Summary: Do you show the love of Christ in and through or life, or is it just something you talk about?
I want to begin by simply saying, “thank you.” I am extremely honored and deeply grateful for the invitation to share this day with you. I so humbled that Kathy Farner heard my name and gave me a call, and I know we want to keep her in prayer as she is home today with ongoing health issues. And I am also greatly appreciative for each of you. We pastors are really blessed by the United Methodist Women in our churches, you are the cream of the crop, the hard workers, and I want you to know that your faithfulness and service does not go unnoticed. The work of the United Methodist Women is so important, not only for our churches, but for all the people who benefit from UMW missions in our country and around the world. So I thank you for your faithfulness to the UMW and your willingness to hear and respond when God calls.
Janie has already shared with you a little bit about who I am. And one of the things you know by now is that I have two children. Owen, the youngest one, is here with me today; he’s about 13 months old. You will probably see him when we have lunch a little later. I also have a ten year old daughter, Mary Ellen, who looks and usually acts much older than she is. But it so many ways, she is still just a little girl. For one thing, like every elementary-aged child (and also middle and high schooler), Ken and I have to stay on Mary Ellen pretty constantly about keeping her room clean. Sometimes, Mary Ellen will decide on her own that she wants to clean her room, but usually she has to be asked. The conversation typically goes something like this: Mary Ellen will come to us asking if she can go outside to play with so and so, or if we can go to the mall so she can shop, or to the Y so she can swim. We tell her she can’t go anywhere until she cleans her room. She’ll disappear into her room for about 5-10 minutes, and then reappear, declaring, “I’m done! My room’s clean.” At which point Ken or I will go to inspect the room and find that there are still clothes scattered all over the floor, trash littering every visible surface, and an un-made bed. We’ll point out what still needs to be done, and set her back to work. This cycle continues until Ken and I are satisfied that Mary Ellen’s room is, indeed, clean.
Now, over time, Ken and I have both learned that we have to say to Mary Ellen from the get-go that she has to “really” clean her room, not just pile everything into the closet or scoot it under the bed. Because that used to be how she cleaned her room. And so she would come to tell us her room was clean, we would look in, agree, and send her on her merry way, only to open her closet door a day or two later and find ourselves buried under a mound of toys and clothes. So now events proceed in this way: Mary Ellen is instructed to go clean her room. Mary Ellen goes to her room and begins working. Sometime later, she emerges announcing that her room is clean. Ken or I will then begin a series of questions, “Are you sure?” “Yes.” “Did you just shove everything under the bed?” “No.” “In the closet?” “No.” “Did you make your bed?” “Yes.” “Did you put your clean clothes away?” “Oh.” And Mary Ellen turns around and heads back to her room. That cycle continues until we are satisfied she has done everything, and we go inspect, just to make sure. In short, Mary Ellen has to exhibit to us in every way possible that her room is satisfactorily clean.
So we come to this morning’s reading from the end of John’s gospel. This passage from John is the theme verse for all United Methodist Women this year, and it depicts a conversation between Jesus and Peter some time after Jesus’ resurrection, but before Christ’s ascension. So on this particular occasion, Jesus has shared a meal with his disciples beside the Sea of Tiberius. Where we pick up today, the meal is finished, and Jesus begins this conversation with Peter. You can almost imagine moment. The disciples might be sort of clearing the meal; cleaning the dishes, putting out the fire, and so on, and Jesus, in the midst of the activity turns to Peter and says something like, “Let’s go for a walk. I want to talk to you.” So they start off down the beach, kick sand beneath their feet, scanning the shore in front of them for shells and sea creatures.