Year C Easter 3 John 21
Do You Love Me?
The next day, Good Friday, Jesus was nailed to a cross and Simon Peter was devastated, shattered, defeated, and broken hearted. But then came Easter and Simon Peter was at one and the same time thrilled beyond belief, excited, and gratified over Christ's resurrection and yet confused and perplexed about his own future.
Peter returns to Galilee with his friends. Several days pass and nothing has happened. Here is where our scripture of the morning, John 21, picks up. Simon Peter and his friends have been waiting there in Galilee for some time just waiting, waiting for some direction from God, but nothing has happened. Finally in typical fashion, Simon Peter gets impatient. He can't take it any more, and he says, "I'm going fishing!" Now it's as if Simon is saying, "I can't handle this any longer. This waiting is driving me up the wall. I'm worn out with the indecision, the waiting, the risk involved; and I'm going back to the old secure life, the old life of being a fisherman." The others go along with him.
They fish all night, but no luck. But then as dawn breaks, they see someone standing on shore. It's the Risen Lord, but they don't recognize him at this point. He tells them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. They do, and they bring in a huge catch of fish: 153 large fish. John turns and says to Peter, "It is the Lord." Simon Peter excitable and impulsive dives in and swims to shore urgently. The others come in on the boat. As they come ashore they see the Risen Christ cooking breakfast for them over a charcoal fire. After he serves them breakfast, he takes Simon Peter off to the side and three times he asks him the same question: "Simon, do you love me?" "Oh yes, Lord," Simon answers. "You know that I love you." "Then, feed my sheep," the Risen Lord says to him. "Feed my sheep".
Then the story ends exactly the way it started months before with Christ saying to Simon at the seashore these words, "Follow me!" Isn't that a great story? Jam-packed with the stuff of life powerful symbols, strong emotions, and dramatic lessons. There is a very real human quality to this story. Let's sort this out with three basic human questions:
- First, what do we see here physically?
- Second, what do we feel here emotionally?
- Third, what can we learn here theologically, spiritually?
The Real GPS: Gospel Positioning System
Before the monthly fuel bill became the size of a mortgage payment, it used to be fun just to "go out for a drive." Especially on Sunday.
At some time or another everyone over forty has had the experience of getting stuck behind a "Sunday driver." A "Sunday driver" is a car full of folks aimlessly puttering along, gazing at the scenery, looking for nothing in particular, enjoying the slow lanes.
No more. With time, money, and energy all at a premium, "Sunday drivers" have been replaced by GPS drivers. We want the shortest, most direct, fastest way to get where we want to go. And our onboard computer tells us only what we need to know to get there. No more exploratory meandering. No more unexpected detours. No more unwritten destinations. No more surprising stops.
We go precisely where WE want to go.
And we'll never know what we've missed.
It's no longer my father's world of "My Way or the Highway." It's our children's world of "My Way ON the Highway."
A friend who is a public high school teacher in California recently asked his students, "Who is your hero?" Jack expected he would get a listing of athletes, rock stars, the rich, the famous, maybe a few token moms and dads, brothers and sisters. What he wasn't expecting was the answer he got from eighty percent of his students.
From that eighty percent their greatest "hero" was . . . themselves. THEY were their own hero.
Did you get that? Did you hear that? Really hear that? We are living in a world where the best our kids can do is come up with themselves as their own hero!
Why would a roomful of high school kids believe that there is no one more "heroic" than themselves? That there is no one else worth looking up to? That there are no other lives, no other experiences, outside their own, that deserve to be honored, even emulated? What happens when we can no longer see beyond ourselves? What happens to our world when you always get YOUR way?
One of the most insidious songs ever written was first song by Tony Bennett but became the signature song of Frank Sinatra: I'm talking, of course, of Paul Anka's "I Did It My Way." There is so much wrong with "My Way" that one hardly knows where to begin.
Suffice it to say this morning that the last stanza which proclaims that a true man tries to "say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels" reveals where this culture puts its heroes. Heroes are people who don't get on our knees, but tell it like they feel it. The notion that you kneel to know what to feel, that you don't allow your feelings to get the best of you before you kneel in prayer and discern how you should be feeling, escapes this "Do It My Way" world.
No wonder our "My Way" kids have themselves for their own heroes.
But the truth is this: true heroes never identify themselves with that title of hero. If you think you are a hero, then by definition you aren't one...