Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Saturday, April 13, 2013

3rd Sunday of Easter: Christ Calls You Beyond Yourself

Christ Calls You Beyond Yourself
Acts 9:1-6      Revelation 5:11-14      John 21:1-19

Our theme today, the 3rd Sunday of Easter, the season when we look at the Resurrection appearances of Jesus, is:

Christ calls you beyond yourself.

And as we work through the readings set for today, we are going to see that those whom Christ truly calls (and that is all of us), Christ truly stretches.

In fact we are going to see that in the Christian life, stretch is the norm. Loving God with all our heart, mind, body and strength… stretches us.
Loving others… stretches us.
Loving enemies… stretches us.

Stretch is the norm as Jesus constantly calls us to live beyond our comfort zones and beyond our expectations.

The Resurrection of Jesus stretches not only our beliefs… the Resurrection of Jesus stretches our behaviour, our hopes, our worship, our everything. Stretch is the norm.

John 21:1-19
‘Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way:  Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. ‘

They have seen and believed, but that doesn’t make their work or their life any easier. They've worked all night, with no success...nothing to show for it! You and I know that feeling, don't we?… Jesus calls you beyond yourself.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.’

They have seen and believed, but they don’t see Jesus in the midst of their struggle. You and I (after all we've seen and come to believe) often don’t either. The Jesus who calls us beyond ourselves, is always with us, we just don’t always see Him.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” Now you may have heard in previous preaching on this text that a person standing on the shore, especially if a little elevated, could perhaps have seen a school of fish that the fisherman couldn't see...... Jesus could see the fish, so He tells them to cast out on the other side...but this is unlikely. More likely is that in the desparation, they will try anything...we all know that feeling, don't we?

“When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.”

Peter swam.... a hundred yards, that is a long swim for anyone… Jesus calls you beyond yourself ......and sometimes to do "crazy" things.

“When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.”

Jesus calls you beyond yourself  but like that net, even when stretched, you won’t be broken. You will never be stretched (in pain, in suffering, in workload, in trial) beyond what our LORD knows you can bear.

“Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus calls you beyond yourself. He sometimes wants us to really think and not just to say, so He will ask us over and over. Let me ask you: Do you love Jesus?....................Do you love Jesus?..................Do you love Jesus?

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

Jesus calls you beyond yourself. ‘Peter as you follow me, things are not always going to go your way. Serving me is going to take you (take us) to places, to people, to decisions, that you (we) will not always like.’

Jesus calls us beyond ourselves – to that place, essential to discipleship, where it’s no longer my will be done, but YOUR will be done.

Acts 9:1-20
“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

There is no other word for Saul at this point then: Evil. He is looking for Christians in order to kill them. He’s a Hitler, a Saddam Hussein… he was there when they stoned Stephen… like a Muamar Gaddaffi watching a person being tortured to death.

Isn't it annoying who God calls, who God sees as useful........ before we change. Jesus calls us beyond ourselves to see the best in unchanged people.

“The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.  For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

Jesus calls us beyond ourselves even to go to dangerous people who we fear. He stretches us, doesn't He? Stretch is the norm. When last were you stretched because of your belief?

“But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.  I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Saul changes his mind about something that he has felt very strongly about. He believed he was doing God's will as he persecuted Christians.....but he was wrong. How easy do you find it to admit you were wrong? From fighting against the Way (vs 2) in synagogues, Saul is now fighting for the Way in synagogues.

This is the true meaning of repentance – it means to change direction, to turn from our old way to God’s new way. Yes, it has something to do with sin, but it has far more to do with lifestyle - which leads us to our final reading.

Revelation 5:11-14
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.”

The ‘I’ in verse 11 is John in prison on the island Patmos. The Robben Island of the day.
Remember, in following Jesus, who calls us beyond ourselves, we will find ourselves in places we don’t want to be.

"Then I looked and heard" 
Jesus calls us beyond ourselves to see and hear things… as they really are.

In prison (Peter and John and most of the disciples and millions of Christians since then), in solitary confinement (like John), in our struggling workplace (like the fisherman), in our weakness (hauling in fish with our left hand or being thrown off our horse in the midday sun, or blinded by the events of life), in our being led where we don’t want to go, (Peter, John, Saul , Ananias) in our fear, (Ananias and the early Church and like many today who live out their faith in fear of persecution)… in all these things, Jesus, who calls us beyond ourselves, who perhaps right now is calling you beyond yourself, stretching you so that perhaps you are feeling that unlike those fishing nets, you actually are close to breaking, in all these things, Jesus, who calls us beyond ourselves, wants us to see things as they really are… and in all these things, what is it that we really need to see or to hear…

It is this: 
The Lamb who was slain, is on the throne.....
 The Lamb who was slain, is on the throne.

Hear that.....see that...because that is how things really are

Your God… rules. 
Your God… rules.
Your God… is in control. 
Your God… is in control.

Nothing is happening to you that is beyond God’s will or beyond God’s power to use for good......Nothing!
The Lamb who was slain is on the throne, and that, in our reading from Revelation, calls us to worship.

So let’s worship.

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