Sunday 26th April 2020
Call to Worship: ‘The LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him.’ Habakkuk 2:20 [As we come before God in worship, take a moment of quiet…]
Praise: Listen to or sing a hymn or psalm of praise.
Heavenly Father, Thank you for this opportunity to come before you in prayer. These are strange days in which we live; days of uncertainty in which the way ahead is often unclear….but we know…we are certain…of the truth of the good news of the gospel…that Christ died for us, that You hold all things in Your hands, that you love us and that you can bring good out of any situation. Forgive us for our lack of faith and the times we have let you down…strengthen and reassure us and show us how we can serve you today and in the days ahead, in the name of Christ, the One who taught us to pray: ‘Our Father…’
Readings: (1) Mark 1:16-18 The calling of the first disciples. (2) Luke 22:54-62 Peter disowns Jesus (3) John 21: 1-19 Peter encounters the Risen Jesus by the shore.
Prayer: Take time to pray for yourself and your family and friends. Remember all in hospital and ask God to bless the work of doctors and nurses as they care for others. Pray for residents in Care and Nursing Homes, for their families, and for all staff as they reassure and look after those in their care. Pray for our political leaders, asking for them wisdom and clarity in these unprecedented days. As your prayer draws to a close, thank God for the gift of prayer and for the opportunity to bring the burdens of your heart before His throne of grace.
JOHN CHAPTER 21
Way back in February we began a journey together through the Gospel of John. How different the world was then! Today, we enter the final lap of our journey as we ponder the events of chapter 21 and Peter’s encounter with the Risen Jesus. Three years earlier, Jesus had looked Peter in the eye and said, ‘Come, follow me’…and now Jesus will issue that emphatic, personal call once more…
Gone fishing: It was early, and the sun was rising but the Son had already risen and was walking on the lake shore that day. Peter and Co. had gone fishing…perhaps Peter, with the sting of his denial of Jesus still raw in his memory, wanted to return to what he thought he knew best…after all, what do you do when you’ve failed a friend? What do you do when there are no more tears left to cry? For Peter you go fishing….but the sea refused to cooperate and he caught nothing. As morning approaches, the disciples see a figure on the shore and he calls to them, ‘Friends, [what a lovely word of solidarity and a signal of things to come], haven’t you caught any fish? Throw your nets on the other side’; and they do and catch so many fish the net is strained to breaking point….Then it happens; the moment of recognition as John says to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ How must Peter have felt? What thoughts must have raced through his head? What do you do when you’ve failed a friend? You go to that friend, and so Peter throws on his clothes, jumps into the water and wades ashore. John the gospel writer includes an intriguing detail at this point: he mentions the size of the catch of fish – 153. Now, commentators have argued over the significance of this number for centuries, but perhaps the simplest explanation is one of the best; the number shows it was a large and varied catch…and as such it symbolises ‘abundance’….not just enough, but more than enough. And that is one of the wonderful truths of the gospel –throughout the gospel story, on the shore that day and still today, Jesus is our generous Saviour, the one who showers us with grace upon grace, blessing upon blessing, forgiveness upon forgiveness, abundance….
Taking Care Policy: Jesus and the disciples enjoyed a BBQ on the beach; the simple pleasure of a meal with friends, and it is then that Jesus draws Peter aside….and as it was with Thomas, it’s worth noting what Jesus didn’t say: ‘Some friend you turned out to be! How could you deny you even knew me? You turned out to be all talk…’ No, none of these, just a simple question, asked three times, (and three is the perfect number here; perhaps the only number that would suffice), ‘Do you love me?’ …giving Peter, who had denied Jesus three times, the opportunity to say the words he longed to say, he was aching to say, three times, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you’…..and so Peter is restored, but there was one more step to take, as Jesus tasks Peter with the mission that would shape the rest of his life, ‘Feed my lambs….take care of my sheep…feed my sheep’. How Peter’s heart must have soared as he realised Jesus still believed in him and trusted him with this mission….all this spelling out Jesus’ taking care policy: Jesus who showed His love, care and concern for Peter and His love, care and concern for others…
‘Follow Me!’ This closing chapter of John’s Gospel is filled with encouragement as it speaks of our personal Saviour the One who still calls us friends [what a friend we have in Jesus!]; as it points to the abundance that is ours in Christ… abundant blessing, grace, mercy, forgiveness, love and care; as it reminds us of our calling to put past stumbling and failures behind us and to step out in the love of Christ and the care of others…This and more all wrapped up in two little but life-changing words as Jesus looks us in the eye and still says ‘Follow me!’ I can’t imagine a more personal or encouraging end to this gospel….Peter is restored, not just so he could feel better about himself, but that he could go in the name of Christ…..and he did…In the weeks ahead, God willing, we will see how Peter and Co. lived out their calling as we explore the book of Acts. Until then, may the Lord bless you and may you be a blessing to others as you love and serve Him. Amen.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the journey that we have been on as a congregation through the Gospel of John. For all we have shared as we have pondered Christ who is the Word, Christ who calls, ‘Follow me’, Christ who changed the lives of Nicodemus, the Woman at the Well, the man born blind and so many others. Christ who willingly died for us that we might know life, and that at its very best. May we keep our eyes fixed on Christ who is the great, ‘I AM’…In His name, Amen.
Praise: Listen to or sing a hymn of praise and dedication. You might find one of these helpful: What a friend we have in Jesus/ O Jesus I have promised/ Before the throne of God above/ My heart is filled with thankfulness/ All I once held dear.
Benediction: May the love of the Father enfold us, the wisdom of the Son enlighten us, the fire of the Spirit kindle us; and may the blessing of the Lord God come down upon us and remain with us always. Amen