Monday, May 6, 2019

More Easter, More Jesus

In Nomine Iesu
St. John 21:1-14
May 5, 2019
Easter 3C

Dear Saints of Our Savior,
And especially Tyler, Alexandra, Meredith, Elisabeth, Tyler and Greta,
on this the day of your Confirmation~

Just when you thought Easter was over, it turns out there’s more Easter—more Jesus. Just as the jellybeans are finally finished, and as the Easter lilies are well on their way to becoming Easter stems, it turns out we have more Easter to go—more Jesus to receive.

It would have been fine with me to wrap up Easter last Sunday. John chapter 20 would have been the perfect ending to a perfect story. There the Risen Christ appeared to His fearful disciples, showed them His wounds, breathed His Holy Spirit on them, authorized them to forgive sins or to withhold forgiveness, and sends them on their way. He comes back a week later to drag faithless Thomas into the joy of the resurrection; and Thomas confesses Jesus as “Lord and God.”

Then, at the end of chapter twenty, we have what, for all intents and purposes, sounds like a carefully crafted conclusion: 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 believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name. And everyone lived happily ever after. Close the curtain, cue the music, roll the credits. It’s a great place to click “save” and press “print.” It’s the perfect place to end the greatest story ever told.

But then you turn the page and BOOM! You get more—a whole chapter more! More Easter and more Jesus! Just when you’re ready to close the book on Easter, there’s yet another resurrection appearance of our Lord. Perhaps the Holy Spirit wants to teach us that Easter has no end—that Easter continues so that it can be preached into yours ears—so that you can become part of the story as one who hears and believes—until you, like Thomas, confess Jesus as “my Lord and my God,” and take your place around the throne of the Lamb, with angels and archangels, singing, “Worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain!”

Confirmation Sunday is the perfect day to remember that there remains more Easter, and more Jesus. Because for the six of you being confirmed today, this all probably feels like something of an ending—a thrilling conclusion. Your whole life, beginning with your baptism into Christ, has been leading up to the events of this day. Your parents, grandparents, sponsors, and pastors have prayed for you (and prayed with you), taught you, and brought you to the Lord’s holy house—all so that you might confess your faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—so that you might eat and drink our Lord’s body and blood in His Holy Supper. And today is, in many ways, the fulfillment of all those hopes and all those prayers.

A fulfillment, yes; but not an ending. Not a conclusion. Not a graduation. Confirmation Sunday is simply an invitation to turn the page—to dive into the next chapter of the life of faith—where you will be delighted to discover more Easter, and more Jesus.

That’s exactly what seven of Jesus’ disciples discovered in today’s Holy Gospel. They had all decided to go fishing. But remember,
in the gospels “fishing” is never just “fishing.” It’s about much more than Walleye and Perch. It was just at daybreak on the Sea of Galilee. The disciples had been out fishing all night but hadn’t caught a thing. Now, if you know your New Testament, this should all be sounding a bit familiar. It ought to remind you of the day when Jesus first called many of these men to be His disciples—when, after an unproductive night of fishing Jesus sent them back onto the lake, and directed them to a miraculous, boat-sinking load of fish. And then He told them, “From now on, you’re going to be fishers of men—you’re going to catch people.” So also, in today’s account a stranger on the beach gives a few directions regarding their nets, and within minutes another miraculous catch has materialized. And for the disciples, the light goes on: This is the Lord Jesus!

The whole scene is kind of like a catechism class for the disciples. In fact, did you catch how Jesus addressed them as “children?” Even after years of following Jesus and listening to His teaching and witnessing His miracles—these men still had more to learn. All disciples of every age—be they pastors or mere middle-schoolers—have more to learn from Jesus and His Word. We’re all children in the faith in need of guidance, instruction, protection, and of course, forgiveness of sins.

One of the things Jesus is teaching His little confirmation class is that His Word gets results. When Jesus orders the disciples to cast their nets on the right side of the boat, and then prompts 153 fish to swim to their deaths, Jesus is telling us all to trust Him. Do what Jesus says. It sounds so simple, so basic—but it’s really, oh, so hard! Do what Jesus says. Do it His way. Trust Him. Even when it doesn’t make any sense because you’ve been fishing all night and haven’t caught a thing—even when doing it Jesus’ way seems like a waste of time and energy—even when doing it Jesus’ way means you will suffer loss, maybe lose respect, be mocked and ridiculed—just do it.

Today Jesus invites us to take Him at His Word—to believe what He says about marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman, about how every human being is created in the image of God as male or female, about the importance of forgiving those who sin against us, about being content with what you have and speaking the truth in love. Listen to what the Lord is saying. Take Him at His Word. Trust Him. Lean not on your own understanding.

To ignore Jesus—to shut His Word out of your life—to make up your own rules—that’s the path of idolatry. And where that path leads, you do not want to go. And you don’t have to. For the mystery man on the beach calling the shots this morning—He’s the crucified one, the Lamb of God. He’s the one who died, bearing all of your sin—the disobedience, the rebellion, the idolatry, the stubborn, heard-hearted refusal to trust Him. For all that and more, Jesus bled and died. He did it in your place, as your sacred substitute—so that you might know forgiveness and life that lasts forever.

When the disciples finally make landfall on the beach, guess what they find? More Easter, more Jesus. The Risen Christ is there waiting and He’s got more to teach them. He’s got breakfast waiting for them. But this is not a lesson in nutrition. The bread and fish our Lord serves up should remind you of the time when Jesus miraculously fed five thousand—and the other time He fed four thousand. Jesus has come to feed His people.

Jesus also wants us to think of another meal—the Lord’s Supper—when you and I are the invited guests and Jesus is the host. Here at this altar the Lord Jesus takes our bread and wine and makes it so much more—His own body and blood—to bring us faith and forgiveness. Jesus takes our gifts and makes them His gifts—and with His gifts there is always more—more forgiveness, more joy, more Easter.

The results were very good that morning at the beach: 153 fish. Someone took the time to count them all and write down the number. That’s a lot of fish. When we manage to get 153 people here in this room on a Sunday morning—that makes for a very good attendance. Is that number significant? One church father suggested that in the First Century there were exactly 153 species of fish known to man. Another suggested that there were exactly 153 tribes, languages and nations on the earth. How accurate those interpretations are I cannot say. But, they do point us in a direction that is sure and certain: Jesus wants to catch everybody in the good news of His death and resurrection. He wants to let down the nets of the gospel into every neighborhood and family, every tribe and language and nation and people, because what Jesus did for us and for our salvation—He did for the whole world.

And on this Confirmation Sunday it brings us great joy to know that among all the nations and peoples among whom our Lord has cast the nets of His gospel, six souls in particular have been hauled up and brought into the boat with Jesus. Tyler, Alexandra, Meredith, Elisabeth, Tyler, and Greta have been redeemed by Christ the crucified. They have been baptized in His name. They have been delivered from death to life. They have been made worthy to receive the holy food of this Holy Supper. What does the future hold for them? What do they have to look forward to? What will they discover in the chapters that lie ahead? May it always be . . . more Easter, more Jesus!

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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