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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.