FIRST LESSON Zephaniah 3:14-20
SECOND LESSON John 21:15-19
During a Pastor’s meeting, an old pastor stood up to testify to his faith. Yet his testimony surprised a number of People. The pastor stood up and looked at the group and said, “I am a lay pastor of a small, not-growing church. I am not ordained. I am not seminary trained. I was asked to leave both Bible colleges I attended. I am divorced and remarried. On any given day I am capable of being a jerk with my wife and family. I am terminally insecure, which causes me to compensate with bouts of arrogance. At times people irritate me, and I hide from them. I am impulsive, which causes me to say things I shouldn’t and make promises I cannot keep. I am inconsistent. My walk with Christ is a stuttering, stumbling, bumbling attempt to follow Him. At times His presence is so real I can’t stop the tears, and then, without warning, I can’t find Him. Some days my faith is strong, impenetrable, and immovable—and some days my faith is weak, pathetic, helpless, knocked about like a paper cup floating on the ocean in the middle of a hurricane. I have been a Christian for 45 years. I am familiar with the vocabulary of faith, and I am often asked to give advice about matters of faith. But I am still a mess. I am light-years away from being able to say with Paul, “Copy me.” I am 56 years old and still struggling—a flawed, clumsy, unstable follower of Jesus. A bona fide failer.” Have you ever felt like you let somebody down? A spouse, a boss, a team-mate; it’s not the best feeling in the world, especially when you had boasted how they could beyond a shadow of a doubt depend on you. You could be trusted, you wouldn’t let them down. But you did. Now to disappoint someone who loves you hurts, but to disappoint the One who laid down His life for you, that’s painful. Painful, indeed, but it doesn’t have to be permanent We all make mistakes. We all do those things we ought not to do and neglect to do things we ought to do. Some of us know when we are doing wrong, but don’t seem to be able to help ourselves. At other times we think we’re doing the right thing and it turns out all wrong. Two Kentucky horse racing stable owners had developed a keen rivalry. Every spring they each entered a horse in a local steeplechase. One of them thought that having a professional rider might give his horse an edge in the race, so he hired a hot-shot jockey.
Well, the day of the race finally came, and as usual, their two horses were leading the race right down to the last fence. But that final fence was too much for both of the horses. Both of them fell, and both riders were thrown. But that didn’t stop the professional jockey. He remounted quickly and easily won the race.
When he got back to the stable, he found the horse owner fuming with rage. He really didn’t understand his behavior, because he had won the race. So the jockey asked, “What’s the matter with you? I won the race, didn’t I?”
The angry owner nodded, “Oh, yes, you won the race. But you won it on the wrong horse!”1
That jockey had the best of intentions. He intended to win the race. But he became distracted from the task. He made a bad decision. And, ultimately, he failed in what he was trying to do.
Peter, good old, impetuous Peter, loved the Lord Jesus with all his heart, was willing to die for him, boasted he would never betray him, but we know he couldn’t help himself. While Jesus was being interrogated by the high priests and government officials, Peter denied even knowing him. There have been moments when I have thought, ‘not a bad strategy – “He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day.” We will never know what would have happened if Peter had tried to defend Jesus, or even just stand with him. Suppose Peter had prevented the crucifixion. As we noted last Sunday without the cross there is no resurrection. I doubt at this point Peter had worked out that theological point. He just knew he felt horribly guilty. Note that when they had finished eating and Jesus began to talk to Peter he said, “Simon, son of John . . .” The Lord isn’t calling him Peter, the rock on which he would build his church, just now. “Simon, son of John, takes them back to the beginning of their relationship. In the midst of his guilt and sadness at Jesus’ death mixed with his joy at seeing the risen Lord once again, Simon doesn’t feel worthy to be the foundation on which the Church will be built. Whatever causes us to feel guilt and shame has to be dealt with before we can move on. Sometimes it works best to go back to the beginning, to recapture what brought us into a loving relationship with someone in the first place. Even if we have grown, or grown apart, we can find reconciliation in remembering what brought us together with someone in the first place. No longer Peter the Rock, Simon Peter is questioned, “Do you love me more than these? What? The fish? No. The other disciples. “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Feed my lambs.” Think back for a moment to your first or best romantic relationship. He (or she) says he loves you. Does he spend time with you? Does he call you? Does he bring you a card and gift on your birthday? After a long, hard day, will he listen to your story, wrap you in his arms and hug your tired soul?
Every time I read this passage I remember the song from “My Fair Lady,” “Show Me.
Words! Words! I'm so sick of words! I get words all day through;
first from him, now from you! Is that all you blighters can do?
. . .
If you're in love, Show me! . . .
Make me no undying vow. Show me now!
Sing me no song! Read me no rhyme!
Don't waste my time, Show me!
Don't talk of June, Don't talk of fall!
Don't talk at all! Show me!
Jesus asks you the same question. ___________________, _________________, ________________________. Do you love me? Show me.
Peter was sure that he would never do what he did. And many of us make the claim that we would never find ourselves in the sins that others commit. But we never know. That is why we should always be vigilant, always on guard. David never thought he would commit adultery, Solomon never thought he would get caught up in idolatry, and Peter never thought that he would deny even knowing Jesus Christ. That’s why 1 Corinthians 10:12 says, "If you think you are strong, you should be careful not to fall.". A man sits talking to his friend from out of town. His has been passed over for a promotion for the third time, his career has stalled and with the company downsizing, he fears a layoff at any moment. Yet when his friend asks, “So, Frank, how are things at work?” Frank responds by saying, “Fine, just fine.”
A Christian arrives to church on Sunday morning just as the church bell rings to welcome the faithful. And even as he enters the church, he feels that God is a million miles away. He no longer has the urge to pray and he any longer hungers for God’s word. He has for weeks now known that the cancer is eating away at his body and inside he feels as though God has betrayed him. He is mad and at times a stray thought or two has crossed his mind that maybe, just maybe there is no God. Yet on Sunday morning, when the pastor asks the question, “How is it with your soul this morning?” the man replies, “…Fine…just fine.”
Let me ask you, how is it with your soul this morning? Is it “fine”? Don’t pretend your relationship with Christ is fine if it’s not. And let me tell you, it’s okay to admit that. If you go to any 12 step meeting, the first step they will tell you is necessary in recovery is to first admit the problem; to be honest about it. And here within this church, this is the place to say that.
The church was never meant to be a pretty place of fine people; it’s a place of dirty, hurting people in need of grace and assistance. And we come together to help each other grow in the faith and grow closer to God, but we need to admit that we need that help.
Do you love the Lord who died to pay the cost of each and every one of your sins? Do you love the Lord who gives you life and life abundant? Show him. And trust that he is able to restore you to a full and loving relationship. He waits patiently for you. Show him. Let him restore you to a right relationship. And when your relationship is on solid footing, show him your love by helping tend his sheep
1 (From 1001 Humorous Illustrations for Public Speaking, by Michael Hodgin, p. 148.)