Worship for Sunday, May 8, 2022

Acts 9:36-43

36Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. 37At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. 38Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” 39So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. 41He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. 42This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 23

1The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.
2The Lord makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.
3You restore my soul, O Lord,
and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake.
4Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil, and my cup is running over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Revelation 7:9-17

9After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 10:22-30

22At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I am always knee deep in a book or three. Just this week I read the hauntingly beautiful memoir “What We Wish Were True” by Tallu Quinn. Tallu was a 42 year-old mom – wife – baker of bread – feeder of the hungry – disciple of Jesus – theologian and writer.   Tallu lived – worked – served our Lord and died far – far too young just down Interstate-65 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Tallu died this spring of metastatic brain cancer. But as she lived her last months – she graciously and generously shared part of her journey. She wrote of many things. And I continue to think deeply about her words and what she had to teach. She was leaving so much behind. Her children are very young. She was so young. And she was wise.

I was particularly struck by her reflections on heaven. On what she thought it will be like to be reunited with our Lord. On her thoughts about eternal life and spending eternity with our Lord and her heavenly family in Paradise.

Do you think about heaven? Are you curious? Have you pondered eternity and your eternal home?

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I have and I do. I don’t think you can be a pastor for very long and not spend some time thinking about eternity. Walking through the valley of the shadow of death with folks you love over and over again – leads a person to consider what is on the other side.

Sometimes I joke that I hope heaven will be like a great big yarn store with a huge library attached. So – I can finally read and knit as much as I want. But I do know most folks would NOT consider this to be heavenly – just excruciatingly boring!

When I am serious about it – I think heaven will be a whole lot more like it was around Saint Stephen on Easter morning this year.

Think about it . . .

Easter was filled to overflowing with glorious blessings. It was amazing and delightful and beautiful and fun and funny and noisy and just plain awesome. There were smiling – happy Christians everywhere. There was great food and wonderful fellowship. There was an abundance of joy.

Our fellowship hall was filled with chatting – chattering – laughing – celebrating – joyful – joyous Lutherans. Reunions were taking place. Great conversations were happening. There were hugs and jokes and tears of joy.

Both bodies and souls were fed!

There was worship and praise and music and chocolate and celebration!

I – for one – was right where I wanted to be. And I found myself thinking over and over again – “This is so cool! So awesome!   This is the Kingdom of God breaking into our world – into our daily lives! My cup runneth over!”

Heaven is going to be like a really cool church coffee hour!

And I DO think heaven will be filled with boisterous Christians – talking a mile a minute. Heaven will be filled with chatter and laughter and friends hanging out and delighting in each other’s company. Heaven will be just a little bit wild and chaotic sometimes because it will be just so awesomely fun and amazing!

What about you?

Have you ever wondered what heaven will be like?

Do you think about it?

When you think of heaven – do you think of golden streets and Saint Peter waiting for you at the pearly gates?

Do you think of fluffy – puffy white clouds and angels with harps and halos?

Perhaps you think of hanging out with the loved ones you are missing – especially on a day like today.

In our second reading for today – the book of Revelation gives us a small but wonderful glimpse of what heaven is going to be like.

Saint John tells us he saw: “a great multitude that was so big that no one could count everyone – from every nation on the earth – from all tribes and all peoples and all languages.” And they were all standing before the throne of God worshipping the Lord.

He goes on to declare – “they will hunger no more and thirst no more.   The sun will not strike them nor any scorching heat. The Lamb of God will guide them to the springs of the water of life and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Think about that. Let those words really sink in . . .

In heaven there will be so many people that no one can count all of them!   And they will be from every nation on the earth.

In heaven there will be no more hunger and no more thirst and no more suffering and no more pain and no more sorrow. No more tears!

In heaven we will finally – see God – face to face. We will be with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Talk about Paradise!

Oh – how I love these verses from the book of Revelation. When I read these verses – I am always like a kid in a candy store – begging for more please. I want to hear more of these promises from God – because they hold such marvelous hope and promise of the life to come for all of us.

