Readings, Notes and Prayers: 29 April, 2001
Easter Three, Year C, White
Verse of Scripture Psalm 118:1
I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit. Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name.
Collect Prayer for the Day-Before we read we pray
Almighty Father, who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples with the sight of the risen Lord: give us such knowledge of his presence with us, that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life and serve you continually in righteousness and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." (This is the Word of the Lord-Thanks be to God)
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught." Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!" (This is the Word of the Lord-Thanks be to God)
Post Communion Prayer
Living God, your Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in all his redeeming work; who is alive and reigns, now and for ever
One aspect, which springs from the resurrection of Jesus, is that it has so much to do with new beginnings. The readings set for today are very much focused on the new beginning of Paul, or Saul, as he was then known, and also with the new beginning for Peter.
The call of St Paul on the road to Damascus is considered to be a classic example of a conversion experience, in which a person undergoes a profound change of mind. We can all imagine how Paul must have been terrified when he was struck blind, and how he must have wondered what was going to happen to him. Also, we can understand the hesitation of Ananias in not wanting to go and meet this man who had been so enthusiastic in the persecuting the followers of Jesus. We must admire the faith and courage of Ananias in going to meet Paul, and then all must have marvelled when Paul's conversion produced a complete turn-around in his behaviour, from being a persecutor of Christians to one of their greatest leaders and evangelists.
This account of Paul's experiences tells us what can happen when a person is confronted by the living Christ and makes a completely new beginning. But of course, at the centre of that new beginning is the image of the crucifixion, and we are reminded that the freshness of the new beginning comes in turn from the freshness of the resurrection life which itself was purchased at the cost of sacrificial love. This means that there is a connection between the self-disclosure of Jesus as 'the one whom you are persecuting' and his promise to Ananias 'I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name'. Clearly the servant will not be above his Master. This idea is developed in Revelations where there is praise at the vision of God: it is the Lamb who was slain who was considered worthy enough to receive 'power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing'.
In the passage from St John's Gospel we have another new beginning. Here, the disciples who knew and followed Jesus in his earthly life had returned to their old patterns of life. Could it be that Peter's decision to go fishing was really as a way of getting time to think things through, or a sort of cathartic activity? Could it be a desire to return to the old ways, when life, before Jesus' arrival, was that much less complicated and so much more secure? Or could it be that Peter had gone fishing simply because he needed something to eat? Whatever the reason, the incident set up the opportunity for an encounter between Jesus and his disciples, and provided the context in which Jesus was able to show himself to and renew his love, confidence and trust in Peter.
J. B. Phillips' translation of this chapter, I believe, got at the real meaning of the incident rather nicely when he wrote that Jesus asked Simon Peter if he loved him, and Peter replied, ' Yes, Lord, you know that I am your friend.' Jesus asked the question again, and again Peter replied, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I am your friend.' The third time, Jesus asked, 'Simon, son of John, are you my friend?' This caused Peter to feel deeply hurt because Jesus' third question used Peter's own language - 'Are you my friend?' - and Peter replied using the same expression, 'You know that I am your friend!'
The second way in which the language played an important part is when Jesus used different expressions in his conversation with Peter for the role he will play as the leader of the church and in exercising his pastoral care - 'feed my lambs', 'care for my sheep', and 'feed my sheep'.
In these passages, both Paul, the completely new, and Peter, the renewed, had their place in the work and mission of God; and both their 'newnesses' had their origin in the resurrection of Jesus, with whom everyday is a new beginning, every fall a new start, and every encounter an opportunity for conversation and deepening of the relationship.
If we look at Psalm 30, which will not be read during the services today, then it could almost have been written for these two disciples. The one whose misplaced zeal which led him to persecute and then suffer blindness, the other who denied Jesus and then ran away in great distress: for both, God, 'rich in mercy' restored them to life 'from among those gone down to the Pit'. Peter Littleford
Lord Jesus - you come to us you confront us about how we are living our lives梱ou come and you challenge us, as you challenged Peter, to answer the question, "Do you love me?" Help us dear Lord to answer the question as did Peter梙elp us to answer it not only with words - but by how we care for one another - for how we feed one another梑y how we tend one another. Make us disciples who are worthy of that title - make us a people who actually follow you梐 people who actually learn from you梐nd most of all梐 people who actually do what you want us to do - a people who feed and tend your sheep - both those within the fold - and those who are lost beyond its gates.
Loving Father - hear our prayers for those who would be enemies to you and to your church and to the love that we owe our brothers and sisters in this world. Bring them, as you brought Paul, to a deep love for your Son and our Redeemer.
Tender and Merciful Saviour - hear too our prayers at this time for all who need your healing and redeeming love to touch their lives in a special way, those we name in our hearts before you
We praise you, O Lord, for hearing us and calling us to come unto you. And we give you thanks for the challenge and for the assurance of our faith - the challenge to follow Jesus wherever he may lead, and the assurance we see in his life and death and resurrection. We thank you and we pray to you in his most glorious name. Amen
Gracious God, girded with gladness, we come rejoicing before you. You are the God of salvation. We give you praise. When we cry for help you hear us; from out of the pit you rescue us. You have turned our mourning into dancing, you have loosed our sackcloths and adorned us with favour. Today, O Lord, we raise our voices in faithful thanksgiving, in prayer, and in song. We ask that you would continue to grace us and that al we say and do in this place, and beyond it, give glory and honour to Your wondrous name. AMEN.
Wonderful God - stretch our understanding of your love - expand the size of our hearts - help us embrace your purpose for us - grant that we may grow beyond ourselves - and enter the fullness of your grace. We ask it in Jesus' name. - Amen
Lord, remind us that we must "be" the church if we are to "be the church" in mission. Help us to continue to grow in the likeness of Christ by the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. Only by continued growth in him can we be released for mission to the lost, the poor, the broken. We would be instruments, O God, of extending the ministry of Jesus and his kingdom for your good pleasure. To serve you all our days is our hearts' fervent desire. Amen.
Hymns (Mission Praise)
1). We sing the praise of him who died, 738 (Tune 2 in Hymns and Psalms No 182) 2). Rejoice, rejoice, 572,
3). Healing God almighty Father 226, 4). Dear Lord and Father 111, 5). Come and see the shining hope 86