Grace, mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and SDavior Jesus Christ who with the Holy Spirit are three-in-one.
Recently, many exciting things have come up in conversation and planning that concern the future of our church. The school is expanding at such a pace that we are in need of future classroom space. The church looks to provide new opportunities in ministry that will require further direction and planning and new people with new skills have become an important part of our family.
All of this begs the question, “Are we ready?” Before we start dreaming too intently, do we really know where God is taking us? What is the purpose we have been given in God’s larger plan?
What I have come to as I meditate on God’s Word, especially as it applies to all of us here, is that what we need as God’s people at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church is a renewed sense of our true purpose. What has God called us as a congregation to be.
When Prince of Peace was established, God called His people to serve Him in a particular way. Your calling was clear and I’m sure there was excitement in the air, a new church, a new ministry, a new beginning. I’m sure people had grand ideas as to what they would be able to do in ministry and how they might make a difference in the kingdom of God. The church grew and so did the faith of her people.
But, like in all churches, stuff happened. Slowly, ministry started being stifled because things, both great and small, got in the way.
This church, like most churches, saw its share of struggle. As time went on there was a loss of stability and things you tried with success to do before were harder to accomplish. Soon the church was left coasting without the knowledge of any special purpose other than the standard things all Christian churches should be responsible for. What set Prince of Peace apart from everyone else became harder to define.
Perhaps there are some of you who wonder what purpose God has for you and for Prince of Peace today. Many might see a need for God to intervene and renew the call that he has on our lives individually and as a church.
That is why John 21 fits so well for our text this morning. You see, that’s what I think is happening between Peter and Jesus in our Gospel lesson. This incident between the two is not about restoring Peter in His relationship with the Lord, that had already happened. That began immediately with Peter’s failure. Remember when the rooster crowed, and Jesus looked Peter in the eye.
That look of love and compassion melted Peter’s heart and the Bible says he went out and wept in repentance realizing what he had done. No, I don’t think Jesus was asking Peter these things so that his relationship with the Lord would be restored. This part of Scripture is about Peter’s restoration to ministry.
The problem, if we can call it that, for Prince of Peace, is not that our faith needs to be restored, I have talked to many of you and I sense a strong sense of faith in God from all of you. No, our need now is the same as Peter’s then. We need to be restored to ministry and purpose.
Here, Jesus is re-establishing Peter’s ministry calling. In this part of John, Jesus addresses three fundamental essentials in ministry: what is your motive in ministry, what is our special calling and what should be our focus.
Jesus approaches the issue of motive with a question, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” While restoring Peter to ministry, He begins with the most basic issue of all, our love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Replace Peter’s name with your own. Do you love me Ted? Do you love me Michelle? Do you love me Dan?
There are many questions Jesus might have asked Peter that day. Why did you deny me Peter? What were you thinking? What do you have to say for yourself? But Jesus didn’t ask these questions. He knew that true Christian ministry can only be found in how much we love Him and where we are willing to let that that love take us. The one basic qualification for ministry is found in this most probing question from Jesus, “Do you love me?” That is the only motive that will endure the test. This is the only way we can, as a church, find our purpose.
If we wholly love God then we will wholly love His people and the small things will not drive us apart. If we wholly love God than our lives will no longer be about us and our desires but, rather, will focus on the needs of our neighbor. Nothing will carry us through hard times better than our love for Christ and our sharing of that love with those around us.
When all else fails, love will not fail. In the Song of Songs 8:7, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.”
And here is the encouraging thing. Anybody can love God. You don’t have to have a great charisma or a high IQ or even be good looking. Everyone qualifies and the motive in ministry is the same for us all.
So why did the Lord ask this same question to Peter three times? I believe he did so to emphasize the importance of the issue. He is not centering on past failures or even upon current success but on current realities. Our qualification for ministry today is about the love we have for the Lord in our heart right now. Do we love Him? If we do, than we will serve Him with all our hearts. God will use anyone who loves Him.
Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus is saying here that love must be expressed and that it can be expressed in no greater way then by taking care of His people. Jesus didn’t say, “Meditate on my love and take yourself from the world as you do.” No, he is telling Pater as He is telling us today, “Take care of my people.”
Christ says is Matt. 25:40, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” The way we express our love for Jesus is found in the way we treat His people. 1 John 4:20-21, “If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
This is not a call to a profession; it is a call to a lifestyle. It is a call to a maturity in our faith and a call for personal sacrifice. It is a call to serve others not because we must, or because it makes us feel good, but because it is in our spiritual DNA.
Jesus tells Peter what this ministry will cost him in verse 18, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” Here Jesus is talking about the way that He will die as He is led to the cross. He will stretch out His hands and seal his testimony in blood. Peter once boasted that he would lay down his life for the Lord but later would shrink back out of his own love for himself and deny Jesus three times. But God has a way of fulfilling His will in us even if it requires a deep work of grace and forgiveness to get us there.
Our calling at Prince of Peace is not to suffer a martyr’s death. But to follow Jesus means a death of the worldly life that only serves ourselves. Our call is to recognize that we are not our own and that our truest joy only comes from the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives to the places God has already chosen us to be. It is so easy to lose sight of this. As Christians, we are not free to serve any fancy that attracts us. We are servants of the Lord, and we must follow His calling on our lives.
There are a thousand and one things the devil will use to divert us from God’s calling on our lives. The cares and concerns of life so dominate our time that we no longer have time for God, this is a dangerous place to be. If I can ask of you anything, it would be that you take time for God every day and in everything you do. The focus of our lives and especially our ministries should always be a response to this call from Jesus, “Follow me.”
You did not call me to be a pastor who simply maintains the status quo. I believe I was called here to work with you to make a difference in the kingdom and to remind you that God has awesome things in store for all of us together. I believe there are people here who want to make a kingdom difference even if it means sacrifice in their own lives. I believe I was called here long ago and that God shaped me to lead you to places you might never thought you would go.
If any of that is to happen, we must understand where God is taking us and I have no doubt that in time our calling as a church will become obvious to us. Right now, however, our call at Prince of Peace is to love our Lord with all of our heart and all of our mind and all of our soul. Our call is to trust in Him to lead us to the place he has already called us to be and to be a people that may do things they never thought they would do. And finally, our call is to be focused on Christ in everything we do. Every activity in your life should be a ministry.
I am so blessed because I know that God is using me to increase His kingdom and by that, I mean He is using all of us. There is nothing that God cannot make happen through us and, by faith, I hope that we never try to put limits on how effective He can be in and through us.
Don’t leave here today without a renewed sense of urgency on your life. Today is a new beginning. May God do mighty works in us for the benefit of those He has blessed us to serve. Amen.