Sermon from 15th May 2022 (Easter 5)

John 13:31-35 (EHV)

31 After Judas left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify the Son in himself and will glorify him at once.”

33 “Dear children, I am going to be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, so also you are to love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Dear Heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit upon us so that we may learn to love one another as your Son, Jesus Christ, loves us. Amen.

There’s a story of a pastor who got up to preach one Sunday.

As he got up to preach, the people settled into their normal listening routines with their expressionless faces, folded arms, crossed legs, and expected to sit on their hard pews for a long time.

The pastor said: “Brothers and sisters in Christ, love one another!”

And then he sat down.

Everyone looked at their watches, looked at each other, and smiled! They started thinking about what they could do for the rest of the morning knowing they were getting out of church early!

At the end of the worship service, many shook the pastor’s hand and said: “Great sermon pastor!” The people gladly went their way to their coffee shops, picnics, fishing spots, or enjoyed watching more of their sports on TV.

The next Sunday the people prepared as usual for their pastor’s sermon thinking he’d probably settle back into his normal sermon length. Some of them wondered if he might come up with another short and sweet sermon.

The pastor got up to preach and said: “Brothers and sisters in Christ, love one another!”

And then he sat down.

The people didn’t check their watches this time, but their still looked at each other. They weren’t smiling as much. They had heard this sermon before! A whole week had gone by and this is the best the pastor could come up with, re-hashing an old sermon they only heard last week? Sure, the worship service went as quick as the previous week, but they were a little troubled by this repeated sermon.

Even though this sermon got glowing reviews the week before, it didn’t get as many good reviews this time. Anyway, the people didn’t say very much to the pastor and went about their normal post-worship routines as the previous week.

The next Sunday comes around. The people are curious, but a little wary, of what the pastor might preach this week. They sat back to listen to the sermon, but their faces showed a few more frowns than usual, just in case they were going to hear the same sermon for three weeks in a row.

The pastor got up to preach and said: “Brothers and sisters in Christ, love one another!”

And then he sat down.

While the people were overjoyed with this sermon only two weeks beforehand, they were now very angry at this same sermon! There didn’t seem to be much love in the room for the rest of the service. Quite a few of them by-passed the pastor and didn’t shake his hand. In fact, the people talked to the Elders about the pastor’s three-peated sermon and insisted they do something about it!

In response, the Elders stormed up to the pastor and demanded to know why he has now preached the same sermon three times.

The pastor quietly and patiently responded by saying: “Well, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I’ll stop preaching this sermon when you all do love one another!”

Now, many of us might think we love one another. After all, we all have the capacity to love and be loved. This is true for everyone, including non-Christians.

But how much do you really love the person next to you? How much do you love those you disagree with? How much do you love those who have let you down? How much do you love those who have hurt you through their words and actions?

If you had to look around at each person in this room and mentally note how much you love each of them using a scale between one and ten, how many of you would truly score each person a perfect number? How would each person score their love for you? If you had to score how much you love those who have hurt you, or abandoned you, or gossiped about you, how would you rate your love?

It could be we have very good reasons why we struggle to love one another, but notice what Jesus says about his three-peated command for us to love one another.

He said: “Just as I have loved you, so also you are to love one another.” Jn 13:34

Just as Jesus loves you and me. This is the love we’re to have for one another.

This then begs the question: If we’re to love one another as Jesus loves us, how does Jesus love us?

Well, imagine if the person next to you knew everything about you. And I mean everything! Every word you spoke when they weren’t around. Every detail about what you did twenty-four hours a day, every day. Every weird dream you had. Every judgmental and critical thought you had. Every second glance you made toward someone and what you were thinking at the time. Every desire and fear which motivates your actions.

How comfortable would you all be feeling right now if everyone in this room knew everything about you?

Would you start to worry if they’d still love you if they knew every evil thought, every hasty word, every selfish action, and every self-centred motivation of your heart?

Well, Jesus knows you’re sinful. He knows you’re selfish. He knows you’re weak and easily led astray. He knows all your negative thoughts about those he loves. He knows your struggles to believe. He knows every secret desire and fear of your heart which motivated your sinful responses to those around you. He knows everything about you, but still chooses to love you anyway!

If you’re to love as Jesus loves you (even though he knows all your faults and failures and frailties), you might find out things about those around you which disappoint you or make you angry. Your expectations of them will be shattered. When you get to know the people around you better, you may not want to love them anymore. You might feel justified in your treatment of them now that you know what you know.

