Come and Eat Breakfast

John 21:1-19

This week
the words of Peter,
Jesus’ disciple and good friend,
have been floating through my mind.

The night before Jesus dies,
Peter says to Jesus,
“Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

Jesus replies, “Truly, I tell you, this very night
before the rooster crows,
you will disown me three times.”

Peter declares,
“Even if I have to die with you.
I will never disown you.”

I can’t get Peter’s words out of my head:
“Even if all fall away … I never will.”

I wonder how often we might feel like Peter …
even if everyone else messes up …
I’ll do it right.
Why can’t everyone just be like me???
Why can’t everyone just do it my way???

Peter’s self-assurance recalls to me one time,
here at this church,
when the new year had come
and we were passing out star words,
which are stars with one word on it,
meant to guide our way.

I remember I pulled the word: compassion.
I felt so smug.
Oh love, I got this covered!
I already know everything about love!
Yet,
later that year,
I came face-to-face with the truth that
compassion is not just about loving
the people who look like me
or think like me,
but it also about loving people
who I may have fundamental disagreements with.
Compassion is also about loving our enemies,
which is a life-long challenge.
Suddenly I realized,
I have more to learn than I thought.

We have more to learn than we think.

This is the lesson Jesus gives to Peter,
when Peter proclaims:
Surely I will be the one to get it right.

Jesus replies: “Truly, I tell you, this very night
before the rooster crows,
you will disown me three times.”

With these words,
I imagine that
Jesus is inviting us to live from a more honest place:
a place of humility where we can see
both our gifts and graces
as well as our place of growth.

Jesus is inviting us to come face-to-face
with the reality:
We are not always going to get it right.

Jesus’ truth-telling makes me
think of a church in Colorado
called House for All Sinners and Saints.
When you join,
the pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber,
would say to you,
“This church will disappoint you.
Or I will fail to meet your expectations
or I’ll say something foolish and hurt your feelings.
It is not a matter of if, it’s when.
Welcome to House for All Sinners and Saints.”
She would continue,
“We will disappoint you.”

Still she insists, “Stick around after that happens.
Because if you leave,
you miss the way that God’s grace
fills in the cracks
left behind from our brokenness.
It’s something not to miss.”
She relates:
“We are a human community
and we will probably disappoint you.
But we don’t think God will
and in this, and only this,
do we confidently place our hope.”

Nadia’s words of the opposite of Peter’s.
She declares, unabashedly,
We will fall short.

Even if it makes us uncomfortable,
she is telling us the truth.
She doesn’t hide it or deny it
or try to downsize it.
She tells the truth of what is to be human,
placing her trust in God alone.
God alone saves us.

Nadia’s words remind me so much of Jesus’.
This, it seems, is what Jesus says to Peter.
Peter insists he is going to get it right.
And Jesus lovingly corrects him,
informing him,
no you will let me down too.

Jesus’ response is humbling, yes,
but it is also freeing.

Jesus knows Peter’s gonna mess it up.
and still Jesus remains friends with him,
still Jesus stays by him.

“No matter how many times you disappoint me,
I will always love you.”
This truth, Jesus preaches with his life.

How does the story go?

Judas betrays.
The authorities arrest Jesus.
Everyone abandons him.
Peter denies him.
Hatred and violence
crucify him.
And still Jesus abides,
uttering from the cross:
Forgive them,
they know not what they do.

Forgive them.

These words rain down
like a longed for spring downpour;
they gush
over all the thirsty places
of the story and our lives:
Forgive them. Forgive us.
Forgive yourself. Forgive others.
Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.

This is the steady stream
that God pours into our lives,
even when we are smug
and cannot yet see the folly of our ways.

Still,
Jesus catches me by surprise.

When Jesus abides
even in death,
rising on the third day,
Jesus returns not bent on resentment
but focused on restoring relationship.
Shockingly,
the Risen Christ doesn’t waste time on revenge
or storming Pilot’s house,
or parading around in I-told-you-so’s
pomp and circumstance.
Rather,
Jesus comes to friends,
wishing for them to at last turn around,
to see there is another way of living
that is wider, vaster and more beautiful
than the simple contrasts of
us and them,
right and wrong.

Humbly,
Jesus comes looking for us,
waiting through the night on the seashore,
cooking breakfast and bread,
talking to friends
and pulling Peter aside
to make amends.
pulling Peter aside,
and asking him knowingly,
Do you love me?

