Reflection: I Did It My Way
First Presbyterian Church, Galeton – Germania Street
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Galeton – Adams and Pine
Sunday, May 1, 2022
9 AM and 11 AM
“I Did It My Way”
Gospel John 21:1-19
Background to Acts: Blinded by the light, quick conversion, or the gnawing of conscience? Ambition, DA for council, Hebrew thinking – illness,blindness a sign of sin. Ananais love God not Saul.
“Do you love me?” asks Jesus.
If you’re smart, say no.
You know what happens when you tell someone you love them? You lose yourself. You got to start acting loving toward them. You are no longer your own. It means you will, out of love, do things you don’t want to do: cut your lover’s toenails, clean your child’s poopy bottom, hold their beloved’s hand when the chemotherapy begins.
Cramps your style, right? Thank God, some might say.
For if you say you love, you have to show your love.
Without outward declarations who can conclude of an inward love?
“Do you love me?” asks Jesus.
If so, how exactly are you going to show it?
If so, it means feed the lambs, tend the sheep.
If so, it means we reject the easier path of being God, opting for power and control over others, (which is what we’ve wanted from the beginning in the garden), and embrace the harder work of being in love, in loving God and giving yourself up to that love wherever it may lead. [Nouwen]
So we come to a terrific passage for fishing season. It begins with a fishing trip, moves to breakfast, then onto the rehabilitation of Simon Peter, and ends with a warning.
Listen: John 21: 1-14
1After these things 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.
I wonder if this is where Jesus thought he’d be, if he had chance to speculate when crucified and dying on the cross. On the cross you want to die – its your friend. What tormented Jesus was damnation, being forsaken by God. But: when God goes to hell even hell becomes godly. Resurrected. Resurrected from the power of evil and death itself, so he could help his friends fish and kindle a charcoal fire for the barbecue. I like how he kindled the fire for them.
Spend a day going through the Bible and count the number of times people are eating.
And how many fish? – so many. Of various kinds. When you use a net rather than fly, lure, or worm bait (or corn), you never quite know which fish you’ll catch. There’s an interesting thought when it comes to evangelism and throwing out the net of the gospel. A real mix: sardine, carp, catfish, crappies, tilapia. A Cichlid species in the Sea of Galilee has gone extinct. Cichlids are curious fish because the male Cichlids fight each other with their mouths. We can’t have that in the church, can we?
The bigger the mouth, the smaller the mind and heart.
Well, before we finish reading, let me ask: are you now where you thought you’d be?
Has it all gone the way you wanted it to go or think it should have?
Let you in on a secret. When meeting with couples who wanted to get married, I often played a game with young couples. We’d sit down and I asked them to imagine where they will be five years from their wedding? Ten years? Twenty years?
It’s a fun little game. Mostly I just wanted to hear if they have the same dream for their future.
Because, likely as not, it’s not going to turn out that way.
Didn’t for us when my pastor, Dr. Hunt, asked us the same question. We thought we’d be teaching in Botswana under the church’s Volunteers in Mission program.
Are you now where you thought you’d be?
Has it all gone the way you wanted it to go or think it should be?
We live every day in this tension between thinking we are in control of our destinies and being buffeted by the weird surprises life throws at us, sometimes happy, sometimes not.
I guess you could pout or throw a tantrum when it doesn’t go your way, but that’s not real mature. Our little Eve and Isaac. When almost three Eve wants her snack, she wants her snack! Little Isaac loves to say “No” when another child wants his toy.
Let’s be honest. Frank Sinatra may sing, “I did it my way…” Come, did he really? What, didn’t he have a belly button. Silly song, especially when you consider he was in cahoots with the Mafia. Which singer do you think the movie, “The Godfather,” was talking about in the first movie? I did it my way. Right….
More than the illusion of us controlling our own destiny, its more like learning how to surf the waves you are given. Not as if we cause the waves. Just have to learn how to ride them. Hang ten. Endless summer. Surfing USA. We’re waxing down our surfboards.
The real gifts and the real trick is the ability to be adroit and adaptable.
Oh yes, and let’s not forget the spiritual gift to trust in God, nor be afraid. We could take a lesson from the Ukrainians these days and their stand against the sin of Putin. and we Americans can rediscover that democracy is worth fighting for. Does the Russian Orthodox church worship Christ or Putin? Do we?
Jesuit priest Henri Nouwen, who gave up the accolades of being a famous Professor at Harvard Divinity to enjoy the rewards of serving as a chaplain at an institution for mentally challenged men, used this account of Christ’s admonition to Simon Peter to describe the essence of the Christian life.
It starts off which Simon Peter’s reclamation. There is a cost to love. As he denied Christ three times, so Jesus asks Simon Peter three times if he loves him. But there is a twist to this passage. The first two times Jesus uses the word Agape, the Jesus special kind of love – unconditional, sacrificial. Do you agape me? Do you love me with an unconditional love as I love you?
To which Peter answers: “Yes Lord I love you – philia – I love you as a friend.”
Until the third time when Jesus, seeing how Peter isn’t ready for agape, asks, “Do you philia me?”
We have cat faith versus monkey faith Monkey faith is when the baby monkey is scared, baby monkey jumps on momma. When a kitten is scared or needs help, momma cat comes along and picks kitten up by the scruff of the neck.
Jesus, as ever, comes to us at our level. Meets us where we are. Faith isn’t us grasping Jesus, it is letting God grasp us in Jesus.
Read John 15-17
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.
Now Peter is ready for the rest. Jesus can say this because he’s earned the right to say it. He’s been there.
Read John 21: 18-19
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."
To be led if you are to lead. We can’t always count on people being virtuous, can we. So lets establish conditions by which they can be held responsible.
The best leaders always are the best servants. The most sacred calling in our tradition. Magistrate. To be a political. To care for the people.
Often taken to where you do not wish to go.
Don’t we know…
As Nouwen says, for it is far easier for us to be God than let God.
To be in charge than to be led.
Tougher is what Simon Peter is going to experience. Not exactly what he thought it would be like. Same thing happened to Paul, to Mary, to John, to Nathaniel, to Simeon, to Barnabas, to Dorcas, to Timothy, to Priscilla.
When we sing, “I did it my way,” that’s when we usually mess up.
This Christian call to a downward mobility (or is the world wrong when it wants it the other way around?). Which can be a heck of lot more refreshing and rewarding than upward mobility.
For compassion is the antidote to the sick “dogma of increasing wants.” I did it my way. I want it my way.
Pruning my roses yesterday I realized that far more important than the branches and flowers is the root system, if you want branches and flowers.
For exactly how would Simon Peter would (because he loves Jesus) go about caring for and feeding the lambs?
By giving up his authority in Jerusalem for the hardship and ministry on the front lines of this growing community of faith.
By the way, I like that little insight: you take care of the lambs not because you necessarily love them, but because you first love Jesus. That gives the staying power.
So Simon Peter begins to get it: he must be open to being led where he might not want to go. In his case, eventually to Rome where he would be among the first of the martyrs.
Do you love only when it works out the way you want it to?
Do we love only when it works out the way we wanted it to?
Amen and Amen