Living as a Servant of Others

The St. John’s Pulpit

St. John’s Baptist Church 300 Hawthorne Lane Charlotte, NC 28204 704.333.5428 www.stjohnsbaptistchurch.org

LIVING AS A SERVANT OF OTHERS

Gospel of John 21:15-19

Third Sunday in Eastertide, May 5, 2019

by Senior Minister, Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD

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In Fiddler On The Roof. Tevyev and his wife Golde are being forced to move from their home in Russia. One day Tevyev asks his wife, “Golde, do you love me?” “Do I what?” “Do you love me?” Golde looks at him and says: “Do I love you? With our daughters getting married and this trouble in the town, you’re upset, you’re worn out, go inside, go lie down, maybe it’s indigestion.”

Tevyev interrupts her and asks again, “No, Golde, I’m asking you a question; do you love me?” Golde sighs and says, “You’re a fool!” He smiles saying, “I know; but do you love me?”

“Do I love you? For 25 years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked your cow. After 25 years, why talk about love right now?”

Tevyev answers, “Golde, the first time I met you was on our wedding day. I was scared.

She said, “I was shy.” He said, “I was nervous.” She replied, “So was I.”

Tevyev remembered, “But my father and my mother said we’d learn to love each other, and now I’m asking, Golde, do you love me?”

“I’m your wife. For 25 years I’ve lived with him, fought with him, starved with him, 25 years my bed is his! If that’s not love, what is?” “Then you love me?” Tevyev asks.

“I suppose I do!” she says. He smiles, “And I suppose I love you too!” Then, they sit down together and both say, “It doesn’t change a thing, but even so, after 25 years, it’s nice to know.”

In your relationship with God, revealed through Jesus, do you ever say, “Jesus, I love you.”

“Do you love me?” is the question Jesus asked Simon Peter in this closing scene of John’s Gospel. This resurrection narrative teaches:

When you really love someone, you do what your love for them inspires you to do.

You’ll recall, Simon Peter followed Jesus his entire ministry and was part of Jesus’ inner circle.

He proclaimed Jesus to be the Son of God and called the other disciples to a deeper commitment. Simon Peter declared his willingness to die with Jesus and then, just a few hours later, following Jesus’ arrest, Peter denied knowing Jesus – on three different occasions.

A few days passed between those denials and Jesus’ appearance on the beach in this story.

Simon Peter and the other disciples had been in the presence of Jesus following his resurrection.

But there had been no reference to any moment of reconciliation between Jesus and Simon.

Then, over fish breakfast on the beach, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Do you love me,” three times.

Beloved, each of us is present in this conversation between Simon Peter and Jesus.

On this side of Easter, we need to have a spiritual conversation with the Lord of our living.

Consider two ideas arising from this resurrection narrative.

1. Jesus Calls You Forth from the Tomb of Your Self-Condemnation, Guilt and Shame.

Morton Kelsey proposes “you cannot love others until you view yourself through Divine love.”

You are loved with a love that looks beyond your failures and faults to use your gifts in service.

You may be like Simon Peter; living in the tomb of guilt and shame.

In your spirit, you may sense that you have failed the Lord in some way.

Simon Peter’s denial of Jesus had changed his view of himself.

His purpose had died and he needed to be raised from the tomb of his failure.

Jesus called life to emerge again from that tomb of despair and guilt.

Each resurrection narrative calls you to be God’s Easter People.

In this story, you are called forth from your tombs of failure to feed and tend one another.

And, for you to express your love to Jesus, you must embrace how the God of love embraces you.

I encourage you to write down some sentences that help you remember how God loves you.

Carry these thoughts with you and reflect on them for a few minutes each day.

Jesus emphasized, ‘love your neighbor as you love yourself.” In other words, you cannot love one another or love your neighbor if you refuse to love yourself the way God loves you.

Jesus Calls You Forth from the Tomb of Your Self-Condemnation, Guilt and Shame.

2. Jesus Shows You How to Live as a Servant of Others.

As you experience the God of gracious compassion, you are inspired to tend and feed others the way the God of love is revealed to you in Jesus.

A legend in The Talmud tells of a Rabbi who asked Elijah ‘how to find the Messiah.’

Elijah suggested that he go ask the Messiah himself.

The Rabbi asked, “Where is he and how will I recognize him?

Elijah explained, “He is sitting by the city gate among the needy who are covered with wounds.

The needy unbind all their wounds at the same time.

But the Messiah unbinds his wounds one at a time saying to himself:

“Perhaps I will be needed by someone else today.”

OUR WORD, ‘COMPASSION’ IS RELATED TO THE ANCIENT WORD FOR ‘WOMB’

As you allow room for God’s compassion to grow within you, your capacity for compassion increases. Jesus shows you how to live as a servant by:

– identifying where pain exists and moving toward the need; and

– making room within himself to carry the needs of another so new life can emerge.

On my first visit to Capernaum, I looked down into Peter’s house; one of the most completely explored sites in Israel. There is a round room in the center of the house where early Christian believers gathered to worship. In one excavation of the house, two fish hooks were found. One archaeologist proposed Peter left his fish hooks behind so he could feed and tend Jesus’ sheep.

Beloved, in this season of Easter, please remember – the greatest miracle of all is what happens in your heart when you allow the God of love to move failures aside so new compassion can be brought to life. Amen and AMEN.

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