Conversion

John 21:1-19

Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples

21 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin,[a] Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped 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, only about a hundred yardsoff.

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, andbread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty- three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

1When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 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.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Acts 9:1-10

The Conversion of Saul

9 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”

I grew up fishing with my dad. I have to admit, I wasn’t good at it and didn’t particularly enjoy it. I think it was because it was something my dad loved, and really wanted me to love it…but, I just didn’t. Although I do have good memories of going to his favorite lake to fish and camp. Jericho lake near our house in Louisville. I went there recently after my dad’s death last June.

It seems like a lot of times growing up, I had passions for some things like adventures in hiking mountains or sports, where as my dad had other passions such as fishing, carpentry, and classical music.

As I grew older, as I said in the children’s moment, I had some deep friendships with folks who were great fisherman. I began to realize that fishing can be a fun exercise. It’s peaceful, strategic, and there is an art to it. I have been amazed at some of my friends with a gift for fishing. They simply know where to put their lines in the water, and the patience and talent to lure fish onto their hooks!

I think it turned when I went to Alaska with Debbie and our daughter McKenzie 15 or so years ago. We went to visit friends and to explore some of the beauty of Alaska.

Our friends were also avid fisherman. So, every other day we went salmon fishing in some gorgeous place. One day may be fishing off the coast of Valdez in a boat, the next maybe in a remote glacier lake casting towards the sunrise over snow capped mountains.

I still wasn’t that great of fisherman, but even there I caught enough fish to fill a huge box of salmon steaks to ship home!

There was a gradual change within me towards fishing…a conversion if you will!

Our gospel lesson this morning finds the disciples after Jesus’ death and resurrection. They are near the Sea of Tiberius, they have heard rumors about Jesus’ resurrection, Peter has even seen evidence as have others, but the new reality is still sinking in. They have been living under a perception of what faith meant, they had put their hopes and dreams in a visible earthly kingdom, and the Jesus that they followed…well, even though he may have risen, the images of him being crucified, and their shame in deserting Jesus was almost too much for them to process.

So, what do they do. They go fishing. They grew up around it, it gave them fellowship, a source of income, and they were good at it.

The fished all night. They knew the right places, they had the right technique, they had the correct bait to attract fish, yet, they caught nothing. All night, nothing.

The next morning, they see this guy on the beach yelling something to them. It’s interesting that our text says “children”. Some texts use the word friends, but children could apply. They had not reached a point of change or growth in their understanding. Their faith was still maturing. But, I also like friends. Both work here. Calling the disciples children wasn’t saying anything about their character, I think it was a term of endearment, as well as a desire for growth.

What else does Jesus tell them? Throw your nets on the other side! I’m sure they are thinking, how would that help? We know these waters, we know how to fish…moving our nets a few feel won’t do anything. Yet, they had fished all night with no results. They were doing what they always did which got them something in times past, but nothing on this day.

So, they take a risk, trust this guy on the beach, and throw their nets on the other side. What happens? We all know, they caught more fish than they could pull in! 153 to be exact! Now, here’s a think about biblical numbers, this says nothing about goals. I used to be on staff at a church that said we wanted to go out and “net 50” new families in the church during a fall. It didn’t happen, nor was that biblical. We can read too much into numbers, but essentially it a reporting of something that happens out of obedience and deep, loving, honoring and unshameful relationships.

We see that happening here in this gospel lesson. When Peter realizes that it’s Jesus, when his eyes are opened to his friend, he puts on his clothes and jumps into the sea to swim to Jesus. Now, I’m not sure of the custom at that time about fishing without clothes, and I’ve read a lot of commentaries on this passage, and I’m still not sure on why you’d put on clothes to swim even…yet, that’s in the passage…and it shows Peter being Peter, impulsive and passionate…and a leader that others would follow.

Which they do, they get to shore and Jesus invites them to cook breakfast together. He doesn’t hand them the food, they pull in their haul, start a fire, and cook together.

After breakfast, they have this wonderfully awkward and hard dialogue. Jesus asking Peter 3x if he loves Jesus. I believe that Jesus is restoring Peter. Peter denied him 3x on the night before he was crucified, so he asks Jesus 3x. It must’ve been somewhat hard for Peter as evidenced in the passage. Yet, he eventually catches on, and Jesus gives him the charge to build up the church.

Friends, this passage can speak to us in our personal lives and in lives together as Fleming Road UCC. There may be things that we’ve done for a long time in our lives that simply are not working anymore, we need a fresh perspective, maybe we need to put our nets somewhere else. We certainly need to slow down, and listen to the voice of God calling us to jump out of whatever boat we are in and swim towards this Jesus who continues to beckon us towards deeper relationship with him, ourselves, and others.

As we do this, we will find ourselves in the midst of conversion. Conversion is a lifelong process. The Benedictine monks got it, they would pray for Stability, Obedience, and Conversion daily.

I believe in this process of change and growth. I often tell folks that I don’t go into our neighborhood seeking converts, I go for my own conversion! As we build authentic friendships, all of us change and grow for the better.

One of our other scripture lessons this morning is the story of Paul’s conversion.

It was dramatic, on the road to Damascus, a blinding light, and the voice of Jesus. It was also dramatic when you consider that Paul persecuted Christians, killed them, separated families, instilled fear in the early church. Yet, love penetrates even the most darkest of places when we come before the light of God’s presence and hear the voice of Jesus calling us towards the other side of the boat, out of what we’ve become used to, and into the wide open spaces of God’s expansive love.

This church, our lives, we are in the midst of conversion. All of us, myself included, are moving towards new chapters in our lives. That is good news for me, for us, and for all of those around us.

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