But Jesus asks you to love one another in the same way he loves you. This means, even when you find out they’re not as good and helpful and honest and faithful as you thought they were, Jesus commands you to love one another anyway. You don’t love them because they’re lovable or worthy of your love, but because this is how Jesus loves you.

Jesus’ love for you cost him dearly. It wasn’t just that he knew something about you that you didn’t want him to know. He was deeply hurt by you.

Your common reaction to being hurt by those you love is to hurt them back, tell others about what they did, damage their reputation, or seek to avoid them. The last thing you want is to be hurt again.

But despite the fact Jesus knew how his own people would treat him, he entered our hurt-filled, war-ravaged, conflict-riddled world to suffer and die at the hands of the people he created. He endured insult and criticism. He watched his closest friends betray him, abandon him, and deny knowing him. He endured slaps in his face and whips on his back. And at no time did he complain their treatment of him wasn’t fair or for someone to come to his rescue.

As he hung on that cruel cross with nails bringing agony as they penetrated his hands and feet, the words he spoke to those around him weren’t demands for justice or cries about his innocence. Despite his pain, every word he spoke from his thorny throne were expressions of his love and compassion for those around him.

He made sure his mother was looked after. He comforted a criminal with a promise of living in Paradise with him. He forgave all those who didn’t know what they were doing (despite the fact they believed they knew exactly what they were doing). He announced everything needed for our forgiveness and salvation is finished.

His only words which expressed some concern for his own needs was when he expressed his thirst, how he felt abandoned by his Father, and his trust knowing his Father will receive his Spirit.

He endured the cross and the grave for you and me because he loves us. His death offers us the forgiveness of our sins because he paid the penalty of death as payment for our sin in our place. You and I are forgiven for the sake of his bitter suffering and death. His resurrection offers us the promise of eternal life with him. Even though he knows us and is often hurt by us, he still loves us enough to forgive us and grant us lasting life with him.

If you’re to love as Jesus loves you (even though you’ve often hurt him and his people), you shouldn’t be surprised people will hurt you. You’ll find this hard to bear. You won’t want to forgive them. You’ll want to hurt them back. You’ll want to avoid them so they can’t hurt you again. You’ll want someone to come to your rescue.

But, as recipients of Jesus’ love and mercy, he asks you to love one another as he loves you. This kind of love will turn the other cheek and lend without expecting a return. This kind of love won’t be surprised when people let you down or hurt you and you’ll be willing to forgive them. This kind of love considers those around you, including those who trouble you and frustrate you, as more important than yourselves as you humble yourselves to serve those in need. This kind of love will seek to love the unlovable, care for the careless, and show mercy to the merciless.

This isn’t because you’ve got the power or will to love them under your own strength. Your love is never that loving. But you love because, as a result of your trusting faith in Jesus, you’re simply bearing the Spirit’s fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control as you pass on Jesus’ love to one another. That’s how people will know you’re his disciples; not because you’re more loving than anyone else, but because you’re passing on the love of Jesus without fear or favour.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, love one another as Jesus loves you.

And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sermon from 8th May 2022 (Easter 4)

John 10:22-30 (EHV)

22 Then the Festival of Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple area in Solomon’s Colonnade.

24 So the Jews gathered around Jesus, asking, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered them, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I am doing in my Father’s name testify about me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not my sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

Dear Heavenly Father, as we listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd, send your Holy Spirit upon us so we may be comforted by his promises of life and security. Amen.

Jesus says his sheep hear his voice. So, as faithful sheep who listen to him, we regularly attend worship to hear God’s Word and gather around his blessed banqueting table to be fed by him. This is right and good for us as his beloved sheep.

But if we’re honest with God and with ourselves, we’re not always very good at listening. We don’t listen well to God, and we don’t listen well to each other. Instead, we usually listen to ourselves and our own presumptive opinions as our self-centred thoughts rattle about in our minds all day long.

So, let’s try to listen carefully to what Jesus is saying to us today.

For starters, it’s helpful to consider the context of his words. Earlier in John chapter 10 Jesus referred to himself as the Good Shepherd and the Gate for the sheep. He’s already unpacked what this means for his hearers, but he’s now moved on to a different time and setting for a new conversation about his ‘Good Shepherding’ which took place at the Feast of Dedication.

