Acts 9:1-6 [7-20], Psalm 30, Revelation 5:11-14, John 21:1-19
Do you love me? Preached by Rev. Peter Courtney
Joe Garagiola tells about a time when the great Stan Musial came to the plate in a critical game. Musial was at the peak of his long and illustrious career. Opposing him was a rookie pitcher who fervently wished he was somewhere else. Garagiola was catching and called for a fastball which the pitcher shook off; Joe signaled for a curve and again the pitcher shook him off. After the pitcher shook off even his specialty pitch they had a mound conference. "I've called for every pitch in the book; what do you want to throw?"
"Nothing," was the pitcher's shaky reply. "I just want to hold on to the ball as long as I can."
Once again our hero Simon Peter is on the mound. As usual he is consistent. When in doubt, go to work. “I’m going fishing” he says. His partners decide to go with him. So far in his career as a rookie apostle Peter has been striking out pretty regularly. When given several chances to man up and say he is one of Jesus’ followers he pretends he doesn’t know who he is. He just holds onto the ball. Now he is on his own turf, his very own Galilee. He is a professional fisherman who catches nothing until Jesus tells him to fish on the other side of the boat. How patronizing and insulting! Even complete fishing rookies know this suggestion is bogus. Perhaps out of desperation Peter complies and catches enough fish to represent the mission to the whole world.
Jesus is not done with poor Peter. Jesus gives him the third degree repeatedly asking how much Peter loves him. There is plenty of irony to go around. Peter is still sticks to his story claiming he loves Jesus more than anything. We know he loves Jesus more than anything except his own skin. Jesus chooses Peter, perhaps the most gifted and most flawed of all of his disciples.
Jesus is electing Peter to a job that will cost Peter more than he knows. He uses the common household tale about what it is like to be young and independent and then old and dependent.
It turns out that feeding Jesus’ sheep and lambs will be the easiest part of Simon Peter’s new job.
Jeff Bullock tells the story of a time he was waiting for a hot dog on a New York corner. No sooner had he paid for his hot dog than a man came up and arm wrestled him for it yelling: “Feed me, feed me!” The hot dog seller offered to feed the man who cried out: “No I want him to feed me.” Jeff won his hot dog back but ended up diminished and ashamed. He had enough money on him to buy 20 hot dogs and he had refused to do so. In telling us the story Jeff is admitting he missed a ministry opportunity.
Ministry means God ties a belt around us and leads us places we do not want to go.
Garrison Keillor writes about Larry, a resident of the fictional town of Lake Wobegon. Larry was saved 12 times at the Lutheran Church a tradition not known for its evangelical enthusiasm. It never occurred to the pastor to call for penitents to come to the altar of forgiveness. He had just preached a dull sermon on stewardship. But there was Larry Sorenson crumpled up at the communion rail weeping and wailing and confessing his sins.
Keillor says: "Even we fundamentalists got tired of him. God doesn’t mean for you to feel guilty all your life. There comes a time when you should dry your tears and join the building committee and grapple with the problems of the church furnace and the church roof. But Larry just kept repenting and repenting.”
--Garrison Keillor, Leaving Home
(New York: Viking Press, 1987), 182.
It’s true isn’t it? Religious feelings of repentance and amendment of life are so, well, religious. But then game of life begins and we are on the mound clutching our ball hoping against hope that we will be magically delivered from ever having to make the pitch.
God can and does call the competent and willing. Unfortunately for all the rest of us God calls us too. Just be aware that what you catch may be very surprising.
Even more surprising are the choices God makes. He chooses impetuous, reckless, feckless Peter. God chooses Paul of Tarsus a religious bigot and fanatic. When the inning is over, with any luck we will have made our pitch because God we answered God’s call to get in the game.