We may have all sorts of unanswered questions about heaven. But we don’t have to wonder about this – heaven will be awesome. Awesome like Easter morning!

Truly this is Good News – AMEN.

Stupendous Science-y Stuff

A teeny – tiny plant growing inside a log!

I read a seriously cool book this spring called – 52 Ways to Walk: the Surprising Science of Walking for Wellness and Joy, One Week at a Time by Annabel Streets. Okay – I readily acknowledge that this particular book might not be everyone’s cup of tea/jam/thing – BUT it is most certainly my kind of book.   I was riveted. I was inspired. I was intrigued. I found the science in the book to be absorbing and the ideas to be deeply compelling.

Amazing – cool – intriguing!

I quoted from this book to the McFarland men over and over and over again. This happened so often – they were likely thrilled once I finally had read its last paragraph and returned it to the library. It is a very – very good read. I already plan to read it again . . .

Ms. Streets confirms through her extensive research what she and I already knew from personal experience – walking outside changes you for the good. Walking in nature changes your brain in positive ways and helps your body too.   The human brain on nature is happier – healthier – fitter – and more likely to stay that way and so is the human body. Walking (especially outside in nature surrounded by God’s great and glorious creation) prevents/eases the symptoms of both heart disease and depression! As well as – diabetes and anxiety. Walking and playing in nature makes you more creative and has been shown to raise kids’ test scores. Walking can help you process emotions. Walking can ease and even heal the back pain caused by all of the sitting we do.   (Our sedentary lives are causing us so much pain – suffering and in far too many cases downright killing us.)

I could and have most certainly been known to go on and On and ON and on and On and ON about all of the truly positive reasons to go for a walk in nature as often as you can. I know I evangelize about walking in nature almost as much as I do about Jesus . . .   (But nature is just so good for us and God made nature and called it GOOD! God is wise. We should probably try listening to God from time to time?!?!?!? See – I can do both. Jesus and nature: they are GOOD!)

I know when I go for walks in nature something happens in my soul.   The best way to describe it is – my soul sings or hums or gently laughs. I relax into myself. I am more content. More myself. My eyes are more open. (Perhaps because I want to see everything around me. Nature is far more beautiful and interesting than a strip mall or a traffic jam on Bardstown Road or anything they are selling at the mall.) I am able to be just a bit more mindful. To give thanks for the blessings of the day – the moment – my life. To see both the little things and sometimes some of the bigger things too.

I am often able to delight in the moment. To be content. To let go.   To appreciate beauty as I happen upon it. To listen.

Scientists and researchers tell me why this happens. They study the brains and the bodies of people on nature and on walking. This science-y stuff and research is very cool! And I know I agree with these folks because I feel better in nature.   I am happier on a walk in a green space. I smile more. I am delighted and joyful and content. I am both more peaceful and more energized.   And one of the best things is – it lasts – the joys and the blessings linger.

After happily mucking around in the river for hours on Saturday afternoon – the McFarland men took me for a walk around a few of the trails at Broadrun Park before we headed home for the day. They went because Jason and Doug the Dog are always happy to go for a walk. Jack and Will went because- well – they have met me!

Seriously – if I had simply walked from the river to the car – my family would have been deeply concerned about my well-being!   “What’s wrong with Kerri/Mom looks?!?!?” would most certainly have been exchanged between the McFarland men – if I hadn’t declared that we were going for at least a short walk. I didn’t want to worry them – so we went for a walk!

And what a wonderful walk it was. It was filled with blessings.

It is (finally) spring here in Fern Creek, Kentucky and it is lovely.   Really – really outstandingly lovely.

There were delicate wildflowers everywhere I turned. White and yellow and pink and lavender and purple wildflowers.

There were whole fields of wildflowers. This field of wildflowers smelled heavenly! I was mesmerized and delighted and thrilled by its beauty.

The birds are singing. And clearly there are baby birds being born and keeping their parents busy keeping their bellies full.

The grass is green and lush and glossy.