Now, hands up if you know what this ‘Feast of Dedication’ was all about? What if I told you another term for this festival is ‘Hanukkah’? Do you know what the Jews celebrate in this festival?

Well, the Feast of Dedication (or Hanukkah) came about between the Old and New Testaments, which is recorded in the Deuterocanonical books of 1st and 2nd Maccabees.

In this case, Judea had been invaded by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. He outlawed Judaism and desecrated the Second Temple in Jerusalem by erecting an altar to Zeus in it and sacrificed pigs on it (which is an unclean animal for the Jews).

This led to a large-scale revolt led by the Jewish priest Mattathias and his five sons, one of whom was Judah Maccabee, who liberated the Temple and rededicated it. Hanukkah means ‘re-dedication’ or ‘renewal’ and this historic event is celebrated every year for eight days, often around about the time we celebrate Christmas. In Jerusalem, it would be winter when this festival normally takes place.

So, we learn the context of Jesus’ conversation is when they’re celebrating the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. In fact, the conversation takes place as he’s walking in the ‘Colonnade of Solomon’ which is part of the holy Temple complex.

As Jesus walks with the Jews within the Temple complex at this important time when they celebrate its re-dedication and renewal, they start to think about the restoration and renewal of the kingdom of God, which is promised to occur when the Messiah comes.

This is why they ask the question: Is Jesus the promised Messiah or not? Is now the time when the Kingdom of Israel will be restored in all its glory because the Messiah is finally here, or do they have to wait for someone else?

Jesus’ reply almost makes us wonder if he was shaking his head and rolling his eyes!

He says he’s already told them, but they’re not listening very well. He’s shown them his glory and power, but they’re not paying close attention. He’s already bringing in the kingdom of God, but they don’t recognise it. He states the reason why they don’t believe he’s the promised Messiah is because they’re not his sheep. You see, if they were really his sheep, they would listen, recognise, and respond differently.

For the Jews who considered themselves to be God’s faithful holy flock, Jesus’ comment saying they weren’t his sheep would have shocked them! But I wonder if it might challenge us too.

For example, do we also listen to him carefully? Are we paying close attention to his saving work – not only what he did through his death and resurrection, but even his work here and now in our church today? Can you recognise how he’s at work among us to heal and reconcile us? Are we listening to the voice of Jesus, or are other voices (including our own internal monologues) grabbing our attention? Do the words we hear in the readings and the sermon last beyond those doors at the back of the church?

Yet, despite our struggles to listen very well, Jesus wishes to comfort and bless his faithful sheep, including you and me.

Jesus says: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28

These are precious words for us to mull on, contemplate, study, consider, and take to heart. They reassure us of six important realities for faithful listening sheep which we can trust.

  1. Jesus’ sheep don’t just listen once or twice, and we’re done. Jesus’ sheep are ‘listening’ people. We keep listening to Jesus’ words as if they’re the only true and trustworthy words which nourish, equip, challenge, comfort, and sustain hungry and weary sheep-people like you and me. In a world filled with so many attractive lies and deceptions, we need to keep listening to Jesus and trust what he says as he forgives, cleanses, and feeds his holy people
  • Jesus knows his sheep – deeply, intimately, and personally. In a world where we can feel so lonely and isolated because we wonder if anyone truly cares or knows us, Jesus knows (and keeps getting to know) you and me. He listens to all our prayers and knows our inner-most struggles, fears, desires, deceptions, scars, worries, sicknesses, and doubts. And even though he knows all this about us (including our most horrific sins against God and those around us which we’ve tried to hide from everyone else), he still loves us!
  • There’s a unity of purpose, direction, and companionship between Jesus and his sheep. His sheep desire to keep following Jesus. So, even though there’s so many other distractions and attractions which might tempt us away from following Jesus, Jesus’ sheep (who keep listening to Jesus and are known by Jesus) can’t help but follow in his footsteps. Listening and knowing and following all go hand in hand and can’t be separated. We can’t do one and opt out of the others.
  • As a result, Jesus’ sheep receive a deep, lasting life. This doesn’t mean each of us will have a trouble-free life without health or relationship troubles, or that we won’t experience failure or times of difficulty. But it does mean that even when we experience times when the valley of the shadow of death looms over us and threaten us, we’re still secure in our relationship with our Good Shepherd who continues to speak his words of comfort and peace, who continues to welcome us at his holy table, and who continues to promise forgiveness, cleansing, and eternal life.
  • Do you know that you and I, as Jesus’ precious and dearly loved sheep who keep listening to him, will never perish? Sure, our skin and bones will one day shrivel and rot away in our graves, but you and I will never perish! After all, we believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Therefore, even when death seems inevitable (which it is), we need to remember these words were spoken by the same Saviour who conquered death, rose again in bodily form, and still lives eternally. As people who follow Jesus, we confidently follow him through death into eternal life. That’s where we belong and have our future!
  • This means death can’t get a firm grip on us. Even Satan can’t keep hold of us. Instead, we’re held securely in the eternal grip of Jesus Christ who already stands on the eternal side of life in his everlasting kingdom. This means you and I belong, body and soul, where Jesus belongs, and he won’t let you or me go.

