Sermon: “Welcomed into the Presence of the Resurrected Jesus”
Lectionary Series C; Third Sunday of Easter
Sunday, May 5, 2019
Gospel Reading: John 21:1-14
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
My grandfather was fascinated with native Americans and nature. He loved to study native American culture, and he loved to explore God’s gift of nature all around him. He was also a very soft spoken man who rarely ever spoke much. But when he did, he would share with you pieces of wisdom that he had learned in his studies or on his walks in the field or the woods.
Unfortunately, as a young, active boy, I was rarely ever interested in hearing what my grandfather had to say. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to study Native Americans. I also couldn’t figure out why anyone would navigate nature as slowly as he did. The outdoors were for playing in, not meandering about with eyes of curiosity.
From my perspective as a young boy, time with my grandfather was really…well…boring. In my mind, grandpas and grandmas were supposed to be there for me to keep me entertained. My grandfather just didn’t do that for me. Instead, he kind of kept me bored.
If only I could go back in time and knock some sense into my younger self to help him see and appreciate what he was missing. To help him to realize that in those stories of Native Americans and walks throughout the woods and the fields were truly some of the best moments in my life. To be in the presence of someone who loved me enough to spend time with me and share his wisdom with me…there simply is not much that could be greater. As I share this, I must confess that I do so with a great deal of guilt and regret.
It is quite honestly the same way I approach this text for today. You see, in reading it through and studying it, I found myself to be…well…rather bored. There was nothing entertaining in it. There was nothing exciting. Nothing that gripped me and said, now that’s going to be a rocking’ awesome sermon, if ever there was one. It’s just rather bland, if you ask me. And bland is boring.
I share all of this with a great deal of guilt and regret. Far be it from me, a pastor, to tell you that God’s Word is boring. But, I am just being honest. Take into consideration where we have just been as of late in the Scriptures.
We have witnessed Jesus enter into the streets to shouts of “Hosanna”. We have listened to the plotting and scheming of the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day as they sought to kill Jesus. We have beheld Jesus wash His disciples feet and give them the Lord’s Supper. We have gathered at the foot of the cross and listened to Jesus cry out “It is finished!” as He died our death. We have joined with Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, and all those who witnessed the resurrection. We have heard Thomas as he would not believe, and then Jesus came and let him touch His hands and His side after He had been raised from the dead.
All of these have been exciting texts to preach on. Entertaining texts as well. Today, it is just not so. Today, we hear of the disciples going back to work. They got in their boat and they caught nothing. Then some guy they can’t recognize at first on the beach tells them to throw the net on the other side of the boat. They do it, and they catch 153 fish.
Now to those that fish, that would be exciting. I don’t fish, so honestly, it doesn’t grab me that much. What’s more, I have heard of Jesus doing that before. I have heard him turn five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food for five thousand men, plus women and children. I have heard of him do that again for four thousand men, plus women and children. So, quite honestly, this text seems to lack pizazz. I am left bored with a simple invitation from Jesus who is on the shore by the fire who says, “Come and have breakfast.”
You see, it just seems that with all of the pomp and circumstance that we have had as of late, that the readings would keep the momentum going. It would seem that after the resurrection from the grave, the excitement would just keep building from there. But that is not what happens. Instead we get invited to listen in on a meal on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. And what’s more, there isn’t much said either. It’s really quite a bland conversation. And bland is boring.
We live in a day and age where the demand for the exciting and entertaining is at an all-time high. We expect to be amused at all times, and heaven forbid that we might have to sit somewhere and just pause for a moment with nothing to do. But that’s not how our minds operate in this digital age.
Now that everything is a mere click away, we expect that we will be entertained at all times. What’s more, not only do we expect it, we don’t know how to navigate life without it.
I once watched a YouTube video, (ironic, I know, as I talk about the demand to be entertained). In that video a group of girls were challenged to a media fast apart from their cellular devices and other forms of screen time. What do you think their response was, especially for the first few hours? They freaked out. They didn’t know what to do. And the constant mantra was, “I’m so bored.” But after adjusting for awhile, they started to find great enjoyment in time together, playing games, baking. Plus, they slept better. They found that they didn’t have to be entertained by their phones 24/7.
If we are not careful, our so-called need to be entertained would have us miss the remarkable reality present in this text. I must confess that I missed it the first time I read through it. Do you know what that remarkable reality is?
Jesus is there. The One who was nailed to a cross to suffer for the sins of the world…the One who cried out to His Father on our behalf…the One who breathed His last breath, died, and was buried. He is the One who is on the shore calling for His disciples to come have breakfast with Him. The One who was dead, is now alive.
Lord forgive us whenever we would be bored with such a reality. And yet that is one of the top criticisms of being in church. It’s too boring. Why should we come to church if we are not going to be entertained? It’s the same old stuff again and again. There’s nothing new. The pastor says the same things each week. I’ve heard all those Bible stories before. Wake me up when something new comes along. Better yet, don’t wake me up, I will just stay here and worship St. Mattress.
Our necessity for the exciting and entertaining has dulled our wits to the beautiful reality of the resurrection. Just because we have heard something before doesn’t mean that it has somehow lost its shock and awe. A dead person is alive. And not just a moment where the person might have been gone and their heart started beating again. No, Jesus was dead and buried in a tomb from Friday until Sunday. There was no life in Him at all. Then by God’s awesome power, He was raised back to life. This is not bland or boring news by any stretch of the imagination.
Yet, that is so often our response. It’s why churches continue to dwindle in attendance, Bible classes and Sunday School classes lack for students of the faith. Somehow, there are more exciting things to do, more entertaining things to do…than be welcomed into the presence of the resurrected Jesus.
After all, that is what takes place here. The same Jesus who met His disciples by the shore after being raised from the dead comes here to us today. He welcomes us to simply rest in His presence, to be still and know that He is God.
Being still is tough. Just ask that boy at the beginning of the sermon who sat there wiggling about as his grandfather tried to tell him stories of Native Americans and facts about nature. Most of us could probably relate when it comes to the Divine Service.
What goes through our mind when the service goes longer than an hour? What goes through our mind when the pastor challenges us to take an additional hour for Bible Class and Sunday School? What goes through our minds when the service goes long and the football game starts at noon?
Yet here we are, invited into the presence of the almighty God just like those disciples were on that beach. And how often, like I said I was when I first read this text would say, we are just bored. As I said, I say this with a great deal of regret and guilt. Because I can say it’s happened to me too.
The selfish desires of the flesh pull at us so hard. It’s just so difficult to truly just stop and appreciate all that Jesus has done for us. And that’s the beauty of this text. It invites us to take a moment of pause. A moment to ponder what it means to truly be in the peaceful presence of the resurrected Christ. To know that everything He said He was going to do, He did for us…because He loves us.
And what’s more, He is here today to serve us. He serves us Himself. Though we don’t deserve it in the least, though we have traded time with Him in for countless worldly things, He still welcomes us here…into His presence. It is here that He serves as our host. It is here that He says, “Take and eat, take and drink.” And so we do. And once again our sins are forgiven. Our salvation is secured. And we may be at peace…as we are welcomed into the presence of the resurrected Jesus. In His name. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.