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Sermon for the Third Sunday in Easter – May 1, 2022

John 21:1-19

Dear friends, grace to you and peace from God our Father and our risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s review just where we are in the Easter story on this third Sunday in the Easter season. The women found the tomb empty. Mary Magdalene saw the risen Jesus, and told Peter and the others about it. Jesus appeared to the disciples that evening, showing himself to them, and then he came back again a week later to show himself to Thomas. The disciples believed that Christ was risen. They had received the Spirit. They received the peace of Christ and confessed that he was their Lord and their God. And now, as we pick up the story today, we find that they had gone home. They returned to Galilee and went back to work, back to their jobs as fishermen.

Sometimes people fault the disciples for doing this, but I don’t think that’s really the point. After all, isn’t that what you did? After Easter Sunday worship, didn’t you go home? After our Sunday services in the Easter season so far, didn’t you go back to work on Monday? We believe that Christ is risen. We have received the Holy Spirit. We know the peace of Christ and confess that he is our Lord and God, but we too return to our homes and to our work. And that’s not wrong. Those are our God-given vocations. That’s where we live out our faith.

But Peter and the others not only returned to his home and to his work, he also found himself returning once again to the disappointments of daily life in the world. He worked hard casting his nets all night long, and caught nothing. He was skunked. Was the high of Easter tamped down somewhat by the struggles of daily life in the world? Probably. Was the joy of the resurrection diluted down a bit now by disappointment? Perhaps. Was the peace Christ brought now threatened by an anxiety that was creeping back in? I’d be surprised if it wasn’t.

But thankfully, Jesus kept showing up. Jesus showed himself again in Galilee! Jesus met them when they were back at home, when they were back at work! Jesus knew exactly what was going on in their lives. “Children, you have no fish, have you?” And this Lord of all creation, the same Lord who spoke creation into being, now filled their nets with fish. As they made their way to the shore with their 153 fish, Jesus called them to himself, saying, “Come, have breakfast.”

It is specifically noted that the disciples gathered with Jesus around a charcoal fire. This is more than just attention to detail. Remember, it was beside a charcoal fire that Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. John, the writer, by dropping in that little detail, is, in a sense, bringing us back to the scene of the crime. If the charcoal fire doesn’t make this obvious enough, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him, giving him three opportunities to confess his faith, effectively undoing his previous three denials. You see, even Peter’s worst sin couldn’t keep Jesus away. Jesus kept showing up!

Isn’t it wonderful to have people in your life who keep showing up? I hope you have someone like this in your life. Our sister in Christ Anabelle Mitchell has had a hard time these last couple of weeks with the hospitalization and then the death of her husband, our brother Lee. And you know who keeps showing up? Her friend, Barb Wilson. I went to see Lee in the hospital last week, and they almost didn’t let me in. They told me Lee was only allowed one visitor, and it was his wife. I told them I was their pastor, and they still wouldn’t let me in. Finally, I told them their own hospital chaplain called the church and asked me to come, and finally they let me in. Well, I went up to the second floor and talked my way past the floor nurse and got into the room, and not only was Anabelle sitting there, but Barb was there too! How the heck did she get in? Well, she showed up for her friend. I still don’t know how she did it, but she did! And since then, Barb keeps on showing up.

My godmother was present at my baptism, and she has kept on showing up in my life. She was my mom’s best friend, and when my mom died, she showed up at her apartment the day my sister and I were there to clean it out. She has kept on showing up too. In fact, she showed up in Oak Harbor on Thursday to have lunch with me.

I hope you have people in your life who keep on showing up, especially amidst the disappointments and the struggles of life in this world. I hope you can be the person who keeps showing up for someone else. If you need someone to show up during a hard season in your life we have Stephen Minsters here at church who, though they go through a lot of training as care givers, have as their main job just to simply show up for you. We as a church want to be a community who shows up for one another.

It is three weeks after Easter and our lives have probably returned to normal. We’ve all gone back home and back to work, and we’ve probably returned to some of the disappointments and the struggles of daily life in the world as well. There are all kinds of different challenges and hardships that are part of life in this world which have perhaps tempered the joy you felt on Easter morning. Many are concerned about increasingly empty nets as inflation continues to be a problem. The peace of Christ is always threated by worries that come creeping in. It has been a hard week at Oak Harbor Lutheran Church as we have learned of the deaths of two of our members, Lee Mitchell and Gene Verburg. Even as we continue to celebrate that Jesus has indeed ultimately conquered death by his glorious resurrection, it continues to bring grief and heartache. As St. Paul said, the last enemy to be destroyed is death.

What God’s Word has to tell us today is that we have a Lord and a God who keeps on showing up. This risen Lord we are celebrating this Easter season is a Lord who keeps on showing up as we return to our homes and to our work. This risen Lord knows exactly what our problems are, and he keeps on showing up amidst our empty nets and our disappointments and our worries and our heartaches. Even our worst sins can’t keep Jesus from showing up! Just as Jesus met Peter beside a charcoal fire, at the symbolic scene of the crime, so too does he show up for you with grace and mercy. He shows up to restore you, to call a confession of faith out of you, and to give your life meaning and purpose as you share his love with others at home, at work, and in the nitty gritty of daily life.

Our risen Lord Jesus was there at your baptism as you were joined to him as your Lord and savior. And because he is a risen Lord, he will continue to show up your whole life long, over and over again. In fact, he is showing up for you here today. He shows himself to us through Word and Sacrament. He shows up with his forgiveness and his love.  He calls us to himself, gathering us around the table he has set for us, saying, “Come, and have breakfast.”

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Rev. Jeffrey R. Spencer

Oak Harbor Lutheran Church