Risen Jesus' question and call to disciples

40th Anniversary Celebration

  • John 21: 15-19 Risen Jesus’ question and call to disciples

Hear the Word of God from John’s Gospel. After God raised Jesus from the dead, the Risen Christ appeared in various ways to his followers. This time Jesus appeared to disciples by the sea…..

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’
Simon Peter said to Jesus, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’
Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.

A second time Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me? ‘
Again Peter said to Jesus, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’
Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’

Jesus said to Simon Peter the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’
Peter felt hurt because Jesus said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’
And he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’
Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’

Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt
and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’

(Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this [Jesus] said to [Simon Peter], ‘Follow me.’

The Gospel of the Risen Jesus Christ!

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After his resurrection and prior to this great exchange between Jesus and Peter, are two other significant encounters with the risen Jesus. In the first encounter, among the first words that the risen Jesus says was to warn Mary “do not to hold on to me.” Not long later Jesus appeared to disciples and greeted them with, “Peace be with you.” These two words of the risen Jesus “Do not hold on to me” and “Peace be with you” are a strong indication that God is at work in the world in Jesus transforming our lives and the world. If disciples of the Risen Christ are to see what God is doing and to participate in what God is doing, we must heed these two challenges from Jesus. Do not hold on to our narrow perceptions of Jesus so that the peace of Christ can be seen at work in our lives and in the world.

Following these two challenges, a third challenge comes from Jesus in a key question
Jesus puts to Peter. Jesus asks Peter three times: “Do you love me?” “Do you love me?”
“Do you love me?”

There is much worth exploring in this great encounter by Peter with the risen Jesus. In a nutshell, our life with the risen Jesus must be grounded in love, building peace, and letting go of our safe or skewed perceptions of Jesus so that we can truly hear Jesus’ final word to Peter, “Follow me!”

For Mennonites, a significant thread through five centuries of our Anabaptist radical reformation story, has been to respond to Jesus’ call, “Follow me!” in everyday life. It is a life of peace, motivated by love, and lived in service to all God’s people and creation. That has meant specifically to refuse to participate in military service.

However, it does not mean that service is not our concern. It matters what kind of service we offer. To make the point explicitly: We believe that we cannot follow Jesus and harm another human being. On my office window is a sign saying, “When Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies,’ I think he probably meant don’t kill them.'” Our love is to be lived in service to Christ for the sake of the world – meaning all people and creation.

One specific way Mennonites have lived that service is through Mennonite Voluntary Service. Similar avenues of service are with Mennonite Central Committee or Mennonite Disaster Service or Christian Peacemaker Teams or with other church agencies.

When our two congregations, SMC and EMC, began in South Seattle, that new church knew that service was an important ministry and mission of the church. They were wise enough and faithful enough to begin a Mennonite Voluntary Service unit here in 1969 so others could come and serve “In the name of Christ.” This MVS unit has been a central part of SMC and EMC for nearly 40 years. Many people have come to serve in MVS over these years and many have stayed to be part of the church here. What a great gift and blessing this has been for SMC and EMC as Mennonite churches in the Puget Sound.

I have asked two members who have come to Seattle in Mennonite Voluntary Service and stayed to become active members of the church, to come so I can ask them some questions about their faith journey in MVS and in our two congregations. Mark Matthies came in the earlier years and is a member of EMC and Abbe Votaw came in more recent years and is a member of SMC. Mark and Abbe, would you come join me please?

While they are coming, let me ask, who of you here today came to Seattle for VS?
Who has served some other place in VS or MCC or other service?

Questions for Mark and Abbe:

  1. What years were you here in VS and where was your VS assignment?
  2. What lead you to stay after your VS term and stay in the church – EMC or SMC?
  3. In VS how did you hear Jesus ask, “Do you love me?” and tell you to “Feed my sheep.” In other words, what is one formative experience in VS that helped shape your faith in Christ and commitment to the church?
  4. What word of wisdom would you give to someone considering VS in Seattle?