Jesus doesn’t call Peter out;
Jesus calls Peter back
to what he cares about.
Do you love me? Jesus keeps asking.
Yes, I do, Peter replies desperately.
Feed my sheep,
Jesus responds.
In other words,
live in love,
feed the world,
serve others,
change your life,
turn around..
The love of Jesus radiates
Jesus has not given up on Peter.
Jesus has not given up on us.

Feed my sheep.

Jesus is telling us:
there is still work to do.

Jesus’ instruction
draws me back to another
that he gave during his life.

As an object lesson,
Jesus once said,
“Judge not, that you will not be judged.
For with what judgment you judge,
you shall be judged.
How come you can see the speck in your sibling’s eye,
and can’t see the log in your own eye?
First take the log out of your own eye and
then you will see clearly to take
the speck out of your sibling’s eye.”

Like Peter,
it is so easy to see the speck
in our neighbor’s eye,
but do we see the log in our own?

If we really pick up and hold a log,
we see how big it is
and get a true sense of alarm
about the kind of work we must do.

Never mind our neighbor’s speck,
we need an emergency operation
to get our log out!

Jesus’ words beckon us to spend
99% percent of the time tending to our own log removal,
so that when we do offer guidance to others
who have specks in their eyes,
we can do so from a place of humility
and honesty.

It empowers us to say:
you know what,
log removal, or speck removal,
is a hard thing,
but here is what I learned.

This is exactly what Pastor Nadia Bolz Weber does
in her own ministry.
In her book Accidental Saints:
Finding God in All the Wrong People,
Nadia tells the story of trying to
balance her life once she became
famous and much-desired public speaker.

She didn’t want to disappoint anyone –
neither the audiences that she was speaking to
nor the congregation that she was stilling caring for.

As her speaking engagements ramped up,
she formulated a plan so that she would
not let people down:
hire an assistant,
make as pastoral care appointments
as she could right up to the time she left,
eat real food, get real sleep, get real exercise.

This juggling plates plan worked, for a while.

Then one day,
two of her dear congregants, Jeff and Tracy,
got engaged.
Wanting to make sure that they could get
on their “celebrity pastor’s” calendar,
they called Nadia right away,
before even telling their friends about the engagement,
to make sure that they could get on her calendar,
a year and a half in advance.

Nadia checked the date the mentioned: free.
I am yours, she tells them.
A few months later,
Nadia is reviewing her speaking calendar
and something doesn’t look right.
She texts Tracy,
don’t freak out but what is the date
of your wedding again?
Tracy responds,
September 13th, why?
Suddenly,
Nadia realizes that Sept. 13th is
smack dap in the middle of
a two week speaking tour
she was doing in Australia.
Looking more closely,
she sees that her calendar
didn’t sync with that of her assistant.
Immediately,
she emails the Australia people,
asking can they please, please switch the date.
They reply, they can’t.
They had already spent $10,000 renting a space and printing materials.
Could she send her friend Rachel Held Evans
in her place?
No, Lutheran women are not ordained in Australia,
they needed to hear from her point of view.
Then she turned to Tracy and Jeff,
could they switch the date?
No, their family members had already arranged
their lives around that date.
There was no good solution.
Tracy text her,
This is the time isn’t?
Nadia responds, huh?
Tracy replies,
When you do or say something stupid
And disappoint us.
Nadia texts back,
Yeah, unfortunately I think so.
The next day Tracy email her,

Dear Pastor Nadia, Jeff and I release you from the commitment to do our wedding. As much as this is painful, we understand why our pastor needs to be in Australia. We love you. And we forgive you.

We love you. And we forgive you.

Nadia cried so many tears,
because she needed to be set free.
She needed someone to say to her,
“Nadia, let the stinkin’ plates drop.”
because the fear of dropping them,
and the fear was way worse than having them drop.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.

Nadia tells this story because she realizes that
she needs log removal like all the rest.

Another hymn, “We have come to tell the story”
Sings,
“You are called to set the table,
blessing bread as Jesus blest,
then to come with thirst and hunger,
needing care like all the rest.
Christ be known in all our sharing,
feeding all with signs of love.”

We come, all needing grace and sustenance,
from a God who provides
forgiveness,
log removal,
and mercy
until at last
all obstacles are removed,
and we can see
ourselves and others
clearly:
imperfect,
and loved beyond measure,

In all circumstance,
Jesus stands on the shoreline beckoning us back,
calling, come and have breakfast,
I have prepared for you: a feast of fresh starts.

Amen.

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Categories: Sermons

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