Sunday, April 10, 2016

Easter 3 Sermon (April 10) - 8 AM

Lord, open our eyes that we may see you in our brothers and sisters, both nearby and far away. Open our ears that we may hear the cries of the hungry, the cold, the frightened, the oppressed and those in prison. Open our hearts that we may love each other as you have loved us. Amen.

We continue our Easter celebrations, of Jesus who would not be stopped by a cross or tomb, not stopped by locked doors. Nor would Jesus be stopped by his disciples who have failed to see what Jesus had been asking of them all along. The Risen Jesus had called them to a new life, but their eyes did not see…

So Jesus appeared to his disciples again, the Gospel of John tells us, for they had returned to their old ways, they had gone fishing. And in the miracle of the large catch of fish, the disciples realized that they were seeing Jesus even if they didn’t voice it. And in a shared meal, Jesus became fully present to them.

And then Jesus addressed Peter three times, do you love me (feed or tend my sheep). Each time I can imagine with greater emphasis, you love me? Feed my sheep. Because out on their boat, Peter could not feed or tend to God’s sheep. He wasn’t reaching out to others.

Then Jesus called them to “follow me” as he did when he first called them to be his disciples. Jesus once again opens their eyes to their ministry. They had seen Jesus after the resurrection but they failed to see how it changed their lives & what they were supposed to do. They did not look for his redeeming work. That fear and doubt crept back in and they did what they knew they could do…

The Risen Jesus helped open the eyes of Peter and the other disciples, raising them from their fear and doubts, to help tend to the ministry that was there’s to live into.

Sometimes in our life, we have to have our eyes open to what God might be doing right in front of us and what God might be calling us to do. This is what happened to St. Paul, when his name was Saul & he thought he knew what he was supposed to do with his life.

I think of our first reading about from the Acts of the Apostles – Saul whose vision is clouded with hate for the disciples until he encounters Jesus on the way to Damascus. Saul came so close to God and God came so close to him in that event that he would come to a new understanding of what God wanted him to do. His life and his name changed in the encounter with Jesus in a flash of light on the road!

But he still can’t see until Ananais ministers to him and scales fell from his eyes. And then Saul the Persecutor becomes Paul the Evangelist.

Sometimes, we can’t see the road we have before us until someone like Ananais ministers to us and scales fall from our eyes and we are opened to God’s work.

20 year old Merle Haggard had been in and out of jail and prison for most of his teen years. Imprisoned for burglary, his life seemed to be heading down the road of a hardened and repeat convict. On New Year’s day in 1968, Haggard heard Johnny Cash sing at San Quentin Prison, and his life changed. He had begun to change his ways, but now he had a purpose and would become a country music legend. When asked if he had any positive experiences in prison, Haggard would always talk about seeing Johnny Cash and how it helped him become a better man. (multiple sources)

And something like scales fell from his eyes in that prison and Haggard would for the next 59 years put his soul into his country music.

Jonathan Lawler is a successful farmer living outside of Indianapolis, Indiana. He owns a large farm in a rural farming community with the farm selling about 700,000 pounds of food.

One day last fall, Jonathan’s son returned home from school. When Jonathan asked him about his day, “He talked about kids who take home food from the food pantry,” Jonathan says. He was stunned to hear that his son’s classmates were ‘hungry’ and couldn’t eat enough food in a day.

The area they lived in was full of farms and food, yet kids were still not eating enough in school. This notion troubled Jonathan, and it kept bothering him. He didn’t believe any child should feel hungry, so he came up with a solution, to help families and those who were food insecure.

Jonathan restructured his farm. Rather than only being a for-profit farm, he transformed it into a food aid organization where it provides local food banks, soup kitchens, and “hungry” folks with food to eat. The idea is to use the farm to feed those in need rather than make a profit off the harvest. Jonathan is now encouraging other farmers to pitch in and donate a portion of their harvests to help others in the region. (
And it was like scales falling from his eyes and he began to see the need all around him.

As Mother Teresa put it, "People are hungry for God. Do you see that? Quite often we look but do not see. We are all passing through this world. We need to open our eyes and see."

Lawler and Haggard are both examples to us, of those who lives were going in one direction and then their lives changed, and became so much fuller when their eyes we opened.

The Risen Jesus makes his presence known to Peter and his fishing companions by calling them to cast their nets, despite their doubts and frustrations, they do as Jesus instructs and end up with an incredible catch. In the midst of our own disappointments and failures, our fears and doubts, the Risen Jesus challenges us to open our eyes to what God is doing right before us.

Indeed, may we “open our eyes to see God’s hand at work in the world about us” and in our lives too, may the scales that hold us back from seeing fall from our eyes so that our lives may be so much richer and that we can help others on their journey.

New life is ours by the gift of the Risen Christ, can we see it? May our lives say yes to that gift and share it with others. Amen.

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