Senior Sunday Sermon by Emma Mitchell May 5, 2019

Sermon by Emma Mitchell, May 5, 2019

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The Gospel: John 21:1-19

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Sermon Text

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. You may be seated. Good morning. My name is Emma Mitchell, and I am a senior at Bearden High School. You may have seen me as an Acolyte on Sunday morning or in the pews with my family. My faith and the Episcopal church have played a large role in who I have become today. I have been an acolyte since I can remember, I participated in the church choir, and I helped Gigi start the prayer partner program at Ascension To give a little background on myself, I was born in Nashville and lived there until I was 6. We attended St George’s Episcopal Church in Nashville. My dad then took a job in Louisiana. I had a wonderful church home at Christ Episcopal in Covington Louisiana. I really felt like my life was pretty perfect until I reached seventh grade. I had just made cheerleader, I was accepted into the New Orleans center for creative arts for theatre, I had a great group of friends, and was very active in our youth group. A few months before school started my dad accepted a position with a hospital in Wilmington North Carolina. My life was turned upside down in Wilmington. I was so unhappy and truthfully a bit depressed.   We attended Saint James Episcopal Church and It was there that I found myself to be at peace.. I met a lady named Cookie…she was my rock that year. She walked with me on the labyrinth and let me tell my story, my pain, my emotions. I had no idea just how much work God was doing in my life during that time. As I tell you how horrible my experience was that year, when I look back over my life, I know without a doubt that I made the largest transformation in my life thus far.  I was confirmed that year, in Wilmington, at St. James Church. The people God put in my life and the circumstances were all what i needed to be who I am today.   I still struggle and go through hard times, however, I continue to remind myself to look above. By looking up and searching for the hope God gives us, I am able to return home to the church where Jesus calls us to be. He calls us into community to share and love. I am here speaking to you as I hope to share His love for each of us. And it is an honor to be able to speak to you. I thank you all for listening.   In the Gospel reading we heard today, John does an amazing job of writing this story and by reading this, I found myself learning so much about who Jesus is and who we are as his children.   I find myself relating to Peter immensely throughout the Bible, As I was praying over this passage, the word “restoration” was all I could hear. This story shows us how Jesus restores us. He shows his disciples love, care and compassion. Looking back on my own life, I find Jesus continuously restoring me and shaping me into the woman I am today. It never fails…Jesus will always restore and give us hope. We moved to Knoxville in August of 2014. You could say Knoxville has been my saving grace. I met my best friend on the first day of 8th grade. I know it sounds silly, but I know without a doubt that God brought us together as friends. Before we moved, my dad contacted some friends who he had attended college with that used to live in Knoxville. They told him all about a family that we needed to meet and this family had a daughter my age. Little did anyone know but that daughter was the new best friend that I met myself in a sea of 400 other children at West Valley middle school. Katie and I became inseparable. She has become a sister to me. When we realized Katie and her family were the friends we were supposed to meet we laughed and knew that God had His hand in our meeting.   When I did a little research on this passage, I found that this was the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. The first time, he appeared to Mary Magdalene. The second time, Jesus asked Thomas to touch his wounds. And now here we are, where Jesus shows up to the Sea of Galilee where his disciples are fishing.   When Jesus appears to these men, he shows up at their lowest point. They are fishing in the Sea of Galilee, discouraged, broken, alone and feeling helpless. I often find myself and others in this state. Desperately wanting to find a place to belong. Some of us crave a fresh start. A new blank slate with Jesus. We want to feel worthy and a sense of identity in something. To simply know that we are loved beyond comprehension.   The disciples are fishing and their nets are empty. Not only their physical nets are empty, but their hearts are too. This is when Jesus steps in. Nothing can be filled unless it is emptied at first. We can never be filled with Jesus until we recognize that in order for Him to be in us, we must empty ourselves and our hearts of the worldly things. So, instead of focusing on the empty nets and our empty hearts, we need to focus on the areas where Jesus can fill them up. These are the very places that Jesus WANTS to enter and resurrect you.   When Jesus came up to the boat, they caught their purpose. It wasn’t because of the place where they let their nets down, or the time of day, it was the difference in their obedience to Who had called them.   I see this passage as one of the most beautiful interactions in the Bible. Jesus is clearly and open-heartedly showing these disciples his grace and love. This passage reminds us of what limitless grace we are blessed to receive by God when you least expect it, too.   I think it’s important to mention that resurrection does not happen once in a lifetime with a million bright lights flashing on you and the angels come singing in public. Resurrection, as we can see in this story, happens in our daily lives. It happens when we are in our own routine of life. We only need to pay attention.   These disciples fished all day, they continued with their normal activities until they received the call from Jesus which changed their whole world. This is just like when we as Christians are called to serve others with the light of Christ he instills in us. God provides everything for us. He consistently calls us to follow Him.   I relate a lot to Peter when asked: “do you love me?” We all WANT To love Jesus without any sinful thoughts or actions. But in reality, this world is broken. The actual thing Jesus wants from us is to let go. We have to be able to find the strength to break down our walls and say “I’m doing my best Lord. I love you to the best of my ability. I betray you, I run away, I am afraid.” This is when Jesus comes and says that WE are all good enough. We are forgiven by him. He loves us through all of the brokenness of this earthly world.   So. How do we follow him? God commands us to love one another. We have all heard that. But digging deeper into that, Jesus is asking us to “take care of my sheep” This to me, means to forgive one another, take care of one another, show kindness and patience with one another, and like our Baptismal Covenant, seek and serve Christ in all persons. After all of our brokenness and emptiness, Jesus meets us where we are. And I think that is the most amazing part about Him. He meets us in the middle and loves us just as we should love one another.   As we see in the last section of the passage, we see Jesus asking Peter to follow him. This brings us and Peter all the way back to the beginning. Through all of our past seasons just like Peter, we still find ourselves hand in hand with Christ. Leading us to salvation and being told to FOLLOW HIM. Jesus is consistently restoring us through each season of life. It is up to us to make the decision to follow him.   We are all going through different seasons of life. I am only 17 and have many seasons to come. One big change I’ll experience soon is college this August! Each season of life will be different, and so will our faith journeys. Sometimes we will be like Peter, jumping with excitement to respond to the action of Jesus in our lives. And other times, we will be like John, rowing the boat with a persistent purpose.   At some point, all of us will experience a Resurrection in our lives. Well get knocked down, have to rewrite our narrative, and rise up to be able to make that new story work for us. One thing that I want everyone to remember is, we are all in this boat together.   In Jesus name, Amen