Sermons

"Beach House Lessons": Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year C

"Beach House Lessons": Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year C

May 05, 2019

Passage:John 21:1-14

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Easter

Category: Love, Forgiveness, Post-Resurrection

Keywords: easter, forgiveness, guilt, hope, love, resurrection, shame

Summary:

In John's Gospel, the resurrected Jesus appears to the disciples on the beach, and cooks fish for them. What does it mean particularly for Peter, who had denied even knowing Jesus three times right before the crucifixion, that Jesus is now offering to eat with him? This sermon looks at that question.

Detail:

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

I love the image we have today of the resurrected Jesus on the beach in the Gospel of John. He interacts with his disciples as they are fishing. Then he cooks fish and eats with them in the most natural, wonderful way of love.

I am always drawn to beach scenes.

I love the beach.

My family has always enjoyed beach time when we can get it.

Now that we are moving into May, summer is fast approaching, and perhaps some beach time can be in some of our futures these next few months.

I was talking to my mother this past week, and in our conversation, she  reminded me of beach incident that helped to "shape" me when I was a teenager.

I grew up near the Texas coast.

Dad was a Methodist minister, so as a preacher's kid, I had certain expectations from the congregation (like how I was expected to behave, etc.). But, I will also say that this worked to my advantage at times.

One of the members of our congregation--I'll call her Mrs. "B"--owned a wonderful, large beach house in Galveston, about an hour away from our town. She would often let our church youth group or other members of the congregation use the house for church outings to the beach.

One summer, when I was a teenager, I went to Mrs. B, at the urging of some of my friends. I asked if she would let me and just a few of my friends go stay in the beach house for a weekend.

Mrs. B was skeptical.

She wasn't sure that having unsupervised teenagers at the beach house was a good idea.

But, then I said, almost boasting, "Mrs. B, this is me you're talking to... Robert... The preacher's kid. You know me. We're just going to enjoy the beach. I assure you it's going to be alright."

She said, "Maybe, but I just want to make sure you are responsible."

"Mrs. B... I assure you. It's going to be alright!"

She said, "Well okay, but be careful."

I said for the third time: "Mrs. B, again, nothing will go wrong. I assure you it's going to be alright!"

So she gave me the keys, and that weekend I set out with six of my friends to Galveston.

On the way down, however, one of my friends casually mentions: "Oh, by the way, I let a few others know that we have the beach house for the weekend. They may show up, too."

Then, another friend pipes up. "Yeah, I told a few people too."

Then I hear from everyone in the car, "Me too...Me too... Me too."

I am horrified. I didn't SAY we could invite others. BUT...I didn't say we shouldn't either...

I didn't want to be THAT guy.

Maybe it would be okay.

We get to Mrs. B's beach house and settle in--just the seven of us. But then, others start to arrive. Over the course of the weekend, dozens and dozens of teenagers show up and camp out at Mrs. B's. It's chaos.

They don't respect Mrs. B's property. They don't treat Mrs. B's house as a home. When they finally leave, it's a mess.

I try to clean up...but there's actual damage to the property.

I have failed in my promise.  I am ashamed. I feel like a real coward and betrayer of trust. I don't know what to do.

In the Gospel of John, we find Peter in much a similar state. He, too has made a boast. In chapter 13 Peter boasts that he “would lay down his life” for Jesus. But of course, when the time comes Peter just can't fulfill his boast. He makes it all the way to the courtyard of the high priest, where he stops to warm himself over a charcoal fire. Then he denies Jesus three times before the cock crows. 

We've all been Peter. Whether we have denied being followers of Jesus, or simply fallen victim to our own shame because of boastfulness. In John’s Gospel we also have this wonderful reminder that the story does not end with the shame and guilt of denial and self-anger.

 God’s story in creation is one of perpetual redemption. Jesus IS that narrative incarnate. In the lesson we heard from John today, Jesus sits at a charcoal fire—just like the fire from which Peter launched his great betrayal. This fire, however, signals a reversal of Peter’s shame.

At this fire, Jesus invites Peter to bring him more fish. Peter goes back to the boat and hauls in the 153 fish from the net that does not tear. Peter brings them ashore. Jesus feeds him.

This pattern is also familiar with Jesus. We see it earlier in the gospel when Jesus asks the Samaritan woman for a drink, only to offer her living water so that she may never thirst. In this story, Jesus asks Peter for fish, but ends up feeding him—body and soul. Jesus FORGIVES Peter.

Jesus will never take away the fact that Peter denied him. But Jesus can invite him in, feed him, and ask him to feed his sheep. Jesus takes away the shame of failure. Jesus redeems us in love and community.

........................

  I drove back to Mrs. B's house to let her know what had happened. This was the most difficult and shameful confrontation of my life up that point. I, Robert, the preacher's kid, had assured her, that all would be just fine. I had let her down. I had let my father down. I had let myself down.

I arrive at her door with the key to the beach house.

She invites me in. She asks me to sit.

I'm overwhelmed with my own shame and guilt.

I tell her about my friends inviting so many others. I also confess my failure to stop it because of my desire to fit in. I offer to pay for damages from an after-school job.

Mrs. B smiles at me and says: "This had to be hard for you to come tell me about this today."

"Yes ma'am."

"I'm so glad you did. We have that beach house for people to enjoy. Why don't you help me lead the church youth group on a trip down to the beach house for a cleanup, and then we'll all have a fun weekend at the beach."

I am shocked and surprised by her response. I say, "You trust me to lead it?"

She answers, "Absolutely! Robert, you know that one mistake does not define you. It's how you move on from that mistake, knowing you are loved and how you love others."

Mrs. B and her beach house, as part of the Body of Christ, fed me on that beach, just as the risen Lord fed his disciples. She forgave me and removed my guilt and shame.

May we follow in that path for others.

Amen.