We spotted our first tiger swallowtail butterfly of the season – always exciting. It even landed on me! Seriously – it landed right on me and lingered there for a bit. I was so transfixed that I didn’t even think of trying to take a picture. I just stood very – very still (filled with awe) and took in the beauty of the moment.

The sky and the clouds did cool things too and our sons chatted and chattered and updated us on their lives and their thoughts and their thinking of thinks (even more cool).

I had so many God sightings on Saturday I lost track of all of them! So many blessings – so much joy – so much for which I am truly thankful.

How have you experienced God’s blessings recently?   Where have you seen God’s presence lately?

Pinch and Punch’s Cousins

Our Will’s 3rd grade class has been learning all about crayfish – because they have their own little herd of classroom-crayfish. Actually – they have 9 totally – gloriously – awesomely amazing crayfish.

The class has named 2 of the crayfish Pinch and Punch. Pinch and Punch are their 2 crayfish with only one claw per crayfish. Apparently – the class can’t tell the other 7 apart well enough to name them . . .

Here are some of the cool things the class has learned about crayfish so far (as shared by Will): Crayfish are nocturnal. Crayfish have 8 legs (at first the class thought they had 10 legs). Crayfish have hard-ish shells. Crayfish molt these shells as they grow.   “Molting” is sort of like snakes shedding their skin. Crayfish will eat one another when they aren’t protected by their hard shells.   (Will was very matter of fact about crayfish cannibalism and did not find it particularly disturbing or off-putting or gross.)

Naturally – we have been learning and hearing a lot about crayfish too.   (We do not hear about crayfish quite as much as we hear about planes – his current interest/passion/single-minded obsession of the moment – but we still hear about crayfish a lot!)

Note – he is holding a fishing net in his right hand and a plane in his left hand!  He is also just barely pretending to be patient with his mom and her camera!?!?!?!

On Friday afternoon William brought home the following essay written ever so carefully in his very best 3rd-grade printing:

“I enjoyed having crayfish in this room and heres why!   First, I think that crayfish are cute.   Second, they can scare me some times.   Next, they are very shy. Last, i’m sureprized that they have not pinched yet.   I’m happy that we got the caryfish, they are amasing!”

(Will earned a 10/10 – an Outstanding and a smiley face for this spectacular essay – just saying!)

Will’s classroom crayfish had his heart longing for a trip to the river where he hoped to find some wild crayfish roaming the shores in their natural habitat.

Our sweet boy asked on Friday evening if – “We could go to the river to look for crayfish – snakes – frogs and fish – this weekend?”

“Yes!” – was our immediate answer – “Yes – we can! Yes – we will go to the river. Yes – we would love to take you on a creature exploration expedition!”

(Jason and I may have high-fived and first-bumped one another and whoo-hooed a few times when Will wasn’t paying attention! Yes – he IS one of US!!!! He not only eats – but loves lentil tacos and he wants to spent his Saturday mucking around in NATURE. The boy is starting to speak fluent McFarland! Next stop is an intriguing ancient language . . . )

Saturday was glorious! It was a perfectly – perfect kind of day for exploring along and even IN the river. So – we prepared and packed for a creature exploration expedition. Waterproof shoes – nets – towels – water bottles – snacks (because Will told us we were going to be there a VERY long time) – a knitting project (mine) – a super-duper nerdy book (Jason’s) – camera – 4 excited McFarlands and 1 incredibly goofy dog.

We were off seeking crawdads – oops – I mean crayfish. (I grew up calling crayfish – crawdads.)   Apparently – crayfish have multiple aliases. They are also known as crawfish – craydids – crawdaddies – crawdads – freshwater lobsters – mountain lobsters – rock lobsters – mudbugs and yabbies!)

Lots of people call them yummy too! Because when I did a little googling – the first thing that popped up was their nutritional information and I am not talking about what to feed your pet crayfish . . .

Anyway – our crayfish expedition was going to be strictly catch – observe and release. All we hoped to do was spend some time visiting with a few crayfish and perhaps convincing them to allow us to take their pictures. We are way more into photo-shooting animals in our family . . .

