Sermon; Saint John's Day; John 21:19b-24 -- Dcn. Sue Wert
One of the ways to understand scripture is to try to be present in the time of the scripture, be in the shoes of the folks in the scripture, and be aware of what the Holy Spirit is showing you. As I tried this out, I was very disturbed by Jesus' answer to Peter.
His words are dismissive and deliberate.
The Gospel writer, John, repeats them, "What is it to you?"
But, how many of us have been in Peter's shoes? It is essential to understand all that is going on around us, and we are a curious bunch. Jesus admonishes Peter's curiosity, and as I stand in Peter's shoes, I feel the admonishment. Peter is always at the forefront of all these controversies. Judas has his role as well as Thomas, but Peter is a hot mess.
Another person in this Gospel message today is affectionately known as the Beloved Disciple, perhaps our namesake, our patron, John.
Peter never has this kind of relationship with Jesus. Maybe the Beloved Disciple is the antithesis of Peter, never really curious, except when he lounges on Jesus' chest and asks which one of the disciples is the one to betray him? As some commentaries have described him, the' BD' is announced as Jesus' brother because Jesus makes this claim while on the cross.
Perhaps he is a bit envious since he is a rock rather than a BD.
As I step into the shoes of the BD, I walk behind the two leaders of my world and beyond. I look adoringly to Jesus, who is in conversation as usual with Peter.
Peter, though, seems to be confused.
Peter, who wants tents to stay put during the Transfiguration, who recognizes the Messiah time and time again, desires a king with human power and, of course, denies Jesus three times as predicted, as I said, a hot mess.
As the Beloved Disciple, I see what following is: It is an unswerving devotion to the poor, the sick, the lonely, the imprisoned. I am to help usher in God's Kingdom for love and peace and tear the walls down that hold us in and keep others out. I do this with blinding passion, without reservation. I vision as if I am in the Kingdom of God.
Perhaps it is true for the beloved that all is perfect, all is right, all is as it should be; for him, is the Kingdom now. As I step back into the world now, I see the Kingdom of God coming near and not yet in these scriptures. I see bliss and curiosity. At the end of John's Gospel, we may see ourselves as both blissful and curious.
Maybe this is why John places the beloved disciple and Peter together. To remind us that Jesus desires us and that while in this place, we are wondering and following, to help usher in the Kingdom of God.
Today we have a great many opportunities, some would call problems, but let us, just for the sake of it, see our lives in this place as opportunities of wonder or curiosity. Today, as we listen to what the Gospel is saying, we can vision for ourselves a blending of what John sees in the Kingdom. For us, today is a beginning again to live into John's devotion to Jesus, to imagine we are living in the Kingdom.
The world gets in the way. Yesterday, we fed the hungry through Pantry on the Go and through pledges or walking Hagerstown Area Religious Council's Hike for Hunger and Hope that supports Micah's backpack and other outreach ministries. Today, we are handing over a portion of what God has given to us; our time, treasure, and talent. We continually reach out with clothes (I think we have about 60 bags of clothes for next Saturday.). This year we gave boxes of books for the Children's drive. When you walked in, you dropped money into the offering plates for continuing the approaching Kingdom of God. Later, we will enjoy the talent of the Parish Life committee with food and celebration of our devoted Beloved Disciple Saint John.
As we move through the variants of COVID-19, we are reminded of the Kingdom not yet. But our Patron Saint shows us this glimpse of walking with humility, charity, compassion, and love. These attributes are foundational to becoming. John was charged with taking care of Mary. Mary was given another son in Jesus' declaration from the cross.
John lived his life in service, obedient to God's will, and I would venture to say it seems easy to do this according to the scriptures. He just did.
We, here, now, struggle. We want to know what's next. Who are those people? We desire to stop time and make tents where on a mountain we see all of God's Law, Prophets, and our leader of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We desire walking on water, yet sink like a rock. We want to know. We are curious. We are wondering and wonderers. We are God's people, and we are wonderful.
Walking in another's shoes and experiencing life from another's viewpoint can be an eye-opening experience. When we approach those shoes with humility, love, charity, and compassion, we will begin to see this Kingdom now and not yet. We will strive to Worship, Welcome, Serve and Encourage to help usher in God's Kingdom. We do this with a blend of bliss and wonder.
We do this with the body of Christ entering into us. We do this by our actions with our neighbors. We do this even when the odds of this life are against us.
We do this because God desires us to be following and wondering.