A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

Worth Fixing: A sermon on Restoration John 21 and Genesis 33 November 13, 2020

This sermon was preached on Novemer 15, 2020 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. It can be viewed on our YouTube channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC. Be sure to subscribe!

The texts were:
Genesis 33: 1-17
John 21: 1-19

This summer I noticed that my Surface laptop, that was about five years old, started not holding a charge, was running slower and slower despite attempts by my IT husband to keep it going. I asked Mike how to fix it and his response was “well, it’s probably better to get yourself a new one. It’s lived out it’s life span.” So, I did, I still have the old one, but I don’t know what to do with it now, as with my old cell phone that quit working.  The old tech just doesn’t have any worth. In our disposable society, if something breaks, or isn’t working well, just get rid of it and get a new one. Sadly, in the tech industry, products are not even designed to be fixed anymore, they are designed to be replaced every few years. This is a huge shift in mentality from the past 60 years or so. My grandfather used to have a tv repair side business when my dad was growing up. When’s the last time you took your tv in to be fixed?
When I stop to take a hard look at all the disposables I use in my day, it’s embarrassing. Things I get rid of without a second thought.  Make-up remover, food packaging, paper towels, and the list goes on. Some of that is simply necessary, but I truly wonder how much of it isn’t? This disposable mentality around material goods is having an impact on how we view other parts of our lives, particularly our relationships. The past few months have been rough on relationships for so many reasons, with politics and COVID19 just being two of the big ones. I know I’ve unfriended people on social media and ceased communication with certain people because that relationship was becoming very broken. And I know that certain people have done the same to me for similar reasons. Brokenness upon brokenness has prevailed. Some of those relationships were fine to let go but there were a couple that really hurt. People I have known for decades, friends and family, with whom now there was a serious rift. Serious hurt was being inflicted on one another. And speaking for myself, I found myself in despair and wondering what to do. No longer communicating with them seemed like the easiest, safest and best choice. Again, maybe for some people it was, but for others? I’m not so sure, and I wonder what I could have done differently, or what I should do now to restore what once was? What will I have to give up?

Broken relationships are nothing new, as we read in both our Genesis and John passages today. It took humanity about 2.5 seconds to start harming one another and put our own needs ahead of family and friends. Jacob stole Esau’s birthright for his own gain and security and Peter, after denying Jesus three times for his own safety and well-being, is given a chance to restore his relationship with Jesus. Both men had some work to do to fix what they had broken. They had relationships to restore. In Genesis, Jacob offered Esau tangible gifts that at first Esau refused as he said that he had plenty, but relented after Jacob insisted as he too, had enough. Jacob knew that a simple “I’m sorry” wasn’t adequate. He had to put his money where his mouth was, which in the ancient world was with livestock. The passage ends tenuously as Jacob tells his brother that he will meet him at Seir and then doesn’t go. We don’t know Esau’s reaction to this, but I’m going to guess that more hurt was inflicted by Jacob. Just because Jacob gave up some wealth doesn’t mean that the relationship was restored. Jacob didn’t seem to want to do the hard work of being together in community of putting the pieces back together. Jacob didn’t want to do his piece of restoration, he seemed ok walking away from Esau and moving on to something new. What’s interesting is that God isn’t mentioned at all in this passage. I wonder if either brother had wondered about God’s presence in their relationship what might have been different?

By contrast, Peter didn’t have to wonder about God’s presence, as the resurrected Jesus was before him and six of the other disciples. Peter, the one whom Jesus said he would build his church, had denied Jesus three times at the crucifixion. Peter chose safety and security over the truth of his relationship with Jesus. Jesus offers Peter restoration in the three-fold questioning of “Do you love me?” By the third time Peter felt hurt by Jesus, but this time, stayed in the dialogue, didn’t walk away from the tension. By engaging Peter, Jesus was revealing that God won’t simply give up on us, dispose of us when we hurt each other or God. God will stay in the thick of the relationship, working to restore even if  WE are the ones who broke it. Jesus’ ministry is one of recognizing that whom and what the world names as disposable and unworthy, God names as essential and worth fixing. Jesus is telling Peter, you are worth restoring into relationship with me and more importantly, you will be a part of restoring the world to wholeness and love in my name, follow me.

God says that no matter what we have done or not done, we are worth restoring, we are worth keeping, helping us to see and claim our original purpose, to be a part of God’s restoring love in the world and for the world. Nothing is disposable to God, everything and everyone has purpose and worth and we all have a piece in God’s restoration, God’s vision of wholeness for humanity and creation. This truth has not changed in the past 60 over the time of ministry here at OSLC. As we each contributed a piece to our whole Mandala, we each contribute to the wholeness of the kingdom of God. We contribute to God’s restoration when we give up our need to be right. We contribute to God’s restoration when we stand with and amplify the voices of people who are marginalized for the color of their skin or for whom they love. We contribute to God’s restoration when we place other people’s needs ahead of our own, even if it means limiting our own autonomy. We contribute to God’s restoration of humanity when we care more about people than profit. We contribute to God’s restoration when we give up our own safety, ego, status, and yes, wealth in order to show people that we don’t give up on them.