These two simple verses are full of comfort and promise for all those who are Jesus’ listening and following sheep, including you and me.

But there’s one more surprise in Jesus’ words. He goes on to say: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:29

This gives us the confidence that not only does Jesus have a secure grip on you and me, but so does the Father, who is greater than all.

But this isn’t the only way this verse has been translated. This doesn’t mean it’s wrong (in fact, the alternate translation is often indicated in the footnotes), but it needs to be carefully considered.

You see, the alternate translation says: “What my Father has given me is more important than anything, and no one can snatch it from the Father’s hand.” John 10:29 ISV

If we consider this to be true, we need to consider: What is this thing the Father has given Jesus which is more important than anything?

Well, it’s you and me! What’s more important than anything, and therefore worth the price of Jesus’ sacrificial blood?

Well, it’s the holy people of God who keep listening to his voice, who are known intimately by Jesus, who keep following Jesus, who receive a deep and lasting life, who won’t perish, and can never be taken out of his hand!

This means, you and I, as members of the holy flock of God, are more important to God than anything else! This holy huddle of flawed and imperfect sheep, who are part of God’s precious and valuable flock (along with all the other holy huddles of flawed and imperfect sheep across the world which make up the one true Church) is more important to God than anything else!

As Jesus walks around the Temple in Jerusalem at the time when his people celebrate its renewal and re-dedication, he speaks about the precious and dearly loved sheep of God who are constantly being renewed and rededicated by listening to his holy Word and responding with trusting faith.

Jesus continues to walk among us today and continues to speak to his precious flock. This means we’re not to neglect hearing what he says, after all, his sheep keep listening to him and want to be where Jesus says he promises to be, including at his banqueting table. As dearly loved members of his holy flock, let’s continue to listen to him and keep on receiving the heavenly comforts of forgiveness, life, and peace that he offers.

And it’s in this way the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sermon from 1st May 2022 (Easter 3)

John 21:15-19 (EHV)

15 When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I care about you.”

Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs.”

16 A second time Jesus asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

He said, “Yes, Lord, you know that I care about you.”

Jesus told him, “Be a shepherd for my sheep.”

17 He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you care about me?”

Peter was grieved because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you care about me?” He answered, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I care about you.”

“Feed my sheep,” Jesus said. 18 “Amen, Amen, I tell you: When you were young, you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will tie you and carry you where you do not want to go.”

19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. After saying this, he told him, “Follow me.”

Dear heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit on us so we may be assured of your love for us, and that we may also assure those around us of our love, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Some of you may remember a well-known musical named ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. It’s the story of a Jewish man, his wife, and their three daughters (all of whom are approaching marrying age) who live in Russia, and how they cope with the many challenges to their life and faith.

The father, Tevye, has been busy negotiating husbands for his daughters, and he turns to his wife Golde, and asks: “Do you love me?”

She replies: “Do I what?”

Unperturbed, he asks again, “Do you love me?”

She replies, “Do I love you?

With our daughters getting married

And this trouble in the town

You’re upset, you’re worn out

Go inside, go lie down!

Maybe it’s indigestion!”

But he really wants to know, so he says: “Golde, I’m asking you a question… Do you love me?”

She says “You’re a fool!”

He says “I know… But do you love me?”

She responds: “Do I love you?

For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes,

Cooked your meals, cleaned your house,

Given you children, milked your cow,

After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?”

Then Tevye says: “Golde, the first time I met you

Was on our wedding day

I was scared.”

