"Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation" is the title of a book by my beloved theology professor and friend, the late William C. Placher. It is also now the title of this blog, a place where I hope to add a Christian voice -- God knows, not "the" Christian voice, but "a" Christian voice and not just any old voice, but a distinctly Christian voice -- to the pluralistic conversation going on about just about everything.
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In the gospel reading appointed for this upcoming Sunday (John 21:1-19), we hear the story of one of Jesus' Easter appearances.
It's early one morning after Peter and the other disciples had been working (fishing) all night. They'd worked all night, but caught nothing.
Yes, worked: keep in mind this isn't recreational, out-with-a-buddy-and-a-six-pack type of fishing.
Fishing was Peter's (and James' and John's) occupation. It was their job, the way they made a living.
So they've worked all night, but caught nothing. It's been a fruitless, unproductive time.
Then, at daybreak, as they're pulling into shore, something strange and unexpected happens.
"stranger-whom-they-later-realize- is-Jesus" (I'll say more about that
dynamic in Sunday's sermon) tells them to try something new (I'll say
more about that in Sunday's sermon, too) and so they cast their nets on
the other side of their boats.
This results in a miraculous catch of so many large fish they have trouble hauling it all in.
All of a sudden one of the disciples does realize it is Jesus on the shore and yells out "it is the Lord!"
Simon Peter hears this, he puts on some clothes, because he was naked
(no, I don't think I'll be saying much more about that in Sunday's
sermon!) and jumps in the sea while the other disciples pull into shore
dragging the net full of fish.
all of a sudden there's a charcoal fire with fish on it (fish were
already on it - before they've come to shore) and some bread.
Jesus asks them to add some of the fish they've just caught. They bring the fish. Jesus says, "Come and have breakfast."
They have breakfast.
And then we get to the even more interesting part!
they finished breakfast, Jesus turns to Peter and asks him three
separate times in three slightly different ways, "do you love me?"
Each time Peter answers "yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
And each time Peter says, "you know I love you," Jesus says the same thing: "feed my sheep."
apparently, if you really get into the Greek, Peter and Jesus say what
they say in different ways with different meanings or nuances, so Peter
would be saying "you know-as-a-fact and you know-in-a-feeling/ intimate
way" that I "love-you-with-my-heart/love-you-with-my-will" and Jesus
would be saying "well then, feed -tend-pasture my sheep -lambs-young
sheep-whole flock" but no more about that either here, or in Sunday's
sermon, because let's face it, I have enough trouble following my own
train of thought when I stick to the English translation, let along the
tangents of thought that happen when I allow myself to explore nuances
of the original language).
And I have a very simple point to make.
Which is that I think one of the most important words in Sunday morning worship is a word said at the end of the service.
And the word is "go."
"Let us GO forth in the name of Christ."
"GO in peace to love and serve the Lord."
"Let us GO forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit."
The point of Sunday's passage, I think (and lots more about this in my sermon!) is quite simple:
Peter - "St. Peter," the rock - has long represented, or been a metaphor, for the church.
maybe the point of this passage is that Jesus is saying, "church...Christianity...religion: despite your
failings, despite your denials and fruitless labors...here's a new way,
here's a new approach I want to show you - coming from an unlikely
source you don't even recognize as ME - that will result in wild
abundance. I don't need that abundance - I have my own, thanks - but you
do, and I want you to have it, so here, eat; enjoy. (And so that would be worship;the sacraments, especially Eucharist -- that'd be fellowship and
breaking of bread and what we do when we gather as church.)
we hear Jesus saying, "let me ask you: Do you love me more than these?
Do you love your founder, your convener, your provider?"
And if your answer is "yes, Lord, you know we love you," then show it. Prove it. Put it into action.
Go do something about it.
Go feed my sheep; go pasture my people.
As my favorite prayer puts it - a prayer we'll use at The Falls Church Episcopal this, and perhaps the next few Sundays just before the dismissal -
No one can -- and I certainly don't want to try -- to unpack every tweet the person currently holding the office of President of the United States sends out.
No one has the time to respond to every one of his tweets on just one issue. Although I wish I had the time on the issue of the Executive Orders recently issued in regard to refugees.
But every so often I feel I MUST respond to at least SOME of those tweets, lest I grow accustomed to them as normal. And I refuse to normalize the abnormal.
Take one of Saturday's tweets, for example: in response to Judge Robart's temporarily stopping an Executive Orders, there was this:
“What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?”
Let's unpack: "What is our country coming to..." Does that lament sound familiar? Ask yourself: who often says it, where do you hear it from the most? Is it a positive, hopeful line of thinking? I wil…
A sermon preached January 29, 2017 The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the p…
Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal Falls
Church, Virginia James
7:24-37 In case you’re confused by the service leaflet,
where it says Kelly is supposed to be preaching today, well, she was, and she
was planning to. But yesterday she came down with the stomach flu, and of
course we encouraged her to stay home until she’s 100%. (And to think I came this close to getting out of having to preach on a couple of very tough passages…) (Kelly’s sermon, by the way, was written well ahead
of time and is, as we have already come to expect, excellent. And inspiring – I
was inspired reading it.* Hard copies are available, and will be made available
on line.) What you’re going to get from me today is a little
different than a normal sermon. Today I want to tell you a story – a bit of my own
family history -- and then read you a poem. And then show you how I think that
story and the poem relate to today’s lessons and to current events. …