This is what following Jesus means, and it may not be where we want to go, and it might be more than what we want to give up. Peter would give his very life for the gospel, to be a part of God’s restoration that began in his own life and flowed out to the world. For God, nothing is broken beyond repair, and as the people of God, we give all that we have, all who we are to follow Jesus into the brokenness to be agents of love, hope, grace and restoration. Amen.


But Wait! There’s More! Sermon on John 21: 1-14 May 12, 2017

*From Wednesday April 19th, 2017. I’m catching up on posting sermons! you can watch on http://www.bethany-live.org

Anyone watch the late night infomercials for knives or hoses, or protein shakes or whatever? After the host shows you all of the features of the product that you can’t live without, they say, “but wait, there’s more!” and then either offers you two of the product or bonus items to enhance your product experience. The 21st chapter of John, reminds me of these infomercials. Scholars speculate that this chapter was not part of the original gospel, it was an add on by someone in the Johannine community, an epilogue if you will. Could be the same author, but we really don’t know. It’s as if the writer of the gospel, or someone close to the writer, said, oh but there’s more!

Post resurrection, the disciples might have felt a little lost, perhaps suffering from some post-empty tomb let down. After the euphoria of the initial event wore off and they had seen Jesus and he had blown the Holy Spirit into them (a sort of Pentecost in the book of John), they were left with a “now what??” So life went back to being ordinary. They went fishing, back to their day jobs if you will and it all seemed rather dull. What does being a disciple look like now that Jesus has risen and is no longer with us day to day? They knew what day to day ministry with Jesus in their midst had been like: healing, teaching, miracles, signs. But now?

So fishing it was. But they didn’t catch anything. They had to have been frustrated and disappointed. They couldn’t even succeed at their previous vocation! Then some guy from the shore says, hey did you try the other side of the boat? Yeah, right, like 10 or 15 feet matters on the big sea of Galilea. But they did it, and it did make a difference! In the abundance of the fish, the disciples recognized that it was Jesus who had given them the instructions! Jesus was with them, even when they didn’t recognize him! But wait, there’s more! AND then to top it off, Jesus asked for some of the 153 fish they had caught and cooked breakfast for them! There was plenty for all!

Like the disciples, I think that we quickly forget that with Jesus, there is always more than we can see, more than we can imagine and more waiting for us than we can ever know. We get stuck in the day to day, the ordinary and forgetting that Jesus always meets us in the ordinary and the day to day. The disciples were fishing, not healing, performing miracles, not teaching the Torah, but fishing. Yet, Jesus came to them in that ordinary event to show the extraordinary abundance and grace of God. I don’t think that it’s an accident that the writer of this chapter wants us to make connections with Jesus’ calling the disciples to come and see, connections with God’s abundance in feeding 5,000 with two loaves of bread and five fish, and with the Eucharist meal. Perhaps those in John’s community needed a reminder that Jesus will be present, God’s abundance is real and to trust these promises in the ordinariness of their lives. Perhaps we need these reminders as well.

Reminders to wait, there’s more. What we think is the end, with Jesus, is actually only the beginning. Everyday Jesus calls us into newness of trust in his presence and abundance. How often as the church do we think that we know how to do this ministry thing, that is fish for people. We cast our nets into the waters of thinking that Sunday School, worship, or confirmation programs, or outreach programs or music is the only way to grow ourselves and others as disciples and sometimes we come up empty and we get frustrated, or disappointed. Or we get busy in our lives and become complacent our personal prayer and bible study habits and feel dry or disconnected with God? We get caught in returning to what we always know, getting stuck in ruts and forgetting to look up and see Jesus on the shore asking us to try a new thing. Something that might be as simple as casting on another side though, might make all of the difference. It makes the difference because we’re trusting in what Jesus wants us to do and not how we’ve always done it. How are we being opened up to seeing Jesus anew in a post-resurrection world where everything is different and can never be the same? How do we see that over and over, Jesus comes to us, to show us a new thing and fill our nets, for Jesus provides and provides in abundance, even if we’re not seeing it yet.

This makes me wonder if we think big enough about what God can do in our lives. When the disciples cast their nets on the opposite side of the boat, as Jesus directed them to, it says that they caught 153 fish that they hauled to Jesus on shore. Some have speculated on the importance of that number, but the crux of it is that it’s a lot of fish that they brought to Jesus. And I think that is the point, there’s more! The disciples then hauled the fish to Jesus. Our job is to bring people to Jesus, all people. The disciples didn’t have a say in what fish came, and neither do we. When we forget to look up and see Jesus asking us to do a new thing, who are we excluding from Jesus’ abundance? Jesus is about gathering all of us into his arms and this gets uncomfortable for us. It might mean gathering people whom we don’t like, or don’t like us. People who look different, eat differently, talk differently, think differently. But we’re called to catch them with Jesus’ net of love and inclusion. But wait, there’s more.

The disciples weren’t sure what to make of Jesus appearing to them in their ordinary lives. We too struggle to remember that Jesus indeed, comes to us at school,  when we’re with our friends, at soccer, at work, at home, caring for a loved one, and yes, at church, but not only at church, to show us that there is always more. It’s why we come to the table of Holy Communion when we gather, we gather in the promise that there is more, more Jesus that fills us, meets us here and out in the world. The powerful promise that the writer of the 21st chapter needed us to hear is that there is always more-over and over again, Jesus comes to us, to fill our nets, and provides abundantly. So just wait, there is more! Thanks be to God!