Sunday, 22 April 2007

Earth Day Sermon

Footprints in the sand

Do you remember that grey morning on the beach? How we knelt down on the wet sand...
and just looked at his footprints.

When the fishermen had all gone... and Jesus had disappeared again... and we had this precious imprint...where he’d stood on the beach waving us in and feeding us.

Remember how we could still smell the faint smokiness of cooking fish and burning wood.

I remember how you lay down on the sand...
and pressed your cheek... into his footprint. How you closed your eyes and smiled. It reminded me of... how it feels to brush against the softness of our baby’s face.

And I could see you were caught...
in a moment of wonder and adoration... even worship. And I understood. The very weight of resurrection had pressed into the earth...
the sand...the beach...Jesus footprint...[pause]

We’d watched from our own boat... as he built his fire and cooked his fish. We saw him smile...
when he noticed how high the other boat rode on the water... empty and floating light...from a nights futile fishing. And we heard how he’d shouted to those Galileans... to have another go... before coming in.

For some reason I’ll never understand...they actually listened to him. And wham their nets were full of fish.

And remember how everyone in our boat and theirs suddenly realised... who it actually was...
shouting at us from the beach. One guy was so glad to see him...he jumped into the icy water
and swam ashore. [pause]

And when we piled off our boats and onto the beach Jesus even invited us to eat with share his breakfast of bread and fish.

Everyone had heard how the famous rabbi from Nazareth, Jesus bar Joseph... had been executed by the Romans. We’d been in Jerusalem for the Passover too. And I’d say it was... flying in the face of death... for his followers to hail Jesus as Lord... in public.

Many of us had hoped.. he was the messiah...
who’d save us from the Romans...and restore Israel to her rightful place above all nations.
But the Romans had snuffed out that hope...
on one of their famous crosses.

But there had been rumours... right throughout the countryside... that Jesus of Nazareth had been raised from the dead. And now as the sun rose over the
sand dunes... there we were...looking right at Jesus... and he was asking us sit down in the sand round his fire... and eat breakfast. [pause]

After we’d filled ourselves up on his bread and fish... Jesus had this... incredibly strange conversation...
with the guy who’d jumped out of the boat earlier on. And the gossip was this... Peter guy had...
jumped ship Jerusalem when Jesus was arrested.

They say he denied knowing Jesus... three times.
And maybe that had something to do... with the grilling Jesus gave him after breakfast.

"Simon son of John, Jesus asks him...
do you truly love me more than these?" And I’m thinking...more than these what?
And this guy Peter says “Yes, Lord, you know I love you."
Well then Jesus said,
"Feed my lambs."

And again Jesus says, "Simon son of John,
do you truly love me?"
"Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Peter says again.
and Jesus says,
"Take care of my sheep."

And a third time Jesus asks him, "Simon son of John,
do you love me?" [pause]
You could tell Peter’s feelings were hurt... because it was no coincidence Jesus asks him
three times... do you love me?

And with a heavy sigh Peter says again "Lord, you know all things; you know I love you." And Jesus says

"Feed my sheep. Follow me!"

Chills went up my spine when I heard the familiar call of our rabbis ‘follow me’

With his three questions Jesus was forgiving this traitor...Jesus was restoring Simon Peter lifting him up from the shame of his three denials... and calling him again to be his disciple.

Peter’s turning away in the past is redeemed and in that morning on the beach... all his weakness and fear are blown away. There is work to do...
we understand that now...

if we’re to follow Jesus...then we will care for his sheep. The children of the one true God who raised this Jesus from the dead...would feed the world...
not Caesar.

Peter had fallen from grace...but now he is restored to relationship with Jesus.

And Jesus calls him to continue his work...
of restoring all creation to God.

In Jesus questions and commands on the beach...
we hear the compassion and mercy of God... extending into our worst betrayals and cowardice... our worst indifference and neglect of others and of the earth...and like Peter... again and again and again we are called to love and to serve.

This earth upon which Jesus very feet trod...
and his blood spilt...

every inch of as precious as his footprint was... to those who ate with him that morning on the beach. All creation glows...with the evidence of his passing.

And yet all...creation is groaning from the impact of our passing. There’s work to do... sheep to be fed... trees to be planted... air to be cleansed... relationships to be healed.

Do we love him? Then we must care for his sheep and their pasture. God’s sheep...God’s pasture.

Every farmer knows there’ll be no sheep...
without a pasture to nourish them. Caring for creation and caring for its creatures – human or otherwise is the same activity. When we ignore this... we overlook the whole… life-supporting process… ordained by our loving God.

In Jesus… God signalled the restoration of all creation to himself. And we’re called to continue his work.

Caring for and feeding the sheep required action…then and now…our action … to stop the poisoning, the erosion, and the wastefulness…
that cause suffering and death today…
in the poorest nations… and tomorrow… for our children’s children.

Every plastic bag we refuse…
every piece of paper we re-use…every tree we plant… are part of our calling as Jesus followers.
and part of the work we do… in his name.

Jesus’… precious footprints on the beach that morning… were signs of the presence of the risen Christ. Let our ecological footprints be a sign of his presence too.

‘For in his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the sheep of his pasture, the flock under his care. And come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.’ Jesus what a beautiful name.
Psalm 95