Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Church

"Forgiveness for Peter Moments"

by Teresa Fry Brown

When 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."

A 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."

He said to him a third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"

Peter felt sad because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord you know everything."

Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep."

Remember when you started on your journey? Filled with, Here I am Lord, send me, I'll go.

Lord I'll do what you want me to do, go where you want me to go, anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

Plaintive cries of , I love the Lord, He heard my cry and pitied every groan. Long as I live and trouble rise, I'll hasten to His throne.

Ministry with God's people was our undeniable call, our charge, our mission, our duty, our destiny. Nothing and nobody would be able to separate us from the love of God. Then one day, almost without warning, we had a Peter moment, a question of faith moment, a question of "Is this really love?" In the midst of the congregation of saints it seems sometimes as if doubt, distress, depression and disappointments of both needing to be loved and showing love sends us through an out of body, lost our mind, I know it's not happening, life turned upside down, selective amnesia moment. What service to others? What duty? What obligation? I know you don’t mean me! A Jesus who? Peter kind of moment.

You remember Peter. Peter, in love with the idea of ministry and mission. Everyone else was doing it so it must be an easy kind of love. An "I can do that" or "I can do it better than anyone else" kind of love. Peter, ready to give it all for the cause of Christ. Peter, linguistically adept, conversant in Aramaic and Greek, gave up his fishing venture with Andrew, James, and John and got on the road to the Seminary of On the Job Training. Itinerant, odorous, poor, homeless Peter. Peter, the most talkative member of the Class of ‘33, loved to sit next to the rabbi, usually spoke up whether he had listened, studied or really believed what he was saying. Although he had a problem staying awake at critical times, Peter was ready to fight at any time. And at times his zeal got in the way. He had lots of ideas, but little carry through. Sound familiar?

Peter, filled with faith quakes and faith quirks, paralyzed by fear, he denied even knowing who Jesus was, not once but three times. Egomaniacal Peter was all right when he was just a student of Jesus, but when the possibility of having to step into the gap and be like Jesus arose, Peter lost his grip on his purpose. His surface love needed a deeper anchor. His humanity overshadowed his life with the divine nature of Jesus. Hadn't Peter seen the miracles? Hadn't he personally experienced the warmth of Jesus' love? When was your last Peter moment?

Our focus text is powerful. A seaside, post Resurrection conversation between Peter and Jesus just after dawn by the Sea of Tiberias. It takes place as the embers of the charcoal from the meal of fish and bread were dying down. Andrew, James, John, Thomas, Nathaniel, and the two others were probably doing what many people do after being up all night and eating a big meal. Jesus knew what Peter had done, just as he knows what we do. But Jesus also knew Peter's heart, just as he knows our hearts. He knew that Peter was afraid of death, just as those who have no hope fear death. But because of his love for Peter he pardoned his cowardice and began to work with Peter's faith, Peter's potential to become all that God wanted him to become. Peter's pardon took place in an early morning catachesis. Peter's answers could erase the guilt of his earlier denial of Christ's existence.

In a Johannine, editorial conversation, Jesus uses only three questions to cross-examine Peter, to determine the pardon or conviction of a Peter moment.

Question One

Jesus said, "Simon, son of John." Jesus uses his whole name (like when your mother calls your entire name. We know how serious that is.) Do you love me more than these? Do you love me more than the other disciples? Is there anything—title, money, job, power, position, house, car, degree, church size; is there any one—friend, spouse, child, pastor, bishop, professor, employer, president—between us? Have you placed even yourself before me? Do you love me with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength? Do you love me with every cell of your body? Do you love me when you're sick? Do you love me even when I give you what you want or when I deny what you think you need? Do you, do you love me Peter? Peter, will you honor our covenant or will you divorce me at the first sign of trouble like you did a few days ago? Peter how much are you willing to sacrifice for me?

Peter gives his first short answer (because there’s no multiple choices here!). "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you."

Jesus says, "Feed my lambs." I am appointing you, Peter, to do ministry, to step outside your comfort zone, your complacency, your cowardice. I am sending you out, Peter, but through it all I am with you. Their rules and regulations may seem to slow things down a bit but I control this. No gossip, no plot, no scheme, nothing can keep you from your charge. Will you encourage all people, no matter who they are? Peter, will you serve the poor as well as those who can donate money? Peter will you give a cup of cold water in my name to everyone who asks, regardless of how they smell, sound, think, look, or even worship? Will you find the people wherever they are and lead them to where I want them to be?

