Psalm 103:1-18, John 21:1-14
April 22, 2018
Saint Paul wrote these words to the church in the Greek city of Corinth. “If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation, the past is finished and done, behold, the new has come!” (II Cor. 5:17) Those words have been ringing in my head as I organized my thoughts this week.
And I have to ask, “Are we?” Are we “new creations?” Is the past truly “finished and done?” Has the new indeed come? In other words, is life different for us as God’s people?
Now, I’m sure we could look at the first part of that, and easily point to the “big picture,” and say “Yes.” The old life of sin is ended. The Good News of Easter is now the case. We have been redeemed! We have been given salvation! We are “new creations.” And that’s all well and good. But, I think it’s so important for us to ask the next question. Is the past truly “finished and done?” “Has the new indeed come?”
I say that because these words have to do with more than just the “eternal state of our soul.” They have to do with more than just our “salvation.” They have to do with the living of our everyday lives. And yes, we could even point to how that has changed, too. Our lives have not gone down some “dark path.” We have not become criminals or addicts or abusers, or whatever we see as that “dark path” in our world. But frankly, there are a lot of us who wouldn’t have gone down such a path anyway.
So what am I getting at here? Well, I believe those words of Saint Paul are some of the most important words about living the Christian life that were ever written. Because they speak to one of the most perpetual problems of God’s people – throughout all time. And that problem is the tendency of people to say they follow Jesus, but fail to live the life. In our modern expression, we would say that they “talk the talk,” but they don’t “walk the walk.” You’ve heard that expression I’m sure. And maybe that’s you. Or maybe it’s you some of the time.
I agree with Paul. Life is different for us, now that we are “in Christ.” Or at least it ought to be. Again, in being Christians, we are called to be different in more than just the “state of our souls,” or in the direction of our lives. It’s different in how we live our lives every day!
Sometimes we forget that. We forget that “life isdifferent.” Or we think, like some do, that it happens somehow automatically. “Jesus changed me,” they say. It’s as though he did it all and they don’t have to put in any effort! And many think they don’t have to. They live their lives of faith in a sort of “excuse” mode. They say, “Christians aren’t perfect, they’re just forgiven!” Ever hear that one? The problem is that some use that as an excuse not to be perfect! (Or worse, not to bother to be…perfect!)
Friends, I say it again, life is different! We are different people! Even the disciples didn’t get that at first. In our story for today, they were thinking that this adventure with Jesus – the adventure of the last three years – was now over. They thought, “Ok, it’s time to go back to life as it was before.” Now, don’t get me wrong! I’m sure they knew that their lives were changed. I’m sure they knew things were different. But I’m not sure they knew how different.
So this story is about Jesus telling them. “Life is now different!” “Life will never be the same!” Because what did they do? The went fishing. And to me it’s clear that they went back to fishing! They were going back to their former lives! Because most of them were… fishermen! And now their leader, their rabbi, the one they had followed for those years, the one who they saw as leading that ministry, was gone. They didn’t yet know that they were now to take over that leadership. They didn’t yet know that they were to carry on what he started!
Jesus met them by the sea, which was a familiar place for them, of course. And when he met them, he performed a miracle that was also familiar. It was a repeat of the miracle from an earlier time, when they let down their nets and caught a plethora of fish. And they knew it! And once again, they caught another “plethora” of fish! And now, when they came ashore, and sat with him, as they had countless times before, he told them their lives would be different. And they would be different not just in a Post-Easter, “redeemed” kind of way, but also in a “how you live life every day” kind of way!
And they did. They went out and changed the world! And through their writings, they taught us that our lives would be different, too. Their writings would eventually become our books of our New Testament. That difference was very important to them! Paul even pleaded with people about this! To the church in Ephesus, he write, “I beg you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called!” (Ephesians 4:1) His message is clear. “If you’re following Jesus, life is different!”
Not only that, but people should be able to see a difference. They should be able to see the hope that is within you. Remember that great passage in I Peter, where Peter said we should “Always be ready to give answer for the reason for the hope that lies within us.” (I Peter 3:15) But that begs the question, “Does that hope lie within us? Will people see it?
Ask yourself today, do people notice anything different in you? That’s the key question this morning? Are people able see that you are more compassionate? Do they see that you have more forbearance, more patience, more kindness, more “godliness?”
If you’re not sure, consider Paul’s words to the Church in Galatia, where he told them about the “fruit of the spirit.” Do you remember that? “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”(Galatians 5:22-23) Take a look at that and measure yourself against those things. And I know I’m hitting you with a number of scriptures here. But it’s all to present you with just one point. Life is different!
Because again, one of the things I’ve heard over the years is frustrations about Christians who try to live “double lives.” They live their lives in a “worldly” way throughout the week. They do whatever they want. And it’s all “ok” as long as they come to church once a week, or if they’re Catholic, if they go to confession. But nothing is ever different!
Such people are missing an important part of the Christian life. And maybe sometimes weare missing that important part of the Christian life! Because sometimes we toolet that attitude sneak back into our lives! And that can happen so easily! Because, as I often say, the world and its attitudes inundate us every day! Every day we are bombarded by the things of this world!
Life is different. And by the way, that doesn’t happen all by itself! This is something we need to work at! And we don’t do so in a boastful, “holier than thou” kind of way, but rather in a humble, unassuming, “lowly and meek” kind of way. That’s what the New Testament writers call us to do. That’s the true light of God people will notice in us. And that’s what they will be drawn to!
Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men.” And this is a big part of what he meant. That light, the light of God, shines in us in the way we live our lives. Because if we are in Christ, live is different!
Eternal God, help us indeed to live our lives in a way that shows Jesus Christ to the world. Help us to know what it means to live Godly lives, and to have the strength to do so. Help us to know the hope and peace that only you can give, when we follow Jesus Christ, our Lord. For we pray in his name, Amen.