FALLING IN LOVE ALL OVER AGAIN
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
In these weeks after Easter, we are considering what this good news of Jesus’ resurrection means for us. We start with the simple facts ... the empty tomb; the cast aside grave clothes; the witness of the angels; the appearance to Mary and the other women and finally the disciples, including Thomas, who like us all, struggled to accept the completely unheard of news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
We then begin to understand that Jesus’ resurrection is the start of something new -- a new creation, a new covenant and relationship with God, a whole new world, and of course, a new us. But how, how can we who have grown old be born again?
Now we move past simply accepting the fact that Jesus is alive, risen from the dead. He is there. He cooks. He eats. And on this particular morning, none of the disciples is surprised that its the Lord. So Jesus is doing something more here after Easter than just reassuring the disciples that his resurrection is for real. He is leading his disciples back to the beginning, to the place where it all started, where Jesus first called and chose them.
First we talked about being alive.
Now we talk about love. After all that’s happened, Jesus asks, “do you love me?”
Like a couple returning to the place where they first met years later ... looking into each other’s eyes and saying, “Do you love me?”
Love is different here, from this perspective ... it is deeper because it comprehends the true nature of life together, of is truly meant by faithfulness and by commitment ... through all that life offers.
There is joy here, but also the sadness and the pain that comes from knowing and remembering ... Peter’s denial. His unfaithfulness. Love is different here because it also understands the pain, the sorrow and suffering when love grows cold ... or when it is denied ... or betrayed. There is no guarantee that the awkwardness of this meeting with Jesus will end happily.
Jesus’ love is steadfast. It has shown itself in the cross. In his faithfulness to the Father to death. In his loving trust in the Father for resurrection. In his appearance and forgiveness of disciples who deserted him. That is important for us to remember ever and always. Jesus’ love is steadfast and sure. He loves you to the end ... but he will take the awkward and uncomfortable risk of putting himself out there to us ... as he did to Peter.
How many times did Peter deny knowing or associating with Jesus? Three times.
Three times around the fire.
So, three times ... let’s try again. “Do you love me?” ... there’s the risk of the whole venture ... what if, after all of this, Peter simply doesn’t love Jesus anymore? Peter says, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.” Peter says that ... three times. Three times to take away the guilt and pain and sin of each denial. Peter says, “Yes, Lord ... you know that I love you!” .... But what about you?
Jesus’ forgiveness and Peter’s repentance and from this -- reconciliation, and from this reconciliation the promise that their life together is redeemable -- because there is love. But what about you?
It is no accident that Jesus, in his steadfast love, meets his closest friends and followers back at beginning, to start again, to fall in love all over again. A lot has happened since they first started following Jesus. Everything changed. Jesus has been revealed to be the Lord and the Christ. God’s one and only Son, but do we love him now ... now that we know the cross?
The evangelist is aware that we have been brought back to the beginning, as well. If we learned last week that Jesus’ resurrection gives us a new start and a forgiven and reconciled relationship, we learn this week that this relationship is a relationship of love, faithfulness and allegiance to Jesus. And so Jesus asks us again ...
Do you love me? Jesus asks
Do you love me? Jesus asks
Do you love me? Jesus asks
Follow me. Jesus says.
There is a motion to this text that restarts the story and invites us to enter into it a second time, to be born again by Jesus’ death and resurrection and to return to all that Jesus has said and done with the new knowledge of the end as a way to understand and interpret what is happening.
The Gospel is an open-ended story. It draws to a close with Jesus leading and disciples following, with renewed life, joy and love. It’s purpose has reached its end. We have come to belief in him and trust in him, but the story is not finished, only just begun.
We are the ongoing telling of the Gospel.
It moves us toward the fullness of the kingdom of God, the kingdom we entered at baptism into Jesus, but the kingdom we yet await its full revelation. And until it is revealed, we move toward the goals as if by spiral -- onward, forward, but round and round to get there.
Die with him
Rise with him
Follow him ... and so on and so ...
But I wonder if we are to love and follow Jesus ... how can we follow him ... if we cannot see him? How can we love him, if we cannot hear him or touch him as they did that day on the shore? I wonder ...
But That is a story for another day.
For now it is enough to believe and to return to the beginning, to come to meal, to fall in love with Jesus all over again.
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