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Like Two P's in a Pod

April 18, 2010 Speaker: Rev. Dr. Ben Nass Series: Lectionary

Topic: Biblical Verse: John 21:1–21:19

The Third Sunday of Easter
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
John 21:1-19

“Like Two P’s in a Pod”

Dear Members and welcome guests of St. John’s:

We gather today in gratitude to and worship of our triune God with the closing words of last Sunday’s Gospel still ringing in our ears:  “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.   But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.Our internalizing of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to the end of building faith in each of us is the purpose of those early witness accounts that we find in our Scripture Lessons on Easter, last week, and again today on this third Sunday of the Easter season.  Yet, we notice a subtle progression of themes that extend from the mind-numbing shock and awe of the Easter morning announcement, to last Sunday’s more tangible testing of that reality with Thomas and the rest of the disciples.  Today, we take one step farther.  If we now know and are convinced that Christ was raised from the dead, what response does that evoke from each of us?  Fear? Yes.  Joy?  Yes.  Relief? Yes.  However, feelings must lead to action as we learn today.

In today’s Gospel lesson John remembers a significant appearance of the risen Christ to him and six other disciples, primarily Peter, back where it all began in the fishing village of Capernaum.  John weaves into this seaside meeting threads of the miraculous draft of fish that earlier led Jesus to call them to follow him and apply their fishing expertise to catching human beings.  John spans the total duration of Jesus’ ministry from that beginning all the way to Peter’s three-fold denial mere hours before his crucifixion with a three-fold reclaiming of Peter to full-time ministry with the words, “Feed my sheep.”  In our First Lesson we heard the account of the dramatic appearance of Jesus to Saul on the expressway to Damascus for the stated purpose of harnessing this unlikely candidate’s talents for future ministry.  Again the Lamb upon the throne appears to John in a heavenly vision in today’s Second Lesson to whom the hosts of heaven respond in acts of worship and adoration. 

Today, I invite you to seriously consider what action you plan to or are taking as your faith’s response to the message and meaning of Christ’s resurrection in your life.  To assist in that process, let’s look at the response of two of the greatest hero’s of our faith – Peter, otherwise known as Cephas, and Paul, otherwise known as Saul.  These two “P”s (as I like to call them) provided responses to that resurrection event with their proclamation, their actions, their example, and their very lives.  They are the two “P”s in the pod of the vine that allowed the Holy Spirit’s garden to grow and flower and feed the then known civilized world with the message of hope and joy that the Divine Creator was again reconciled with his creation.

Peter and Paul – two “P”s in a pod and as such, you would expect them to be and act the same.  But the two could hardly be more different.  Peter was big, boisterous, opinionated, and uneducated.  With his brother, Andrew, he earned a living by teaming up with the thriving Zebedee Fishing Company in Capernaum, which required lots of night shift work.  We know he was married but are not told of any children.  It is doubtful he ventured far from his early roots before meeting a Rabbi named Jesus.

Paul, on the other hand, was born to an affluent family in the cosmopolitan city of Tarsus in modern day Turkey.  We don’t know whether he had siblings but we do know that his Hebrew father from the tribe of Benjamin was conferred with the rare privilege of Roman citizenship which, by inheritance, belonged to all the members of his family as well.  At an early age (probably around 14) Paul was sent off to college in Jerusalem and was enrolled in the school of the great Rabbi, Gamaliel, where he flourished, relishing the refined, academic life and the stimulation of his active and brilliant mind. He became a passionate adherent to and defender of the teachings of the Torah especially as it was interpreted by the Pharisees, the party so vehemently opposed the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth 

So you have to ask yourself, “How could these two “P”s who were opposite in so many ways ever be paired into the same pod?”  The only possible answer is that each had a common faith in an uncommon Savior.  They both encountered the risen Christ who met them where they were and challenged them to both be the messenger and the message of his saving acts to the strayed sheep of the 153 then-known nations of the world, represented by the specifically numbered 153 fish caught in the disciple’s net.  By his confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Cephas became Peter, the rock, who used his spiritual gifts to share the message primarily among the Jewish people where he felt more comfortable.  The more cosmopolitan and learned Saul used his spiritual gifts to bring the message to the gentile world, and following the first conversion of a Roman foreign minister named Sergius Paulus on his first missionary, Saul adopted that name and was henceforth known as Paul.  They were and are two “P”s in a pod.

Dear fellow saints of St. John’s:  Who are the “P”s in the pod of this congregation?  Well, you are, of course!  Your name doesn’t have to begin with a “p” for you to respond with a strong faith in the risen Christ that now translates into a positive reaction in your life.  As diverse as you all are – in many ways as different as Peter and Paul – each one of you, regardless of age, education, income, or nationality, can use the spiritual gifts the Spirit has already planted in the garden of your heart to pursue some area of ministry with the message you profess and as the messenger you are through the Christ-like life you lead.  As the hymn writer expressed so well:

“If you can not speak like angels, If you cannot preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus; You can say, “He died for all.”

Today, we gather beside the warm breakfast fire of God’s forgiving love and are pointedly asked by the risen Lord whose love expressed itself in total sacrifice, “Do you love me?” How do you and how will you respond?  Dear friends in Christ, let us bind ourselves together like peas in a pod and go about the joyful task of feeding and growing the flock so that together one day with the angelic choir we, too, may sing:

"To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!"

Amen.

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