The Third Sunday of Easter — The Rev. Richard P. Limato

Simon, Son of John, do you love me?

Recently as I was having some doubts about being up to the task of being in God’s service, I found myself rummaging through some papyrus scrolls of old.  I found solace in one that has never been released before.  In fact, you might call what is about to happen  “deacon – leak”.

It’s a memorandum to Jesus, Son of Joseph at the woodcrafter shop in Nazareth, from the Jordan River Management Consultants in Jerusalem.

Dear Sir:

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management positions in your new organization.  All of them have now taken our battery of tests; we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise that you are undertaking.  They do not have the team concept.  We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper.  Andrew has absolutely no qualities for leadership.  The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty.  Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale.

We feel that it is our duty to tell you that the greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau has blacklisted Matthew.  James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings.

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential.  He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places.  He is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible.  We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-had man. 

We wish you every success in your new endeavor.

(Qualifications for Disciples, Stories for Preaching.Com)

Truth be told, Jesus knew exactly what he was doing placing the Church into the hands of his imperfect disciples.

He knows exactly what he is doing placing the future of the Church into our imperfect hands, even when we have doubts about our own abilities to respond to his call.

In today’s Gospel we find the disciples gathered before nightfall at the Sea of Tiberius (also known as the Sea of Galilee).  In a spot near where Jesus fed the 5000, Peter     leads the disciples back to what is familiar, fishing.

Perhaps we can’t blame him.  Like us, Peter and the other disciples, are on post Easter sensory overload. 

After the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the soul wrenching Passover meal, witnessing Gethsemane, Christ’s betrayal, arrest, and Crucifixion, the disciples are numb, crushed and rudderless. 

Peter seeks comfort in the familiar. Even though the disciples have never really been successful at fishing without Jesus.

It’s a good thing that Jesus makes a post resurrection appearance.

It all seems like an ordinary moment, business as usual for this impulsive group of Christ’s followers.

The beloved disciple blurts out, “It is the Lord.”

Ever the impetuous Peter jumps into the sea.

While the others appear dumbfounded.

It all seems so ordinary, just another moment when the apostle’s need Jesus to tell them what to do.

Yet it’s rather extraordinary.

In this Gospel story, Peter and the “beloved disciple” stand in contrast to one another, and to the other disciples who stand around watching. 

One recognizes Jesus’ presence, one acts, while the others take it all in.

These allegorical examples seem to suggest that ministry includes all three, life – giving abundance flows from each, /our understanding of Jesus as Lord, /our willingness to act on our belief, /and our ability to keep watch for God’s presence in our lives.

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Clearly leaving the empty tomb and notions of failure behind, the Risen Jesus is interested in getting everyone back to work.

He challenges the apostles; he beckons us, to show our love for him by caring for his people in the world.

To make miracles happen, /to offer gracious hospitality, /to gather all around his table, /to be generous purveyors of his redemptive grace.

After walking the length and breadth of Galilee and Judea with him, after witnessing his teaching, his healing, his sacrifice, his resurrection, the Risen Jesus beckons Peter, and the apostles to go forth in service.

And he invites those of us who have walked the journey,  – the length and breadth of Holy Week to this glorious Eastertide, to do the same, with a simple, holy interrogative.

Do you love me?

If we are ready to respond like Peter, we must be willing to act,  – to feed and to tend like Jesus.

We must be willing to proclaim like the “beloved disciple” that Jesus is Lord!

And we must be willing to watch, to discern God’s presence in our lives, to seek opportunities to convey God’s grace.

Responding yes means that we are willing to ratchet up our ministry, to take our service beyond our church, /to put our own understanding, /our own desire to seek opportunities for grace  – into action.

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Understandably, there are many obstacles that seem to get into our way, obstacles that might leave us knowing and not acting, or acting without actually being able to share what we know.

This happens when our faith is over intellectualized, when we fail to understand and express our faith in the context of our own emotions and feelings.

Obstacles that become excuses, when we let busyness and the everyday distractions of life, the comforts of routines, provide a safe haven, so that there’s little time to tend and feed anyone other then ourselves.

Occasions when we find ourselves like the disciples on the shore too slow to seek or to recognize Christ’s presence at work in our own lives.

Times when we let our own doubts, insecurities and fear, keep us from God’s service.

After all, there is little if any security in unconditional loving. Jesus calls Peter to love and care for his followers and predicts a violent ending.

Yet, this Gospel changes it all.

Today’s Gospel puts the challenge clearly in front of us.

On the shore that day, Jesus encountered the disciples and accepted them, as they were, physically, spiritually, intellectually and emotionally barren.

He accepts us in the same way, wherever we are on our journey.

And invites us to discern how he is at work in our lives, to recognize the unique gifts that we bring to ministry, especially the ones discovered in moments of fragility.

He asks, do you love me?

Then feed.

Do you love me? Then tend.

Do you love me? Then proclaim and act.

Then proclaim and act.

Easter has changed everything. 

The mission begins.

Let’s look to Peter.  He obviously learned a lesson on the shore that day.  Here is advice from his first letter in Morning Prayer today.


“Maintain constant love for one another, be hospitable to one another without complaining.  Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God (my personal favorite), serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.  Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking with the very words of God, whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ.”

(1 Peter 4: 7-11)

We encounter a Risen Christ who asks each one of us, Beloved Son, Beloved Daughter, do you love me?