April 29, 2022

Sunday Worship Service for 1st May 2022

Passage: John Chapter 21 verses 1-19

A prayer of praise and thanksgiving
Sometimes Lord, something comes along that happens to shake our world.
Thank you that you are with us through the difficulties.
The walls of our lives may be stripped bare,
yet you paper them afresh and give us a new pattern of living.
At times we can be a little slow to catch on to what you are wanting to do in our lives,
but we thank you that, just as you never gave up on Saul or Peter, you never give up on us.
Thank you, Lord, for your patience.
Thank you for your caring restoration and renewal.
Thank you for blessing us with new beginnings.
Amen.

Read John Chapter 21 verses 1-19

Sermon by Rev Peter Lyth
Often, in the last chapter of a book or the finish of a TV series, various loose ends are tied up. Maybe the romantic leads finally get together, or unanswered questions are resolved. In some respects this is what happens here in the last Chapter of John’s Gospel. The previous chapter ends with, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name”. These words seem to indicate the end, but then we are presented with another chapter, an epilogue that resolves some issues that had appeared along the way and give some pointers to the future. They are diverse in nature, but their unity withing the chapter make it worth looking at three of them here.
The first is what we could refer to as the catch. Peter and the others go back to what they know, and start fishing, but to no avail. In many respects, it is similar to the story in Luke Chapter 5 where Jesus tells Simon to put his nets out once more. In both cases, it is Jesus’ intervention that makes the difference. When they follow Jesus’ instruction, the nets are no longer empty, but full. In the case of Luke’s gospel, the instruction goes against the conventional wisdom of when and where to fish, in this case, it is an unrecognised figure whose authority is acknowledged and leads to the bumper catch. In both cases, it is obedience to Jesus that makes the difference. Indeed, it is through the obedience that Jesus is recognised for who he is. Obedience to Christ is a pre-requisite of life as part of his kingdom. The Greek word translated as “haul in” appears twice earlier in the Gospel to describe the bringing in of people to Jesus and the community of salvation. In the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the early disciples were told that they would fish for people. So here we have a metaphor for the church bringing salvation for others. We can do all sorts of things to boost numbers, but unless it is done with the authority of Christ, then it is fruitless. It has been suggested that even the detail that the net was not torn has significance – if it is done with the authority of Christ then the unity of the church is kept.
As they all go ashore, we are presented with a second scene. Jesus welcomes his disciples, providing them with a breakfast of fish and bread. It is worth remembering at this point that the disciples will have been weary. They would have worked all night, at first dispirited by their lack of catch and then later there would have been the physical had work of bringing all those fish to shore. They are presented with a scene that bears a strong resemblance to that final supper when Jesus takes the bread and gives it to them, followed by the fish. Jesus has prepared the meal before they come to shore and it is a reminder that Jesus provides sustenance and support. Jesus prepares the meal as host and feeds his hungry guests – an image that appears throughout the gospels going back to the feeding of the 5,000. Encountering the risen Christ is indeed a time of renewal and in that renewal is the recognition that Jesus is Lord. It is he who sustains us, however weary we become.
The third scene is the one that is perhaps to many the most familiar and probably the most like “unfinished business”. Peter has probably been wracked with guilt since the day of Christ’s trial when he denied him three times. It is this that probably was a motivation for him returning to the life of a fisherman. After all, he was a success at that, having got it wrong as a disciple, falling at the hurdle as he denied his saviour. But it is here that he is given another chance. Jesus asks the question three times, “Do you love me”? Each one corresponds to a denial. Each response is followed up by a command, “Tend my lambs”, then “tend my sheep” and finally “Feed my sheep”. From being a fisherman, Peter was to be a shepherd – a very different role. Peter gains redemption – but his path is to take a whole new turn. Peter is to show his love for Jesus by showing the same love as Jesus did for his flock. In loving like a good shepherd, Peter is to love to the utmost. There are two Greek words for love used in this section. Phileo is brotherly love – agape is detached and selfless love – both are important to our understanding of the love which Jesus shows and demands. There is also a link to the meal that Jesus has prepared. Just as Jesus prepared a meal to sustain and refresh his disciples, Peter is also called to provide sustenance for the flock. And there’s more. Peter is not let off lightly. In order to be a good shepherd, Peter will have to follow a path of danger. Although his death is not described in the gospel, tradition has it that Peter was crucified upside down (he refused to consider himself worthy to die as Jesus did). Instead of denying Jesus, he would proclaim Jesus – even until his own death. Redemption here comes at a cost.
The chronicler of these events – the “disciple whom Jesus loved” was at hand through this. He was not to live for ever as early Christians claimed, but the word remain means that he remained in the community. His witness means that his testimony remains with us even now.
This final chapter is a fitting postscript to the Gospel of John. In it we are shown one last time that the life of a follower of Jesus requires that we follow his commands. It is a life modelled by Jesus – one of selfless service and love and there is the promise of a fresh start although this comes with the challenge that following Jesus may not be down an easy path – but it is that path that leads to life in all its abundance.
Prayers of intercession
In this week of local elections,
we pray for those standing as candidates
and for those who will vote.
May truth be tended and integrity fed
and the way of Christ be followed.
We pray for the people of France for their re-elected president
and the forthcoming National Assembly elections,
and indeed for all those across the world who are elected to power.
May truth be tended and integrity fed
and the way of Christ be followed.
We pray for those entrusted with the administration of justice
and implementation of policies that affect the lives of millions.
We pray for those whose abuse of power leads to the oppression
and even deaths of those who speak out.
May truth be tended and integrity fed
and the way of Christ be followed.
Amen.
We continue to pray for the people of Ukraine.
For those hiding in basements,
for those living in trenches,
for those traumatised by all they have seen, heard and endured.
May they encounter your risen presence in the ruins of their lives
and in the rubble of their cities.
Amen.
We pray for people who feel forgotten as the attention of the world’s media moves elsewhere:
in Afghanistan, in Syria, in The Yemen, and all places of war and hunger.
May they encounter your risen presence in the ruins of their lives
and in the rubble of their cities.
Amen.

And we pray for fishermen today,
those whose nets are emptied by regulations, or climate change,
and all who face danger at sea.
We pray for our stewardship of the rivers and oceans of the world,
that they may be protected from plastic, from all pollution;
and for all creatures in the oceans and seas.
Lord Jesus may we catch on to your teaching, follow your way
and love one another and all creation.
We pray for farmers and those who work the land,
for all whose livelihoods are threatened,
for compassion in farming practices, and for thoughtful planting.
Lord Jesus may we catch on to your teaching, follow your way
and love one another and all creation.
And we pray for one another,
for those we worship alongside,
for those on our hearts,
and for those we know are suffering.
Lord Jesus may we catch on to your teaching, follow your way
and love one another and all creation.
Amen.
Prayers are © ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2022. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

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