting God be god. When our selfishness shatters that part of the law; all the rest, all nine of other commandments, fall down like dominoes. Without a perfect relationship with God, it is impossible to have a perfect relationship with anyone else. Mistakes, especially those in our relationships with other people, are a part of that “not living in a perfect relationship with God.” The regret that we feel, the self inflicted pain that we suffer is the law that is written on our hearts that tells us that things should be different.

Today’s texts are about mistakes. Well to be more accurate they are about God (that’s really the case with the whole bible). These texts are about the God who is the God for people who make mistakes. And talk about regrets, St. Paul had a whole bucket full of them. He had no illusions about where he was before Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. He wrote in his letter to Pastor Timothy:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Ti 1:15-16, ESV)

When Paul was still called Saul he “breathed threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord…” He didn’t just make life tough for them; he did everything he could to cause them to be killed. When we first see him he is standing among a crowd of angry people, approving of their stoning of Stephen. “I stood watching and approving.” He said later. Paul wasn’t just an enemy of Christ’s Church; he was an outspoken and active persecutor of it. There was real blood on his hands. In some ways it puts our simple regrets to shame. And he had no illusions about who he was. And yet, Jesus met him on the road. Paul, chief of sinners, because Jesus greatest Apostle. Had Paul made mistakes? Yep, did Jesus forgive? Yep. And look at the result.

Now the disciples too were plagued by mistakes. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the garden, they ran for their lives like scared rabbits. They left Jesus alone, even though they knew exactly who he was: They had seen miracle after miracle, and heard every word he spoke. And Peter even more. When he was confronted with being Jesus disciple as a he stood outside at Jesus trial, he denied that he knew the man who he saw walk on water, and who invited him to do the same. “I will lay down my life for you!” Peter told Jesus, but to the woman who accused him of being a disciple, he said with a curse, “I am not!” I think you can see their regret. Remember where they were on the first evening of Jesus resurrection? After they had heard from the women that Jesus was alive? They were huddled together in a darkened room with the doors locked, “for fear of the Jews.” And maybe even for fear of Jesus. They had left him to the cross. Peter had denied. When the news of Jesus alive again reached them I can imagine they really weren’t all that anxious to see him again. “If only I hadn’t done that.” “If only I hadn’t said that.” The minds must have been full of regret. Their actions, their failed courage, their running and hiding and denying, were all mistakes they must have wished they could take back. But as I said Jesus is the God for people who make mistakes. When he appeared to them, the very first time after the resurrection, he said, “Peace be with you.”

John tells us another account of Jesus appearing to them. When they didn’t know what to do they went fishing. It sounded like a good plan. But even though they were accomplished, professional fisherman, they didn’t catch anything. Jesus appeared to them and directed (even though they didn’t know it was him) and directed them to a large catch. I must have seemed just like the old days! Peter swam ashore, and the disciples dragged the net ashore. Jesus allays all their fears and eats with them. It was a sign of forgiveness and acceptance. It was like saying “Peace be with you” again. Jesus appeared to bring them peace, to remove their regrets, to accept them in spite of their mistakes.

Jesus accepts you in spite of your mistakes. But you should know that he doesn’t just sweep them under the rug. Remember the real problem isn’t mistakes it’s “not living in a perfect relationship with God.” That’s our real problem. That the real nature of sin in us. And what we deserve for that is God’s anger. He wants to be in relationship with him and we simply push him away, for our own selfish reasons, because we want to be our own god. Imagine how hurt you’d be if you invited someone to diner and they just said, “No. I won’t come and eat with you.” Well, Jesus takes care of our broken relationship. First, he did live in a perfect relationship with God, the Father. That first commandment that we can’t begin to keep; Jesus did, and all the other nine, too. Perfect, complete, and finished. And then he took stood in our place as God let out all his anger against sinful people. As Jesus hung on the cross dying, he wasn’t just suffering from nail holes and struggling to live, he was suffering what human beings should have suffered. Eternal punishment for their rejection of God. Jesus withstood the punishment of hell for you. Jesus withstood the death of sinful people for you. We are selfish, he was selfless. In love he gave up his life and he suffered punishment for you. Now because he suffered the punishment, we don’t have it to suffer anymore. Through faith in Jesus we are connected to God again. Our imperfect relationship is made a perfect. You see, he doesn’t just sweep aside sin; he deals with it in the only way it can be dealt with. The punishment is received and the relationship is restored.

Since regret and mistakes are only a symptom of the real problem they all go with it. Mistakes, and regret, willful sin and accidents, hurts and pain, trouble and sorrow follow Jesus in death into the tomb. But only life comes out again when he rises from the dead. That’s why he can bring peace to the disciples. The peace he brings evaporates the regret they feel from their mistakes and failures. That’s why he can turn Saul to Paul, and along with a name change a change of heart. Paul’s regrets are done away with and Jesus uses him. And even you, even the regrets that you have… they are done away with by Jesus. Those mistakes that you made are taken care of.

You might well ask the question, why would I want to be a Christian? Why would I want to be religious? Out there every day, and more and more every day, when you leave our little ‘protected’ corner of the world, you are going to find a world that is hostile to your faith. You will be challenged in your faith from every direction. You will have bosses, friends and family who will tell you that your church is old fashioned and doesn’t really know the true nature of things. They will tell you that the world is the result of accidental forces of nature not created by any god. They will tell you that if you believe homosexual behavior is a sin you are some kind of bigot. Your friends and family will tell you that sex outside of marriage isn’t wrong and everyone cheats a little bit. And you will be tempted to keep quiet when you know the truth of God’s Word. And you know what? You are going to make mistakes. You are a sinful person. Life is challenging. Why do you want to be religious? Why is Christianity so important to you today and tomorrow and all the rest of your life? It’s not the reason most people think. It’s not because you’re going to be perfect, or even because you’ll get to be better than anyone else. It’s because you will make mistakes. You will sin. You will fall short of your expectations. But our God is the only true God, He is Jesus Christ, and he is the God for people who make mistakes. He is the only One who has taken the regret that you are going to feel and put it to death, and buried it in the grave right along with the punishment that your sin deserves, right were it belongs. The very same thing that Jesus did for the disciples and Peter on that beach in Galilee, the very same thing that he did for Saul / Paul on the road to Damascus, is what he has done for you. And that’s what it means to be a Christian. That’s what it means to belong to the God who is the God for people who make mistakes. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ has risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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