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This week's sermon:

                      John 21:1-19  -  "Do You Love Me?"
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Let’s begin with Simon out on his boat fishing alongside the other disciples.  He is brooding, thinking deep thoughts not quite sure what to make of all that had happened.  Then there is a flashback.  He recalls how some months earlier he left his fishing nets at the seashore to become a follower of Jesus and how Jesus liked him and included him and changed his name from Simon to Peter (Petros, the Rock) because Jesus felt that Simon was strong, stable, and solid like a rock.  But then all of a sudden, things turned sour.  Jesus was arrested and Peter the Rock got scared and on that fateful night, he denied his Lord three times.


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:


1. First, what do we see here physically?

2. Second, what do we feel here emotionally?

3. Third, what can we learn here theologically, spiritually?

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What Is Unique About Christianity?

The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....


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