She says: “I was shy.”

He says: “‘I was nervous.”

She says: “So was I.”

He goes on to say: “But my father and my mother

Said we’d learn to love each other

And now I’m asking, Golde,

Do you love me?”

She answers: “I’m your wife!”

He says “I know… But do you love me?”

Golde, thinking about it, asks: “Do I love him?

For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him

Fought him, starved with him

Twenty-five years my bed is his

If that’s not love, what is?”

With this glimmer of hope, Tevye asks: “Then you love me?”

At last, she says: “I suppose I do!”

Happily, he says to her: “Then I suppose I love you too!”

Together they sing: “It doesn’t change a thing, but even so, after twenty-five years…it’s nice to know!”

Now, I hope none of you needed to wait twenty-five years before someone says they love you, but the question “Do you love me?” is an important one. We all need to hear and experience love from people close to us. The reassurance of love is even more important after a strain in that relationship makes you question the other person’s love.

Unfortunately, some people get offended by the question: ‘Do you love me?’ They might think their love is under question or under scrutiny. Yet, we shouldn’t ignore the fact the other person might need an assurance of our love, so it’s still important to answer.

Another problem is, this question about someone’s love can also be used to manipulate or abuse. For example, a boy might ask his girlfriend if she loves him, and if so, he might require her love to be expressed a certain way which breaks the 6th Commandment about adultery. While true love can be expressed in many other ways, for too many people, sexual intimacy is the only ‘love’ they’re after.

Children and parents, or husbands and wives, might also question each other’s when we don’t get what we want from them. We might challenge each other, using ‘love’ as blackmail, suggesting: “If you love me, then you’ll give me what I want!’ even though true love knows it should deny that selfish demand.

In a similar way, the teachings and practices of the Church have often been challenged, because some people consider these things to be ‘unloving’. Accordingly, because they don’t want to labelled as ‘unloving’, many pastors and people have said ‘yes’ when they should have said ‘no’ and ‘no’ when they should have said ‘yes’.

Today we hear Jesus ask this same question ‘Do you love me?’ to Peter right in front of the other six disciples.

Now, we might wonder why Jesus felt the need for this question. Why did Jesus feel the need to be reassured of Peter’s love? After all, most of the apostles abandoned Jesus at the time of his arrest and crucifixion, so why single Peter out?

But then we remember Peter was the one who had publicly denied Jesus – not just once, but three times. Jesus is aware of this, but since Jesus rarely does things just to satisfy himself and his own personal needs, he must be doing this for Peter’s benefit as well as the disciples.

It shouldn’t surprise us Peter was utterly ashamed of his denial. He’d sworn to never abandon Jesus, but he had. He not only abandoned Jesus, but he denied even knowing him. After learning so much from Jesus, Peter had let him down at the worst of times.

So, Jesus asks Peter ‘Do you love me more than these?’

Now, what or who ‘these’ are, we’re not sure. It could be Jesus was asking if Peter loved Jesus more than the other disciples loved Jesus. Perhaps Jesus was asking if Peter loved Jesus more than Peter loved the other disciples. Maybe Jesus was asking Peter if he loved Jesus more than fishing and all the other things he used to do.

But how would you answer such a question?

Do you love Jesus more than everyone else? Do you love Jesus more than you love your husband, wife, siblings, children, or parents? Do you love Jesus more than all your precious belongings and the things you take pleasure in? And if you’re ever bold enough or courageous enough to say ‘yes’ to these questions, how would you show that love? Perhaps you’d discover your own love for Jesus would also be under question!

Getting back to Peter, he doesn’t necessarily answer the last part of the question, but simply gives an affirmative answer: ‘Yes Lord, you know that I love you.’

Although, what doesn’t always come out through our English translations is Peter responds with a different word for ‘love’ than Jesus. Instead of the deep affection and cherishing word for love (agape) which Jesus is asking about, Peter answers he loves Jesus with a different word for love (phileo), which is closer to ‘liking’ someone as a friend.

Jesus tells Peter to tend his sheep and asks again: ‘Do you love me?’

Peter may have been getting more uncomfortable by this time, but answers the same way as before, ‘Yes Lord, you know that I love you.’

Jesus says: ‘Shepherd my sheep.’

A third time Jesus asks Peter ‘Do you love me?’ But this time Jesus uses the same friendship word for love Peter’s been using.

