The world turns fast sometimes. There are some days I feel like the world is spinning faster and I’m just holding on to keep up. Yes, a week only has 7 days, but oh my what we can fit in 7 days or what others may expect us to fit in 7 days. And sometimes what I heard just 7 days ago seems to be somewhere in the cobwebs. So let’s slow things down a little. Let’s revisit a little.
Seven days ago the Gospel lesson that was heard came to us from John chapter 20. The resurrected Christ comes to the disciples in the midst of their spinning worlds and first offers them peace and forgiveness, and then tells them to go out sharing the same thing. He sends the students out to become the teachers of peace and forgiveness to all corners of the world. Wow what a chapter from the book of life! John Chapter 20 begins with the resurrection of Jesus Christ and concludes with sending his followers out to change the world.
So where do we pick up these 7 days later?
When we turn the page from chapter 20 and begin chapter 21 of the Gospel of John, where do we find these sent disciples?
What corner of the world are they?
What peace are they sharing?
Who are they forgiving?
What great acts are they doing in the name of the risen Lord?
Well they’re out…out of that locked room. That’s good.
But where are they?
They’ve gone fishin!..that’s where they are.
Fishin’ for men and women to tell them about the Lord?!
They’re literally out there. Gone fishing.
Almost seems like the 3 years of following Jesus,
of witnessing miracles,
of seeing forgiveness lived out,
and bodies, minds and spirits fed…it almost seems like none of that ever happened!
They’ve returned back to the work they did before…before the days of being called as disciples…before Jesus.
They’re acting like the resurrection never happened.
Did they all get collective amnesia, and forget who they are?
What in the world is happening?
And to answer that, let me tell you a story I heard this past week about a priest and a fighter pilot.
There were two brothers, one was a priest and the other a fighter pilot. And the priest was visiting the training area, and because his brother had some clout the priest was able to actually go into the flight simulator. For this man of the cloth, this was quite the extraordinary event. He got to see what his brother did, but also see the chaos and crisis of what battle could entail. And as he got out of the simulator, shaking and a bit unnerved, the priest asked his brother, “Why do you put people through that?!”
The fighter pilot answered, “Well, when crisis happens, we always think that we can rise to the occasion. But none of us do.
In truth, when crisis happens, we revert to our training.”
So what did the disciples do when crisis occurred?
They reverted back to their training.
Reverted back to what they knew. Fishing.
But even that wasn’t working for them.
And that’s when Jesus shows up. And again offers them basic training.
Training that can be boiled down to three simple words: love, feed, follow.
Love. Feed. Follow.
I’ve been thinking about those three simple words that are the basis of Jesus’ training for us. And with those words in my mind’s eye, I found myself looking out into the world and seeing where Jesus shows up. Let me tell you about just a few of the places where I have witnessed loving Jesus, feeding his sheep, and following our Lord.
And how basic training has been a part of it all.
I can tell you that I witness the love of the Lord every time I have the privilege of sharing the Lord’s supper with you. I have the distinct privilege of sharing with you God’s grace made physical in bread and wine. And I love doing that, but this week I got to witness to that love in a more quiet venue of a nursing home. It was my post-Easter home bound visit to a member who couldn’t physically come to the our Easter sage’s service. I had tried to see her a month ago, and missed her and really wanted to catch her this month because I know her memory is fading. When I enter the room I don’t know if the name “Pastor Sarah” or even “St. Peter’s” will illicit meaning for her.
What struck me deeply was that when it came time to share communion, she said word-for-word the Lord’s Prayer. She couldn’t remember my name, the name of the church didn’t really have great meaning, but the words of a prayer she had been saying her whole life did.
Her basic training of praying to the Lord.
And when I blessed the bread and placed it in her outstretched hands, she closed her eyes and said, “Thank you Lord.”
Again that one interaction of quiet communion speaks of a lifetime of shared meals at the table of the Lord. The years that when coming to the altar she encountered the Christ, and that when taking the bread into her hands she knew that somehow Jesus showed up and blessed her. And regardless of the crisis of memory loss, the training of years of this holy encounter guides her still to see her Lord, even when all else seems to fail.
I witnessed another training event…this time in the halls of this church.
The other day I was walking down the hallways of St. Peter’s and ran into several people, all tending the Lord’s sheep. A number of you were getting ready for the monthly community meal hosted by Grace Lutheran Downtown and preparing dinner to be shared. That meal would fill the bellies of many in our downtown community.
And in those meals where bread is broken and grace is shared, Jesus shows up.
With lots of grace to go around, and still the blessings continued to pour with the abundance of food being shared with the Lancaster Transitional Living Center feeding veterans and the homeless of our area.
I took a few steps further down the hallway of our church, and I saw some of you straightening clothes and readying for Lydia’s Closet, so that children in our community can be dressed in a way that makes them feel good and and feel tended to. And I was struck about how just a walk down one hallway, tells the story of following Jesus’ command.
Feed my sheep. Tend my sheep.
And that the basic training you are engaging in is rising to the occasion to meet the crisis moments of brothers and sisters in our community.
Another training event didn’t happen in a hallway, but happened in a raceway.
Last weekend I was at a 5k race in Downtown Lancaster. I got to be part of the YWCA’s Race Against Racism. As the literature of the event explains funds raised go to Social Justice and Advocacy programs, and supports those who seek peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.
Now that can be a mouthful to explain why you’re running a race. I was there that day because someone invited me. I was also there because I believe that as a community we have the power to stand up against racism. And I witnessed just that.
What I got to see with my own eyes were thousands of people, runners, walkers, the athlete, the child, the octogenarian…all from various backgrounds running together and saying “no” to discrimination and “no” to hate. And though my eyes were filled with the witness of thousands, it was the interaction between one mom and her child that caught my attention.
The child was getting ready for the run and in mid-stretch asked, “Mom, why are we here today?”
The mom turned the child and said, “Because we follow Jesus’ Golden rule. That’s why.”
That one interaction says volumes of the training that occurs within that family. The training that we treat each other as we wish to be treated, that we love, as God wishes us to love, and that when Jesus says ‘follow me’ sometimes the course takes the shape of a 5k run.
Friends, the world turns quickly. Sometimes 7 days feels like 7 weeks. And you know that crisis and chaos can happen.
And as the fighter pilot said to the priest, in those times of chaos and crisis, we revert back to our training.
So here’s the question for today: how’s your training going?
It’s one of the reasons why we gather here today. To work on our training. And to come to the places where Jesus shows up.
It’s here in this place that we come to love and be loved, because Jesus shows up!
It’s here in this place that we practice what it means to feed God’s sheep and fill them with bread and dignity.
It’s here in this place that we practice what it means to follow Jesus to the paths that offer peace, forgiveness, and God’s kingdom.
Love. Feed. Follow.
Jesus’ simple words to us.
Lifelong training that ultimately gives life.