Monday, April 23, 2007

Really good weekend! Spent much of Saturday morning clearing stuff from the Alban room and elsewhere, but sadly no skip! Oh well. Feel very good that some of the stuff that we seem to have been storing (for often no reason!) is now soon to be gone!!!

Sunday's worship was good... smaller congregations, but good feelings. We held an Extraordinary Meeting of parishioners straight after the 10am service to deal with nominating Church Wardens. No one has taken up the vacancy that terry has left, but Chris Craigen has agreed to fill the post for 1 year - what a star - on the understanding that someone else takes up the role next year.

Still praying for Richard, Martina and Sigrid after the early arrival of Hedvig. We are delighted for them but there is still a way to go...

Here with a version of Sunday's sermon. Next Sunday is Vocations Sunday and we welcome Vick Johnson from Westcott House as preacher. Should be good.


Illustration of a mistake...

Fortunately we know that making mistakes does not mean we cannot continue to share with Christ in his work. We know this from our story from John’s Gospel this morning. Peter has made a phenomenal mistake. He was the one guaranteed not to let Jesus down. All the others would fail, but not Peter – or so he thought. Then it was Peter who denied Jesus three times. Fear took over, fear of loosing his life, fear of being associated with somebody who claimed to be God. Fear of standing up for what he knew to be true.

So Peter goes fishing, good idea! Get away from it all, catch food, make money – but more importantly try and hide away from the failure. Peter could never come to terms with letting Jesus down and failing to be the rock which Jesus wanted him to be.

It was at this time of despondency that Jesus comes to Peter and greets him whilst he is fishing. Peter might have expected that Jesus would choose somebody else, somebody less impulsive and more reliable. But Jesus doesn’t, he chooses Peter, with all of his failings and disappointments. You see Jesus was never actually let down by Peter. Jesus knew that Peter was asking too much of himself. Jesus knew that it was only if Peter relied upon and trusted him that he could ever succeed. He could never achieve what Jesus wanted of him in his own strength. So here is Peter fishing all night and Jesus teaches him another lesson. Do as I say and you will catch the fish - and he does 153 of them.

How many fish there are is probably irrelevant, but the fact that Peter only catches them when he follows the directions of Jesus is most certainly not. The point is that what matters is that we heed the voice of Christ.

Past failure is not an indication of future performance in the Christian life, not unless we decide that to be the case. So Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. 'Three times you have denied me Peter, three times will I affirm your love.'

The love of Peter was never in doubt by Jesus, but Jesus did understand the frailty of Peter. The frailty which brought about his denial and the frailty which no doubt prevented him from sleeping at nights as his words of betrayal echoed in his ears. So Jesus shows Peter that no record is kept of past wrongs, Jesus shows Peter that he trusts him, - yes, in spite of failure and there is important work that he wants to share with him.

Peter realises that Jesus forgives, that is why the crucixion took place. Peter does nothing to earn the forgiveness of Jesus, it is just there and he needs to recognise it to enable him to heal the hurts and failures of the past and discover the new life and ministry which Jesus has for him.

The passage is about faithfulness and God’s trust and Jesus being there to help us pick up the pieces of our lives when everything is a mess. In that sense, like our first reading, it is about conversion and change after meeting the Risen Christ.

Peter let Jesus down, but even such a humbling experience did not preclude him from ministry. On the contrary it equipped him for it. Such a humbling experience would have established Peter far better for service in Christ's name. It is a simple case of gratitude, if we know our own lack of worth then we are not subject to illusions of self-worth and pride which inevitably causes us to think ourselves better than others.

Those who are aware of their own sin and have felt God's forgiveness are inevitably the most tender, compassionate, and understanding of others who are bruised or weak. It is the self-righteous who are not suited to God's purpose.

St. Isaac the Syrian taught, "He who has seen himself as he is, and has seen his sin, is greater than the one who raises the dead.”

When we are face up to and recognise our faults, then the opportunity comes for the spirit to change our practice of scorning, punishing and loathing weakness. St. Isaac went on, "Purity of heart is love for those who fall". This is a timely reminder to the church and for us when we think that purity is thinking our behaviour somewhat better in character than those around us.

Peter is asked to love Jesus, so are we. That love is understood by Jesus, not in terms of a feeling, rather that we display that love for Christ in how we love other people.

This is what we are called to do. It is surely true that such a humbling experience of failure would have established Peter far better for service in Christ's name. So too those of us who are aware of our own sin and have felt God's forgiveness are inevitably the most tender, compassionate, and understanding of others who are bruised or weak. It is the self-righteous who are not suited to God's purpose. Do not allow personal fear and weakness, or past failure ever to hold you a prisoner to the past. Instead see it as a qualification, for you will never be ‘holier than thou.’

The Risen Jesus uses Peter’s history of failure to equip him for the role of ministry and that ministry is to love. It is our encounter with him in our worship, in each other and in bread and wine and this command to love which must lie at the heart of the Christian life and without it there will be no Christian life.

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