Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
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Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
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Redeemed and Redirected

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April 14th, 2013

(Christian W. Remick) April 14 2013 on John 21:1-19

I believe we've all experienced miracles. We probably don't know half of the things that have happened around us and within us that are the result of direct divine intervention but I believe God is very active in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

I believe that God uses many means to reach out to us and INTO us to guide us into the greater love and understanding God so much wants us to experience.

In our scripture readings today we see several dramatic and overt miracles:

  • Paul experiences a miracle on his road to Damascus. Paul's transformation and redemption and the miraculous willingness of Ananias to receive him are an amazing story.
  • Jesus redirects the disciples to fish on the other side of the boat where they find more fish than their nets would safely hold.
  • Finally Jesus redeems Peter of his three denials by accepting his love three times, then redirecting him to what he should do next.

As I studied the scriptures this week I was moved to share this personal experience:

I remember a miracle I experienced once. It was on a tour bus in New York City. I was with a bunch of my fellow students from Crane. We were stuck in traffic somewhere near Times Square.

I had been reading when a feeling started to come over me.

As I looked up and looked around me I gradually became overwhelmed with a feeling of what I can only describe as powerful, powerful love for everyone around me. And I'm pretty sure it was everyone.

I looked at the other passengers on the bus. I looked at the driver. I looked at the people on the street standing or walking on the sidewalk or in their cars.

And I realized I REALLY, REALLY loved them.

On the bus I knew most of the people. Some of them were my friends. Some of them I hoped would become more than friends someday. Some of them I tried to avoid and some of them I hardly knew at all.

But all of my previous thoughts about and feelings for these people were suddenly wiped away. All I felt at that moment was extreme overwhelming love. For people I hardly knew.

I started to cry. It was so powerful. I was subtle because I could not understand this feeling and couldn't begin to explain it. It was something I had never had before. It was more than feeling. It was just overwhelming.

I did not know what to do with this feeling but that was ok.

I did not sense that I was being called to "DO" anything except experience this miracle. I simply and purely just loved the people around me more deeply than I had ever loved anyone before; regardless of anything they had done or said, regardless of any of my experiences with them, regardless of whether I had even ever met them.

I just loved them.

As a young teenager I had heard of "agape" love from my brother who came home from college years before. He was part of a Christian college group called "Agape."

The word Agape from the Greek Agapeo is a deep unconditional love that is based in the LOVER and is independent of any reaction or response from the LOVED.

The Greeks had several words for different aspects of love. One of these words was agape. I believe what I experienced on that bus in NY was agape.

I tell you all this because in studying the scriptures for this week, several commentaries reveal that as the Greek scriptures were translated into English, we lose in the translation that the word, "love" used between Jesus and Peter changes several times.

The first two times when Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, Jesus is asking for a commitment of agape Love. "Do you Peter have agape for me", or do you "Agape me?"

Peter responds that he has philio or brotherly love for Christ. He loves Jesus as a friend or brother. This is a great and powerful love, but it is not what Jesus is asking for.

The third time Jesus asks for and seems to accept Peter's philial love. Jesus will take what he can get from Peter, for now.

Jesus knows Peter's future and knows that agape love will come as Peter is redeemed and recovers from his denials and is redirected and accepts his calling to:

"Feed my Lambs", "Tend my Sheep", and "Feed my Sheep"

One of our callings as Christians is to rise above our human limitations and truly understand and experience God's Grace. As we grow in our understanding of agape love, we grow in our deeper understanding of God's grace. God loves us unconditionally. The fact that we sin does not change God's agape for us. Yes, sin does separate us from God but it is not God who is moving away, it is us.

To show us just how much God loves us, God came down to be with us and then took our place on the cross as sentencing and payment for all we humans had ever done and for all we could ever do in the future. As far as God's love and grace is concerned, it doesn't matter. God's love for us is independent of anything we can ever do or say.

In order for Peter to truly fulfill Jesus calling to care for his sheep, Peter will have to develop true agape for them.

Like Peter we too are called to work on our agape for others. And just like Peter there will be times when all we can muster is philial love, maybe not even that.

A few weeks ago the lectionary reminded us of Paul's call to press on toward the goal. Knowing that we may never reach true perfection in Christ, we must still strive for that goal.

One manifestation of this perfection is our experience of agape love. When we can truly extend to each other the grace that God grants us.

We will falter. We fail daily at loving one another, but we must as Paul says, "Press on" and keep trying.

We will continue to hold ourselves and others to higher standards than we or they are reaching. Let's face it these "others" Christ is calling us to love are going to disappoint us or even tick us off once in a while.

Our family will forget important things we have told them. Our spouses will forget to pick up the groceries we need. Our children will forget their chores, leave their toys lying around, and keep messy rooms. Our students will not turn in their homework.

People we don't know will be inconsiderate. Other drivers will cut us off. Cashiers will be a little too rough when bagging our fruits and vegetables. Other customers will push ahead in lines or take the last bottle of milk or juice. And these are just our intimate or casual encounters with people.

Christ calls us to love our enemies; people we deliberately avoid. As if we actually keep a list of people we EXPECT will offend, insult, or otherwise hurt us. Do you keep such a list?

Imagine mustering from deep within yourself agape love for them?

That, is the challenge. But, because we know about agape love, because we know of God's grace, because we know that Christ has already forgiven them:

We have the power and knowledge within us to muster not only patience and forgiveness, but true, unconditional LOVE for one another. Through God's pure grace we can experience agape for one another.

Let us pray: Lord, teach us to hold fast to the grace you have given us. Teach us to share that grace with others. Just as you have loved us; build up in us the wisdom, strength, and endurance to love each other. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.