~sermon/Story from May 5

John 21:1-19

 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.  Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.  Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.”  He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.

That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”

(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”


They had spent enough time in churches that preached about redemption, forgiveness, and second chances.  That silliness never worked out.  It was foolish, really.  Idealistic, perfectionistic… and yes, socialistic.  Definitely not Christian.  

Oh, sure, it all sounded really good, especially at the beginning, but it always ended in failure.  They knew this, from hard experience.  Broken relationships, people taking advantage of you, never being treated with fairness or justice.  No one would ever get what was deserved, for good or for ill.  It was all some kind of anarchy.  Relational anarchy!  And it was exhausting, all this seventy-times-seven forgiveness, this pretending to not keep score.  It was just plain toxic.  

Here, in the new church they had formed, things were different. Here, there were strict rules.  Clear expectations.  Advanced oversight.  Accountability.  This was what church should be about! Keep things clear, and keep careful accounts.  This was a spirituality to believe in! The Rule of Law,  that’s the realm in which love would finally be able to flourish.  That’s where growth would happen.  

People flocked to the church like refugees escaping an evil regime.  They were broken down from all of that messy grace, that poisonous socialism, that exhausting ignorance of what was expected and owed.  The new church grew, and people flourished in this bright world of hope.  It was so refreshing, and people loved coming to the new church.  

Eve wasn’t one of the founding members; she had come a little bit later, in the second wave of members.  But she was an upstanding member of the new church, right from her first couple of months. Everyone loved her.  But as it turns out, no one knew her as well as they thought.  

Eve’s decent started very slowly.

At first, her rebellion was conceptual.  She hated mini-vans, so she started talking to herself when she was alone in the car, whispering compliments to vans and their owners. She would comment on their faux wood paneling, or their electric doors, or their impressive towing capacity.  She would compliment the drivers for their cute bumper stickers, or choice of color, or general good sense and decorum.

Soon after this, things escalated considerably.  She started letting mini-vans in front of her in traffic.  You know those people, they ride the shoulder all the way up to the merge.  She would let one of them go ahead of her, cutting in the long line she had so diligently waited in.  Soon, she was letting up to three cars in front of her, smiling and waving the whole time.  

It wasn’t long before she was forgiving people all over the place.  Online, and In Real Life.  People at work, at the gas station, in the drive-through.  At work, she would welcome newer people, and throw them parties when they got promoted.  When she went to the grocery store, she would pick the longest line, then invite others to get in front of her.  On Facebook, she let other people be wrong– which was terrifying at first, but she quickly forgot why she had ever worried about it in the first place.  

And at the end of the day after dinner, she started watching those home renovation shows, and by that point she was gleefully cheering for the renovation crews who were constantly surprised that renovation projects are more expensive and complicated than first thought.  

It just felt so good to let go, to stop keeping score, to stop trying to control the whole world.  To give up the race she always saw all around her.  To stop comparing herself to others.  It was like a drug to forgive others, and forgive herself, and just smile and enjoy the ride.  Sure, her commute was sometimes five minutes longer, but she was so much more relaxed when she got there.  She felt so free, all the time.  

It all felt so wrong, and she was constantly aware of how rebellious she was being.  But it was so much fun; so forbidden, so dangerous, so contrary, so counterintuitive.  It was so wrong, but it felt so right.  She prayed that no one would tell the pastor.    


Mike is a solid, stand-up guy that enjoys writing poetry and prose, hanging out with family and friends, and long walks around a Weber kettle grill.

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