By this time Peter was upset he had to answer a third time. Although not specifically mentioned in our text, the fact Jesus asked a third time would have clearly reminded Peter he had denied Jesus three times.

Jesus would have known Peter was ashamed and troubled by his three denials, so therefore it may have been for Peter’s benefit that he now publicly confesses his love for Jesus three times. Peter answers ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’

Jesus says: ‘Feed my sheep.’

Now that Peter was restored and reconciled with Jesus, he says to him: ‘Follow me.’

Jesus purposely did this in front of the other disciples because they too needed to witness the reconciliation and restoration of Peter to Jesus.

They would have been aware of Peter’s denial. News of broken trust and strains in relationships always travels fast. Rumours and gossip about Peter’s denial would have damaged his standing among them. Yet now the other disciples witness this reconciliation. Peter’s place among them is once more graciously secure.

As a result of this restoration among the disciples, Peter follows Jesus. This time he’ll follow Jesus all the way to the cross and won’t deny Jesus again. Tradition tells us Peter was later crucified upside down for bearing witness to Jesus.

Now, many of us would also like to say we also love Jesus, but notice how Jesus says our love for him is to be expressed. The tending and the feeding of his sheep is the way we show our love for Jesus.

Even though Jesus could directly rule and care for his flock, which is the Church, as our Good Shepherd, he instead chose to send flawed and imperfect humans like Peter to minister to his people in his place.

The food his servants are to feed God’s people with, is God’s Word. Sometimes God’s Word will be combined with water in Holy Baptism, or God’s Word might be combined with bread and wine in Holy Communion. Other times God’s Word of challenge, comfort, direction, or forgiveness will be enough to feed your hungry souls.

These ‘ministers’ of God’s grace are called pastors in our church, which is the Latin word for shepherd. Pastors are sent by Jesus to tend and care for the sheep, the people of God whom he places in their care. They’re not to act on their own or by their own authority, but they’re servants working under the authority of Jesus, sent with a mission to feed the people of God with God’s Word.

Even though pastors may do this publicly, you too can feed God’s people in your own private lives. For example, parents may feed their children with God’s Word. After all, how are your children to know you love Jesus? Your children will know you love Jesus when you teach them about Jesus and nourish them with God’s Word in your devotions and prayers. Husbands and wives may also share your love for Jesus when you remind each other of God’s Words of guidance, promise, and comfort. Feeding people around you with the forgiveness of Jesus also feeds them with a precious food which nourishes their need for love, reconciliation, and restoration.

Unfortunately, there are times some of Jesus’ shepherds or teachers might fail Jesus or his people. Your spouse, siblings, church members, and friends, may also fail you in their love. Once they’ve let you down by their lack of love, it can be hard to love them, or be loved by them, again.

You see, once love is broken, trust is also broken. While you may have the grace to forgive them, this doesn’t always mean you automatically trust them again. Like Jesus, you may need to repeatedly hear and experience their love before you can believe and trust their love once more.

Similarly, it’s important for you to reassure those around you of your love in word and action because they may need to hear and experience it again and again.

In regard to your own relationship with Jesus, who of you can ever say you haven’t let him down? You too, like Peter, have denied him, run away from him, rebelled against him, and failed to pass on his love or share his Word of grace and forgiveness with those around you. Just like Peter, you too may need to repeat your confession of love and faithfulness – not just for Jesus’ benefit, but also for your own benefit and the benefit of those around you.

In this case, you confess your love for him every time you stop from your busy schedules to hear God’s Word. You confess your love for him when you’re honest with yourself and confess your sins and failures to love. You confess your love for him when you make your confession of faith in our Triune God. You confess your love for him when you’re fed with his holy body and blood. You confess your love for him when you repeatedly forgive those around you. You confess your love for him when you teach the young and build each other up in faith.

In this exchange of love between Jesus and Peter, who in his own pride and weakness failed his Lord, Jesus restores Peter’s relationship with himself and his flock. Similarly, our own sins and failures make us feel unworthy to love and serve God or his people. But Jesus continues to comfort his pastors and people of his own love and forgiveness. He graciously gives us another chance to receive and pass on his love.

Jesus doesn’t want to lose any of you. He still loves and feeds you through his faithful pastors. He still nourishes you with his holy Word and Sacraments. He still forgives you. He still loves you…

…so that the love and peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will continue to guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.