“All Hands On Deck: Launch”
November 20, 2022 - Cobleskill United Methodist Church - Pastor Anna Blinn Cole
Christ the King Sunday
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’”
For the past few weeks we’ve been hearing stories in church about Jesus with his disciples on boats. Not only is it nice to think about boats and seas on cold New York days like today, but I’ve chosen these stories because they capture important and key moments in Jesus’ life and they teach us simple lessons about how to live our lives.
Lessons like letting go, which we heard about the first week. Leaving behind that which we do not need. We talked about the things in our lives that tend to distract us from our greater purpose. Things like the accumulation of wealth and the filling of our schedules with things that aren’t life-giving. When we hold so tightly to our time and our money that we are unwilling to let them go for God’s purposes, we are holding them too tightly. Everything we have has been given to us as a gift from God. Everything! We might think it’s ours and only ours, but truly it’s a blessing God. And if we’re hoarding all the blessing we’ve been given, then what does that say about our thankfulness? It’s like the Dad who bought his son an order of french fries and at the table asked if he could try one, but the son said no. Sure, we could be like that. But what does that say about our gratefulness for receiving the gift in the first place? Being generous requires letting go.
Being generous also requires taking risks. The second week, last week, we heard stories about storms that threatened boats and the disciples inside. Despite appearances, it’s not always smooth sailing. In each of those storms, Jesus had one simple lesson. Do not be afraid and keep your faith. Things in our lives will get hard and unpredictable. You will be tempted to panic and be consumed by fear. Reach inside to what you know is true. Find the love God has for you and put all your faith in that. Trust that God will see you through every uncertainty. Trust that sometimes we may need to take a step into the storm if helps us to get to the other side. Trust that God will provide.
This brings us to today when we hear one final boat story and, really, the culmination of Jesus’ entire teaching. The story comes from the very last chapter of the very last gospel and it goes like this: Jesus had died and risen from the grave. The disciples were still trying to understand this as Jesus occasionally appeared to them in the following weeks. This was one of those days but they didn’t know it yet. Seven disciples were out in a boat trying to fish but having no success. The dawn breaks. They’ve been out all night and they head back in. But a figure from the shore calls out, it’s Jesus but they don’t yet recognize him. He tells them to go back out and try again. He gives them a next step. Put your nets on the other side of the boat. They listen to him and the nets are amazingly filled beyond what any of them could imagine.
They come to shore and they realize who this figure on the shore is. He’s cooking over a fire and offering them a meal. Abundance and hospitality, like the last supper they had had with him before his death. It’s Jesus. It could only ever have been Jesus.
And then Jesus has a somewhat shocking question for Peter, that same man who had wrestled with his faith all throughout these stories: “Do you love me?” Peter immediately says back, of course I love you! (perhaps slightly offended that he had to be asked…). But without hesitating Jesus replies, “Feed my sheep.” As if to love God came with an implication. If you love God, you will also take care of God’s people! If you love God, you will respond in a way that benefits others not just yourself. If you love God, it will show!
Peter, bless his heart, had a history of not getting important things the first time (sometimes I think he and I are related). So Jesus asked him again, “do you love me?” and Peter replied again “yes, you know I do” and Jesus said, again, what should be implied in that love, “then tend my sheep.” And as if two times wasn’t enough, Jesus asked once more. “Do you love, me?”...”Lord, you know that I love you.”.. Then “feed my sheep.”
Of all the times they had been together in boats, this was the moment when the mission actually launched.
Jesus showed up with them one last time and showed them not only that abundance was possible, but that with abundance comes responsibility. Take what God has given you and take care of those around you.
We don’t give back from our abundance because God needs our money. God doesn’t. We don’t give back because the church needs our money. We give back because we’ve known the love of God, and the only authentic response is to want others to know that love, too. When we get this, our life as individuals and as a community begins to launch into its true purpose.
Today is like New Year’s Eve in the church. This is the last Sunday of the church year, called Christ the King Sunday. Next Sunday begins a new liturgical church year as we begin Advent. So my question for you today is this: How are we being called to take the abundant blessings that God has given us and use them to feed and nurture others in the coming year? How are we being called to launch?
Here are a few:
We dream that this is a place where everyone can be loved. A sacred and healing place where people are accepted and loved as they are. We dream of growing the programs and ministry of this church so that they reach people who feel lost and left behind with God’s message of unconditional love.
We dream that this beautiful space that we have been blessed with can continue to connect more people with that which is sacred. We believe God speaks through beauty and we want the neighborhood to hear. We dream of a growing music ministry to fill this space with new sounds. A language that communicates divine love, indeed.
We dream of community. These years have brought a lot of trauma, grief and isolation. How can we provide support with and for those most effected by grief?
We dream of youth and children’s programs that continue to nurture empathy and compassion so that we raise a new generation that finds ways to break down barriers and build bridges instead.
We dream of going deeper in our connections with the hundreds of community members who come to our church’s outreach ministries weekly.
We dream that we can continue to care for this building, which is a gift to us, so that we can not only use it for our ministries, but share it with others in need. At last count, we provide ministry, meeting or storage space to 16 community non-profit organizations.
And when Jesus says “feed my sheep,” we want to make sure we’re offering good, wholesome food. No junk food. Nothing that only tastes good at first but offerings no lasting nourishment. In world where Christianity has become known for its divisiveness, judgment and exclusiveness, we want to help create a world where Christianity is a voice for justice, solidarity, and peace. Cobleskill is where we’ve been called. Cobleskill is where we’ll tend.
You help make all of this happen when you respond to God’s abundant love with your generosity. We have an exciting year ahead. God is launching us into deep waters where there is tremendous need. And together we’ll answer the call.
Grace and Peace,