March 1, 2015 alanyoon

Feed my sheep

Scripture: John 21:15-19

Jesus Reinstates Peter
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

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

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Sermon

Here’s an excerpt of my journal Monday… day 1 of my Food Stamp Challenge. 4:41 PM.

“I am hungry. I can’t focus on my work.  I’m trying to remember the last time I actually felt my tummy grumble out of hunger. It’s not in my memory. Wow, what a gift, that I don’t remember the last time I was hungry.

Any other day I would take a break from my work, walk to the corner store and buy something – anything – to satisfy my need.

But not this week. This week, I try my best to eat off of $1.25/meal. Breakfast and lunch weren’t too hard. But now, I’m drinking water hoping it will fill me and counting down them minutes until I go home and can eat the pre-rationed dinner.”

For me, this week was an eye-opening experience to the challenges 1 in 4 San Franciscans face. Food insecurity. Not knowing how I’ll get all the healthy calories I need on my very limited income.

For those of you who participated this week or have had the experience of living off of food stamps in the past: How did it go? What was it like?

* * *

Food is such a basic human need. As Terri, our speaker from the SF/Marin Food Bank, reminded us last week, hunger  affects more than just the individual. It affects the whole community.

When someone is hungry, they can’t focus on school or work, they are less productive. Malnutrition leads to all sorts of health risks that drain our healthcare system.

Teri convicted us last week that we all have a shared responsibility to provide for those who are hungry. If, for no other reason, than our own self interest. When some of our community is hungry, that will ultimately affect us.

* * *

Today, I want to push us a little further into our holy text. Our scripture reading today comes after the resurrection. Jesus has died, he has been resurrected and he now appears to the disciples for a second time to remind them of who he is and who he calls them to be.

The disciples are out fishing and they come back with nothing. They see Jesus on the beach with a campfire and he is cooking fish to share. 

Food to feed them.

And as Jesus feeds them, meets their human need, he asks them this question:

“Do you love me?”

“Edie, do you love me?
“Chris, do you love me?”
“Darlene, do you love me?” Jesus says…

Feed my sheep.

* * *

Now, I don’t want to take for granted that we all love Jesus. Some of us hear this question. Our name, and Jesus asking…and our heart melts. 

Yes, Jesus, I love you.

But for some of us, we may not be sure. It may not feel as convicting. We are grappling with who Jesus is. And how or why this divine being loves us.

And yet —

— regardless of whether or not we hear and  receive Jesus’ love for us in the question

— Jesus still calls your name. Once, Twice, Three times.

Newton, do you love me?
Keith, do you love me?
Eden, do you love me?

And it’s personal. Even if we don’t understand it. Even when we don’t want to hear it. Jesus is asking you and me:

“Do you love me?”

Feed my sheep.

* * *

Love requires something of us. It is an emotion of our heart. One we cannot control.

Love can also be cultivated. As we see each other, learn about each other, find compassion for each other, love grows. In places we wouldn’t always expect.

Just over six years ago, a group from this congregation called the “Not So Serious Bible Study” decided to study hunger in scripture.

They read what our scriptures say about hunger and realized it is pretty straight forward. Jesus says, “Feed the hungry.”

They studied the food scarcity in this neighborhood, the Excelsior, and recognizing the deep need for food, they decided to start the Excelsior Community Food Pantry.

Six years ago, God spoke to a small community and invited them into faith of action.

Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” And they responded, “YES! Lord, we will feed your sheep.”

* * *

As Christian communities we have a tendency to complicate our faith with beliefs and doctrine. You have to believe this or that in order to belong…in order to be a “real Christian.”

When in actuality, Jesus’ call is simple:

Do you love me?

Feed my sheep.

* * *

What I’ve learned in ministry about faith is that is that most of the work is to show up —

— show up to a small group and hear how God is real and at work in someone’s life.
— show up at worship and open our ears and hearts to God’s word for us.
— show up at the food pantry. See the faces of those receiving food, see their smile as their need is met, and  build a new friendship.

I’m not saying that the experience will bring you to your knees before Christ…though it might…

I’m saying that God works in mysterious ways and sometimes by taking the first step to feed each other…we may learn a bit about what it means to be loved by Jesus…and to step out in his love to care for others.

I’m going to share a video with you of a member of this community, Joe, and his experience living on food stamps.

The food pantry was JUST what Joe needed. Not only the food,  but also his friendship with Kristin, his connection to our community and to Christ was… just what he needed,

Our faith can be complex. Who is Jesus? And why does he love me?

But the response to his love is always simple.

Do you love me? Jesus says.

Feed my sheep.

Amen.