Sermon for Third Sunday of Easter, April 14, 2013
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: John 21:1-14
Sermon Theme: “You Will Find It Here!”
(Sources: Brokhoff, Series C, Workbook; Emphasis online Commentaries; Emphasis online Illustrations; original ideas)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
Back in the 1940’s, when I was confirmed, Confirmation Day was a big deal! To old time Lutheran families, it was more important than high school graduation, — it was like a spiritual graduation; it was like a Bar-Mitzva! Most were confirmed at age 13, though a few were younger than that, and it sort of symbolized your going from boyhood to manhood, or girlhood to womanhood. If you were a boy, you’d get your first razor or your first pocket knife as a Confirmation gift.
Each family would have a big dinner to honor and celebrate their newly confirmed child, — in Texas, that was usually barbecue brisket, sausage, chicken, or squirrel. Since Dime Box was so near Sommerville, it was often a fish fry rather than a barbecue, — even though the Lake back then was much smaller than it is now, you could still catch a lot of fish.
There were about twelve kids in my Confirmation class, and each of the families would invite the pastor to their barbecue or fish fry. Since he could eat only one meal, it was considered a great honor as to which family he ate with. He chose to eat with us that year; I guess he liked chicken and squirrel, we couldn’t afford brisket. I got a razor from my grandfather and a pocket knife from my godparent; I didn’t have anything on my face to shave, and I didn’t have anything to cut with a pocket knife, I had hoped for a watercolor set!
Today’s sermon text reminded me of those Confirmation Day Barbecues and Fish Fries back in the 1940’s. Just as a lot of folks become church dropouts after a big Easter Day service, Jesus’ disciples became drop-outs after the Crucifixion, and even after the Resurrection. At first, the disciples were in hiding behind locked doors; now at this point in the story, Peter says, “Aw, heck, I’m going fishing,” like there’s not really a risen Jesus walking around out there somewhere. The other disciples decide that’s a good idea and they join Peter in a little fishing. Their Lake was bigger than Sommerville is today.
Apparently, the disciples thought the show was over, the movement ended, so they might as well go back to fishing for fish rather than fishing for men now that it’s all over. Often Confirmation students are like that, — they think once they are confirmed, this Jesus thing is all over, so we never see them in church again. I hope that’s not going to be true of you, dear confirmands.
After the Resurrection, each time that Jesus appeared to His disciples, it was still a surprise! It took a few times for it to soak in that Jesus was really alive again! Over the years, some Confirmation students have been surprised to find out that after Confirmation, Jesus still comes to us in our worship service and in Sunday School here at this church.
Well, I know that Cassidy and Allie aren’t going to drop out after today’s big deal, because they told me they would be happy to continue acolyting after Confirmation. To them, going to church also means service to the church, and I’m glad they learned that important spiritual lesson. In our walk with Jesus, we should never get to the point where we feel we have “graduated” from attending church and Sunday School, — we think, ‘that’s for kids, not for a teenage know-it-all hot shot like me!’ But church and Sunday School have so much to offer you as you grow in your relationship with Jesus your Savior. Church and Sunday School can become life-changing, because that’s where all sorts of spiritual seeds are planted.
Let me tell you a true story about a girl named Beth. When Beth was a teenager, she lived on the streets. She smoked marijuana and drank beer and her parents had said that she had to choose: her friends or her family. Beth chose her friends and lived from house to house and eventually in homeless shelters. She barely avoided being raped at one point.
About six months of shelter-hopping was all she could take, and she found a shelter that sponsored her until she took the GED. They told her she was brilliant: she was just bored and dissatisfied with the status quo. The shelter supervisors suggested she look into community college.
Beth went to the community college and then on to finish her last two years at the state school; she graduated fifth in her class. Her degree was in philosophy. She graduated with a degree of knowledge and a degree of cynicism. What on earth could she do with a degree in philosophy?
Two goals occupied her thoughts after graduation: reconciliation with her parents and a good job. It took about three years of timid meetings until Beth felt comfortable enough to share her feelings of failure and frustration with her parents during her teen years. But the counseling and talking and crying were worth it. There was hope for reconciliation.
Beth found a job at a think tank where she met Craig, a very devout Christian. Craig stared at her when she walked in; Beth stuck out her tongue at him. She could see he was judging her by her nose ring. Or was it her eyebrow ring? Or maybe it was the toe ring sticking out of her sandal. It could even have been the asymmetrical hair cut that accentuated her greenish blond hair. She could see he didn’t approve; he could see she didn’t care one bit. But they met again in meetings and couldn’t avoid each other.
They fought in meetings, they fought in the hall, and eventually they went on a date. In eight months, they were married. After marriage, with Craig’s insistence, they became even more involved in church. Beth taught an adult Bible class, and older people sought her counsel. Craig loved working with children and became active with the youth, who loved him. The more Beth worked in the church, the more she loved her Lord and wanted to serve Him in every way possible. She and Craig spent more time at the church than they did at home.
To make a long story short, Beth’s pastor talked to her about going to the Seminary and becoming a Deaconess, since, fortunately Lutheran Deaconesses, unlike Catholic nuns, can be married and have a family. Everything she heard about the Deaconess program made her realize that God was calling her into the professional ministry. Today she still serves her Lord as a Deaconess with great fervor, energy and faith.
In our sermon text, the disciples were dropouts from the Jesus movement who had gone fishing. They fished all night and caught nothing. Jesus appeared on the shore, but they didn’t recognize Him. He was just a stranger. This stranger on the shore told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. Reluctantly they did and the man was right. Their nets were full and running over. One of the disciples recognized the man on the shore. It was Jesus. Simon Peter jumped from the boat and the others followed him in the boat. Jesus had built a fire and He cooked some of the fish they caught for them, having a Fish Fry on the shore.
This was almost like a Confirmation Day Fish Fry for the disciples, celebrating their rededication to Him and the ministry He represented, celebrating with a cookout for the dropouts who were now once again going to become fishers of men. In a way, Beth was like them; and she had been not only a dropout, but a down and out!
But it’s not about Beth or the disciples or you confirmands being confirmed today; it’s about Jesus. It was just like Jesus to come to the disciples. He always came to them when they needed Him. And He will come to you, too, Allie and Cassidy, and all of you who love Him.
It was just like Jesus to perform a miracle. Who but Jesus could catch fish when there were none? Just as He brought miracles into Beth’s life, He will bring them into yours, too. The problem is we have too little faith.
It was just like Jesus to provide food. He did it when feeding the 5000 and when they were in the Upper Room. And He will do it for you, too, He feeds us all Physically and spiritually. Here in this church is where you must come for His spiritual food and the renewal and confirmation that will follow. You MIGHT find something to hang onto outside the church, but I guarantee you, you WILL find it here in this church. Amen.