Sermon for the Third Easter Sunday, Year C

May 1, 2022

Acts 9:1-20                          Psalm 30                                              Revelation 5:11-14                                John 21:1-19

“Do you love me?” the resurrected Jesus asks Peter.  Peter responds, “”Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus asks him again, “Do you love me?”  Again, Peter says, “Yes Lord; you know that I love you.”  Jesus asks a third time, “Do you love me?”  Peter is hurt that Jesus has asked him a third time, but replies, “Yes Lord; you know that I love you.” 

Before Jesus was crucified, Peter denies knowing Jesus.  He denies being one of his followers, not once, but three times.  Jesus doesknow that Peter loves him, and he is offering redemption.  Equally important is that, the third time Jesus is with his disciples, he tells Peter to “feed my lambs . . . tend my sheep . . . [and] follow me.”  At the last supper, Jesus gives them a commandment to “love one another as I love you,” now he is telling Peter to follow him by caring for his flock – for us and all children of God. 

As his disciples, we are all commanded to love one another as Christ loves us.  We are not to stop here, though, we are to love for one another, to care for one another, AND bring others into our flock.  What we do know about care giving is that it is important to care for ourselves SO THAT we can care for others.  From the Last Supper to today, John has been leading us here.  Jesus does not enter into our lives to make us feel better, Jesus comes to transform us.

Just look at what happened to Paul in Book of the Acts of the Apostles.  Paul, who is known as Saul, is on his way to Damascus to round up Jews who were part of the Way.  Before we were known as Christians, those who believed Jesus to be the Messiah were said to be part of the Way.  I kind of like this. The Way is a movement people were joining.  The Way is more about being a part of a community than a person who identifies him or herself as a Christian.  

Saul is on a journey when a sudden bright light from heaven stops him.  Saul falls to the ground and Jesus asks him “Why do you persecute me?” Saul responds with, “Who are you, Lord?” Jesus answers, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”  When Saul gets up, he is blind. 

As the story continues, God sends a messenger, a member of the Way, to Saul.  When he lays hands upon Saul, Saul’s eyesight is restored and he is filled with the Holy Spirit.  Saul will become know as Paul and spread the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles.  He is transformed.  This is the power of the resurrection – out of death comes new life.

Yesterday, six of us from St. Paul’s were at Camp Mitchell to celebrate its reopening.  There were people of all ages from churches throughout our diocese.  The event brought our community together again after an absence of two years.  The acting Executive Director, in his welcome, spoke of Camp Mitchell as a thin place.  In Celtic Lore, a thin place is where the veil that separates heaven from earth in porous, practically nonexistent.  On my way home I reflected on our church, the camp, and thin places.

In 2020, the COVID-19 virus shut down our churches and our camp during Lent.  And, although we somewhat experienced a return to normalcy in 2021, it was not until this year that we begin to experience the resurrection of our church – and now the camp.  I confess, until Easter Sunday when we had over 100 people in attendance, I had almost forgotten what it was like to be part of the St. Paul’s family on a Sunday morning.  And, until I spent Thursday and Friday nights at Camp Mitchell with people I’ve known for years and people I just met, I had forgotten how important it is to be a part of the Way.  Not only is Camp Mitchell a thin place, so is St. Paul’s.  We come here because Christianity is not just about believing in Christ, it is about following him.  To be a Christian is to be a part of a movement, it is about following Jesus. 

Last Sunday Gene+ shared the quote attributed to St. Francis, “preach the gospel at all times; use words when necessary.”  This evening, a group of us will gather to discuss how we might be more intentional in sharing the gospel with each other by caring for members of our church family.  Just look at our prayer list and you will see that a number of our members are in need.  Jesus tells the disciples at the Last Supper that people will know you are my disciples, if you care for one another.  This group is about caring for one another, it is a part of our self-care.  Some of you want to help, but can’t unless you know of a need.  That’s why we will meet – to match your gifts with the needs of members.  If you can’t come tonight but would like to be a part of this ministry, let me know.

After two long years of pandemic precautions, our church is experiencing a resurrection.  What is the resurrected Christ calling us to do?  Do you love Jesus?  Feed his lambs, feed one another, feed the strangers who are hungry. Do you love Jesus?  Do you love Jesus?  Tend to his sheep, take care of one another.  Do you love Jesus?  Follow his way of love, do as it says in one of our Eucharistic prayers and “offer unto thee, ourselves, our souls, and our bodies” to God.  We are to make our lives as our offering to God.  Following the Way of Love, following Christ needs to be intentional.  Otherwise, it is too easy to lose our focus on that which we are called to do – to be Christ to others. 

Let us pray.

          Loving God, you sent your Son to us to teach us the Way to life is through service.  Help us, we pray, to see the world anew as Paul did.  Fill us with your Spirit that we, too, might share the good news of your life-giving love with those who are lonely or sick or troubled. We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.