Will was soooooooo excited and honestly so was I.   I love – Love – LOVE hanging out with my people in nature.   I love exploring and listening and wandering and watching and observing and immersing myself in God’s creation.

Sometimes I observe nature. Sometimes I observe Will observing nature . . . Both delight me and bless me and fill my heart with joy.

We spent hours exploring along the river. Will saw snakes – but opted NOT to catch them this time. Will caught many minnows/fish in his net.   The lad is very persistent.

And then – Will found “Crayfish Cove.” You won’t find it marked on many (okay ANY) maps – but our family won’t be forgetting the location of Crayfish Cove anything soon.   Because our delighted boy netted crayfish after crayfish after crayfish from the shores of this spectacular spot along Floyds Fork River.

Wisely keeping a watchful eye on those pinching – pinch-y – claws!

It was a crayfish bonanza. An abundance and a plentitude!

William was thrilled and so were his oddball parents. Will had been hoping and dreaming and longing for such a moment and it happened. His fishing net was kinda-sorta full of crayfish. Not 153 fish/crayfish like in our Gospel reading for Sunday (John 21:11) – but our Will felt deeply – richly and abundantly blessed all the same.

Will caught crayfish and we ALL admired his haul.

And then – after about the 3,000th crayfish – Will declared that he had caught – observed – and released his crayfish-limit for the day. He was ready for his next adventure.

But before heading home – both Will’s mom and Doug the Dog needed to be taken for a walk around Broadrun Park. Doug and I get antsy and tend to annoy the people around us if we aren’t taken for regular/frequent walks.

Water shoes were exchanged for hiking/walking shoes. (This provided quite a lot of entertainment . . . How many McFarland men does it take to get just one 9-year-old boy and his wet feet into dry socks and shoes? Three!??!?   Especially when the mom doesn’t help and insists on taking pictures of the hilarious process.)

Hilarious!

The sun was shining. Nature was beautiful. Our family was together. The crayfish were intriguing. And the blessings were flowing. This is how our family does sabbath. This is how we set aside time for God and rest and the sacred in our busy – bustling – daily lives.

How do you do sabbath? How do you set aside time for God and rest? How do you make room for the sacred in your daily lives?

Worship for Sunday, May 1, 2022

Acts 9:1-6 [7-20]

1Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” [7The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus,20and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 30

1I will exalt you, O Lord, because you have lifted me up
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

2O Lord my God, I cried out to you,
and you restored me to health.

3You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead;
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

4Sing praise to the Lord, all you faithful;
give thanks in holy remembrance. 

5God’s wrath is short; God’s favor lasts a lifetime.
Weeping spends the night, but joy comes in the morning.

6While I felt secure, I said,
“I shall never be disturbed.

7You, Lord, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”
Then you hid your face, and I was filled with fear.

8I cried to you, O Lord;
I pleaded with my Lord, saying,

9“What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

10Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me;
O Lord, be my helper.”

11You have turned my wailing into dancing;
you have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.

12Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.

Revelation 5:11-14

11Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 21:1-19

1After [he appeared to his followers in Jerusalem,] Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Were you one of those wonderfully fearless – unflappable kids when you were little? One of those dazzling little wonders who didn’t let anything or anyone get in their way.

Or perhaps you were a bit more like me? Were there things that gave you pause? Were there things that scared you? Did you have fears and concerns about the world around you?

What were you afraid of when you were little?

I was profoundly afraid of spelling tests and the creepy clown picture that hung on my bedroom wall for years. I was afraid of snakes and heights. I was also absolutely – positively terrified of the monsters I knew lived under my bed and in the crawlspace in my bedroom closet.

I knew – as soon as darkness descended upon the earth – huge – creepy – monstrous monsters with long – silent – slithery arms and sharp – grabby claws would ooze and creep and crawl out of their hiding places under my bed and from the crawlspace to GET me. And I really – really – really did not want them to get me.

The only things that would protect me from these wretchedly awful creatures of doom and despair were bright light and blankets. Plenty of light and a multitude of blankets were how I battled these evil creatures night after night. For years – I slept in a room lit up like an airport runway and under a layer of blankets so thick a polar explorer would have been cozy.

