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Last week we heard that Jesus appeared to the gathered disciples in a locked room, probably in Jerusalem. In today's Gospel, the disciples are no longer in Jerusalem; they are in Galilee, returning to their work of fishing.  They spend the night fishing but are unsuccessful. Jesus calls to them from the shore, but just as when Jesus first appeared to Mary of Magdala, the disciples do not recognize him immediately. 

Still, they follow the stranger's instructions and bring in a large haul of fish. It is at this point that one of the disciples realizes that Jesus is appearing to them. Upon hearing this news, Simon Peter leads the way again, jumping from the boat and swimming to shore. The other disciples follow in the boat, dragging the fish. 

The disciples have brought to shore a great catch of fish that Jesus has directed them to find. But once on the shore, they see that Jesus has already prepared fish and bread on a charcoal fire. Jesus   feeds the disciples the bread and fish. In this detail we see allusions to the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes told in John 6.

After the meal, Jesus directs himself to Simon Peter.  This dialogue with Simon Peter is a reversal of Peter's three denials. Peter is forgiven. Having been restored to friendship with Jesus, Simon Peter is sent on a mission. “Feed my lambs . . . Tend my sheep . . . Feed my sheep.” These commands indicate that Peter is to be as Jesus, even unto sacrificing for the flock. As Jesus has fed Peter in this meal and as Jesus feeds us in the Eucharist, so he also sends us to follow him, asking that we offer our lives in service and sacrifice.

Jesus came for all of us, to unlock the spark of God within us, and release it in the form of the love he intends not just for the sheep we want to feed and tend, but all sheep, all people.

Shepherds of today could tell us what shepherds of Jesus’ day knew about feeding sheep - the scientifically named ovis aries. Sheep can kick you and rough-and-tumble rams will headbutt you. Orphans might require bottle feeding. Sheep are vulnerable to predators and susceptible to parasites. Sometimes they will fight over food. Separated from the flock, they tend to become stressed and panic. Shearing is labour-intensive and exhausting. And sheep need fresh water – even in conditions of drought in summer and freezes in winter. You get the picture – and – oh, yes, all the while you are feeding and tending to them, you find yourself stepping into what they naturally leave behind. A feedlot is no place for the faint-hearted.

Jesus didn’t use this metaphor lightly. He knew that if Peter’s and our love could lead to feeding and tending “people-sheep,” it would involve very hard work – a demanding commitment that requires sacrifice for the sake of others.

Because this congregation is a part of the body of Christ, it can more easily continue and expand the ministries of outreach beyond the congregation. You can do this better because of your mutual support of and courageous challenge to one another.

Of course, Jesus also calls us as individuals to feed and tend his sheep.  
If we take seriously today’s Gospel and try to follow where Peter led after hearing Jesus, it all might seem like a challenge beyond our limits. But today we have heard Jesus’ call to us as his Church and as his individual followers to offer compassion, agape love, to a hurting and sinful world. And today we have the choice to continue following that call.

The readings this season remind us of who Jesus is and the spirit of his mission. In John's Gospel, this same Jesus who serves breakfast for his weary disciples had washed their feet on the eve of his own trial and death. Foot washing and feeding -- Jesus at work. Expressions of God's tender love for us and example of what it means to follow.

Jesus to us: “If you love me then Feed my lambs. Look after my sheep. Feed my sheep.”


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