Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

Feed My Sheep

John 21:15-19

The tennis courts of an Iowa high school adjoined the grounds of a church rectory. Occasionally, exuberant youngsters whammed a tennis ball over the fence onto the trim church lawns. One day a player, chasing a stray ball, came face to face with a large sign which read: NO TRESPASSING. The sign came down overnight, however, when the tennis club erected its own sign directly opposite. This one read: FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES.

"Forgive us our trespasses." Well, actually we say "forgive us our debts"... and we say it at least once a week... on Sunday morning... if not more often. And I imagine we have greater debts to be forgiven than retrieving tennis balls from the church lawn! At least Peter did. Only a short time before this meeting with the risen Lord... Peter had emphatically denied knowing Jesus... not once... but three times.

You may remember Peter's proud statement that he never would fall away no matter what others did. Can you imagine how he must have felt when Jesus pointedly ask him three times, "Do you love me?" He desperately wanted to be believed... and in the end he acknowledged the lordship of Jesus the Christ when he said,

"Lord, you know all things... you know that I love you."

It seems that pride is often our downfall, isn't it... but God knows exactly what is in our hearts... when we have fallen on our faces... are truly repentant... and long to serve him better. God knows our intentions... the true motivations of our prayers... when they are sincere and when they are a sham. And when we truly desire to serve him... God always gives us another chance. Just as Peter had earlier denied Jesus beside a fire... now beside another fire he is restored publicly by Jesus. And he is restored with a commission... an assignment... with which we also are charged:

"Feed my sheep."

Not long ago one of you asked me about a passage in I Peter which seems to indicate that God is going to judge us by our works. These can be troubling passages... especially for those of us in the reformed faith... because we believe God forgives us for our sinful ways... and they are no longer considered in his judgement of us. Not only do we not receiving what we deserve... we are given the free gift of salvation... the right to call God "Father." That's grace... a gift that cost God a great deal... and us... nothing. And there are numerous passages in Scripture that support that belief. Indeed... this is what the author of I Peter says in the earlier verses of the first chapter of his letter.

On the other hand... there are also numerous passages in Scripture that indicate something else... that having been forgiven our sin against God... having been adopted back into his family... we are commissioned... or called... into his service. Our right to call God "Father" leads us to honor him... to obey him... and to serve him. If that is not apparent in our lives... then one might honestly question our sincerity. And so the question before us this morning is "how do we honor God?" especially in our everyday lives?

In our story this morning Peter is told by Jesus... three times... to take care of those who belong to him... his "sheep." Now this may seem a little confusing... especially for the kids... because a couple of weeks ago they learned about how God is like a shepherd who cares for us... so they know that we are like the sheep who need a shepherd. And in today's story we are being told to be shepherds!

While it is true that we are under God's watchful eye... God's purposeful direction... God's gracious provision... just like sheep under the care of a shepherd... it's also true that many people are not aware of God's role in their lives... and God would have them enlightened. As a pastor I am to watch over you... care for you... help you mature spiritually... and... most especially... equip you for ministry... because that's your job! It's every Christian's job! As shepherds or ministers... we are to give aid... and serve others who are also God's children.

I would be remiss this morning... on Mother's Day... if I did not remind you of the way in which your mother and other women in the church ministered to you. Most of us came up with godly parents who saw to it that we were given the opportunity to grow spiritually... as well as physically and mentally. Some of us had our lives touched by other loving and nurturing women who ministered to us in our lives... and guided us in the right direction... and fed our souls. This is the day that we honor mothers and other saintly women for being good shepherds and "feeding God's lambs." Caring for the children is still a major ministry in this church... and it still needs far more attention in this world! It's a task that we each have to consider seriously... that we must be open to... that we must do at every opportunity. Have you hugged a kid lately? Have you praised your child's efforts lately? Are you encouraging your child's spiritual growth? And those of you who are not directly responsible for children... what have you done lately to minister to the children... or to the parents... to help them in their monumental task?

And there are many others out there in our world who need to be fed. Each Sunday... as you leave this sanctuary... I charge you to go out into the world and serve God... in other words... "feed his sheep." How have you done that lately? If I ask you to relate one incident this past week where you served another for God's sake... could you give us one? This is a world where the major emphasis is on looking out for number one.

But there's a bigger picture as well. There are literally millions of people out there who do not understand that God loves them... that God's is their shepherd... who has saved them certain death... who cares for them... who wants to direct their path into greener fields... and provide a place of peace and quiet. We are called to minister to them... to love them... to reach out to them... to show them God's love... and God's way... by our actions... by the life we live in Jesus Christ.

There's a billboard project in the Dallas area called "God Speaks." There are quite a large number of messages... but the one that speaks to us today reads:

"That ‘Love Thy Neighbor' thing... I meant it."
And it is signed:
God loves us and has graciously redeemed us. What are you doing for him? Amen.

A Sermon Preached on May 9, 1999
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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