Peter, feed my sheep like you saw me do with the fish and loaves. When healing took place. When lives were reformed like the dew in the morning, feed my sheep. Prepare a place of refuge and rest for my creation, just like I did early this morning when you were trying to reach the shore. Before you got here I had already prepared a place for you.

Question Two

"Simon, son of John, Do you love me?" (God has a way or repeating questions, information, instructions, because some of us have short and long term memory problems). Do you have spiritual love, Peter? Patient, kind, not afraid to see someone else doing better than you.

Peter said, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you."

Jesus said "Tend my sheep, Peter." Will you love the people enough to tell them the truth? Will you follow the courage of your convictions and not shift with the first wind of popularity or

danger? Will you care for the needs of the sick regardless of the diagnosis? Will you care for those in your own home as well as those beyond your place of worship, in another faith system? I love you Peter, I want to know if you will stand up for your beliefs. Peter, will you be able to rejoice in the Lord, even when it seems like you are all alone? Will you still love me?

Question Three

Peter denied the Condemned Christ three times and the Risen Christ poses three questions. Jesus said, Think about it Peter. It's time to become a different person, don't return to that moment when you ran away from your responsibility, your faith, your hope. Forgive yourself. There's still time, Peter, for you to bring back the lost love, seek out the unloved, take care of the lovesick, support the new love, teach the loveless. Our Lord asks us the same questions today: Will you care for the people like I have cared for you? Will you open ears to the cries of those in pain, stop driving by the helpless, criticizing the veracity of signs that say I will work for food, believe the abused, afford children more rights than we afford animals, look at yourself before you criticize the actions of others, pray without ceasing, not just when danger seems to threaten our lives, live out your call regardless of the level of support by the world? Are you willing to forgive like I have forgiven you? "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"

Peter felt hurt because Jesus asked him the same question again. This time, however, Jesus asks: "Are you my friend?" (phileo). Do you have that kind of love that means you will lay down your life for me? That just as I am love, that in sickness and in health love, that grow old together love, that until death do us part love, that seventy times seven love? Do you love me as your friend Peter? Do you know that I love you?

It was now as if Peter finally understood the purpose of Jesus' questions. And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord you know everything; my thoughts, my words, my actions. Nothing I do is hidden from you."

Jesus said again to Peter, "Feed my sheep."

Take what you have learned from me these three years and feed my sheep. Not sugar filled programs, not mixed up theology, not bland Bible studies, not half-baked sermons, not overcooked ritual, not mushy music, not foul smelling fellowship, not frozen prayers, not starchy protocol. Those things will kill my sheep! I need you to understand my sheep have discriminating palates. Give them something of substance that will last. Provide my sheep with food for thought. Show them the water of salvation so they won't be thirsty. Give them shelter in the sanctuary and stop charging them to get in. Protect them from the arrows of the devil by teaching them my commandments. Think about all you have read, and heard, and felt, and know and feed my sheep. Feed my sheep so they will learn to be instruments of the Kingdom.

My brothers and my sisters, Jesus knows all about our times of reluctance, our times of object fear, our times of defeat, our times of even rejecting the validity of our ministry. Our Peter moments. But Jesus will reform our Calvary, far off moments into post resurrection, taken back into the fold moments because he loves us. Jesus accepts our apology, dismisses the charges, exonerates our actions, purges our cowardice, wipes the slate clean, forgives all our Peter moments, and continues to challenge us to demonstrate our love for him by faithfully, freely, feeding his sheep.

See Also:

Lovest Thou Me?
by Rev. C. H. Spurgeon

Do You Love Me? Feed My Lambs
by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

Restoring Simon Peter
by Rev. Fr. George T

Do You Have A Genuine Love For Christ?
by Rev. Fr. Gheevarghese John

Do You Love Me More Than These?
by Rev. Fr. Mathew Chacko

Devotional Thoughts on Second Sunday after the New Sunday
by Rev. Fr. George T

Devotional Thoughts for Second Sunday after New Sunday
by Rev. Fr. Mathew Chacko

Devotional Thoughts for the 2nd Sunday after the New Sunday
by Watchman Upon the Wall

Devotional Thoughts for 2nd Sunday after the New Sunday
by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

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