And – it worked! Because here I stand – pushing 50 – and those crawl space monsters haven’t gotten me yet!

But seriously – as I have grown much – much older – I am less afraid of some monsters. I know the only creatures lurking under my bed are some dust bunnies and our kitten Ash.   And yet there are still some scary things that frighten me and keep me up at night. Problems like pandemics and poverty are even scarier than spelling tests and that creepy clown picture.

After all – I am only one person. My resources and talents are limited. What can I do to battle a problem as big as hunger? How can I help bring peace to our troubled world?

It is easy to declare that problems like hunger and poverty are just too big and that we are too small. It is so easy to give up when confronting big problems.

Yet – we all know surrender isn’t the best choice. We know that we shouldn’t hide from these big – intimidating concerns.

A tower of TP for FCHUM taller than an 8-year-old!

But we can also acknowledge being afraid of big problems is natural. Even the disciples were afraid.

The Bible tells us after Jesus died the disciples all went into hiding.   Their problems just seemed too big and too scary to face so they hid in a locked room.

While the disciples were hiding – Jesus came by for a visit. One moment – it was just the terrified – heartbroken disciples in that locked room and the next Jesus was there with them.

First Jesus wished them peace and then he said to them – “as the Father has sent me – so I send you.” Jesus calls them to continue the work they had started with him. Jesus wants them to get out into the world to share and show God’s love. Jesus knows they are afraid – but Jesus also knows there is important work to be done.

In today’s Gospel reading – the disciples aren’t hiding anymore.   But they haven’t gotten to back to their work as fishers of people yet either. Instead they are fishing for fish.

Donations for FCHUM

So – after they have breakfast – Jesus gives Peter a big push to get him moving again. Jesus asks Peter – “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter tells Jesus – “Yes – Lord – you know I love you.” Then Jesus tells Peter – “Feed my lambs.”

Jesus then asks Peter a second time if Peter loves him – and again – Peter declares – “yes – Lord you know I love you.” And Jesus says to Peter – “tend my sheep.”

Then a third time Jesus asks Peter the very same question – “Do you love me?” And Peter again answers – “yes Lord – you know everything – you know I love you.” And Jesus responds – “feed my sheep.”

Peter’s feelings are clearly hurt that Jesus would ask him if he loved him over and over again. But Jesus isn’t being needy or strangely co-dependent. Rather – Jesus is making an important point. If Peter really loves Jesus – then he will care for God’s people.

Peter’s actions can be a powerful reflection of his love for Jesus.

Those bags are full of litter!

And soon – Peter is doing just that. Peter spent the rest of his life sharing the Good News of God’s grace – love – and mercy. Peter fed the hungry. He cared for the sick. He helped widows and orphans. He even raised two people from the dead. Peter spent the rest of his earthly life feeding and loving and caring for Jesus’ beloved people.

Peter made a difference. He helped make the world a more loving – gracious place. He shared God’s love with others. He answered Jesus’ call.

The same is true for us. Jesus calls us to feed his sheep – to spread the Good News of God’s grace – love – and mercy – and to help make the world a more loving place.

And so – I ask you – how will you share God’s love? How will you feed Jesus’ sheep?

There are as many ways to serve as there are people who are called to serve.

* When you donate blood – you are feeding Jesus’ sheep.

* When you send a card to someone who needs encouragement or when you pray for the folks on our prayer list – you are loving Jesus’ children.

* When you make a donation to the Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries Food Pantry – you are feeding Jesus’ sheep.

* When you volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House or when you speak words of love and kindness – you are loving God’s children.

* When you help with worship – Vacation Bible School or Sunday school – you are answering Jesus’ call to you to feed his sheep.

* When you make a donation to Lutheran World Relief – you are feeding Jesus’ sheep.

We may not be able to end poverty or feed everyone in the world – but we can make a powerful difference.

No matter what your interests – no matter what your gifts and talents – no matter what your financial resources are – there is a way for you to feed and care for Jesus’ beloved children. We can share God’s love. Truly this is Good News – AMEN.