Saturday, 27 April 2013

Easter 5

We have a baptism on Sunday, so this is a short and snappy sermon based on the lectionary gospel reading of  John 13: 31-35

This reading come from the Last Supper : the night before Jesus is crucified. Judas has gone out – to tell the Roman soldiers where Jesus is, so that they can come & arrest him & kill him. Jesus says to his friends ‘I give you a new commandment – a new law’ – this is Jesus’ last chance to say something important to his friends – his last bit of teaching –  if they don’t remember anything else he has taught them they should remember this…

‘Love one another’ Just as I have loved you so you should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my friends – that you love’.

You wonder whether the disciples of Jesus thought ‘is that it?’.
But of course that one word love is the most important thing in our world, the hardest thing, sometimes to do, the highest demand Jesus can place on us.

Love. It’s easy to love Astrid & Hannah – Kirsty & Jochen might like to tell us how lovable they are – specially when they’re teething, or at 3am in the morning! But all joking aside, children are easy to love, most of the time. But adults – they can be hard – the people who get on our nerves, the ones who have a go at us, the ones with bad habits, or who are ill-mannered. The unlovable, the unlovely, the unloving… Jesus says love them all.

But he also says ‘as I have loved you, so you should love one another’. We learn the sort of love we need from God’s love for us – a love that is there before we are born until the moment we die – and beyond. A love that never fails us, never gives up on us – a love that never ends.
We are here to celebrate that love of God for Astrid & Hannah today – and to remember that that love is there for each one of us. And when we know how loved we are. We are ready to accept Jesus challenge to us – to love one another.
May God love us and bless us and help us to be loving in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Easter 3

John 21: 1-19,   Acts 9: 1-6

So Peter & Jesus end where they began – as Jesus says to Peter ‘follow me’.
Which might get us wondering, when does discipleship start?

You see, Luke’s gospel also contains this story of the miraculous catch of fish – but where John tells us this story here, as part of the resurrection appearances of Jesus, Luke has it right at the beginning of the gospel, when Jesus first calls the fishermen to follow.

So when does Peter become a disciple – when he first starts to follow the earthly Jesus, without even knowing who he is, or here as he follows the resurrected Jesus, who he knows is “the Lord”?

The answer, of course, is both. Peter has to make a decision to start to follow Jesus, but this is a decision he will have to keep making, everyday of his life, especially when persecution comes.

And it’s not as simple as Peter seeing the risen Jesus and deciding, again, to follow Jesus. First there’s the very real issue of Peter’s denial of Jesus.

At the last supper, Peter has sworn undying discipleship, and Jesus had warned him that before cock-crow that night h Peter would deny Jesus three times. When Jesus was arrested in the garden and taken to the high priest to answer charges against him, Peter had followed, but when he was challenged he swore three times that he did not know him.
Then Luke’s gospel records the rather chilling words “then the Lord turned and looked at Peter, and he went out and wept, bitterly”.

What sort of disciple is Peter? He had promised to follow Jesus, but failed. He had sworn he would not deny Jesus, but he had done just that. He had been slow to believe the report of the women that Jesus was risen form the dead – as he had said that he would.
Peter is hardly top-grade disciple material. And when Jesus makes him say three times ‘Yes, lord, I love you’, Peter gets hurt ‘Lord you know everything, you know that I love you!’. He is , yet again, slow to understand that Jesus is forgiving him by helping Peter to declare his love three times to help him to move on from denying Jesus three times.
As a disciple, Peter is unreliable, he makes mistakes, he’s too quick to promise to follow but finds it hard to actually do it.
Peter is just like us.

And the good news, the best news, is that Jesus is ready to forgive Peter, and make him able to start again.

Yes, he has already said he will follow Jesus, way back when they first met on the shores of Lake Galilee, but Jesus gives him a chance to respond to the call to follow yet again, as a new start, as a new act of commitment to follow Jesus.

And that’s what we’re offered today too.

A new start. The food of our pilgrimage – this bread and wine, signs of our readiness to promise to follow Jesus today.. and tomorrow.. and each new day.
And a sign of God’s promise to give us a fresh start each day, as Jesus gives Peter the forgiveness he needs to leave his mistakes behind.

So we may, like Saul, be able to pinpoint the exact moment when we first encountered Jesus, or we may not. But we can like Paul & like Peter, leave our old selves behind and promise to follow Jesus.

He will feed and strengthen us for the journey and will give us all the love and forgiveness we need to make it possible.
Thanks be to God