April 19, 2015: Vital Signs of being spiritually alive: caring

Posted on : Apr 16th, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Does caring for one another come naturally? I used to think so, but then, after some research and thinking, I’m not sure that is true. Do an online search using the words “Caring for one another” and the results are pretty shocking. The results are almost all bible quotes or sermons. Is caring for one another a strictly Christian theme or is it universal?

One of the biggest struggles among the disciples both before and after Jesus’ death was over who was going to be Jesus’ successor. Before his death, I could see how there might have been intense competition for that position; but after they saw his crucifixion, I can’t imagine why any of them would want the “job.”

CNN broadcast a series during Lent and Easter called “Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery.” It was a series based on the search for the “historical Jesus.” The term “historical Jesus” refers to the real person, Jesus of Nazareth, versus the “resurrected Jesus” which is the person the Church has made Jesus to be. In my opinion, this series was one of the poorer biblical programs CNN has produced. It was clearly marketed for the “believing” Christian community. Scholarship was deeply compromised even though many of those interviewed are noted biblical scholars. You know you’ve been compromised when the media doesn’t include a full sentence in quoting what you say. Such was the case with “Finding Jesus.” It was so full of innuendo and speculation that even the most naïve person must have questioned what was being said. I’ve never in my life heard “could” “if,” “maybe” and “perhaps” used so many times in a pseudo-documentary. But there was one piece of research that was interesting and documentable: in the non-canonical gospels – the gospels that the Christian Church didn’t choose to include as part of the official canon (selection of books) of the Bible – there is a fierce competition between Mary Magdalene and Peter as to who would be the successor-leader after Jesus’ death. The Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Thomas make this point well.

Just imagine how different Christianity would be today if Mary Magdalene was known as the successor – the great Shepherd of the Sheep – instead of Peter.

The Gospel of John, which is believed to have been written about 100-125 years after Jesus’ death, jumps right into that controversy and makes it clear that Peter is the one the Risen Jesus chooses as his successor. I still like the idea of Mary Magdalene being commissioned by Jesus to be the next “Great Shepherd” but clearly the religious old-boys didn’t. In fact, Mary Magdalene is never again heard of after the death and resurrection stories except in those non-canonical gospels. She was clearly written out of the biblical story, which is quite amazing when you think that she was the one who stayed with Jesus at the foot of the cross as he died and she was the one to announce the Resurrection to the male disciples.

Since Peter denies even knowing Jesus three times on the evening before his crucifixion, John’s Gospel cleans this up by having the resurrected Jesus ask Peter – three times – if you (Peter) really love me (Jesus)? Each time Peter answers “YES! You know that!” By the third time, Peter even gets defensive and shouts out “You know everything! You know I love you.” Then Jesus says to Peter, as he did each preceding time, “Feed my sheep.”

“Feed my sheep” is an image that for most of us is totally beyond our experience. It is the equivalent of “care for one another.”   In our violence-prone, self-centered, competitive, me-first, white-male dominated society, the very concept of caring for one another is antithetical to just about everything our culture entices us to be and seek after. And yet, that is one of the vital signs of being spiritually alive – of living the life of Resurrection – that Jesus leaves us with.

This Sunday we are going to look at the surprising ways that caring for one another raises us – those of us who care about and care for others – to new life; to new life in Christ.

Blessings to you as we journey into the experience of new life in this Season of Easter,

Dan

 

 ~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

John 21:1-19

Jesus appeared again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and appeared in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We’ll go with you.” They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.

Just as the day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any fish?” They answered, “No.” Jesus said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”   So they cast it as Jesus had told them, and this time they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish that filled the net. The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is Jesus!” When Simon Peter heard that it was Jesus, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”

Now none of the disciples dared ask, “Who are you?” They knew it was Jesus.

Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and then in the same way gave them the fish.

This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after being raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon said to Jesus, “Yes, Jesus, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said, “Yes, Jesus, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” A third time Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because Jesus asked him this a third time. He said, “Jesus, you know everything! You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” And after this Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”

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