John 21:1-19; Revelation 5:11-14
So let me ask you a question. What are you doing here today? I know that you know that I know that we could all be somewhere else right now – doing – something else right now. So, why are you here? What are your expectations? Okay, that’s more than one question, but you get the idea.
Anybody? It’s okay. You can talk to me. And as I tell you all the time these days – use your playground voice. Why are you here? [Listen for, and repeat the answers.] How many of you are here because your parents made you come?
Does it surprise you that I even ask the question? It seems that we’ve come here for a variety of reasons. And all of them are valid. But may I suggest to you that the primary reason we are – at least the primary reason why I hope you are here today – is to worship. To enter into this place – this holy place –to focus on God – to worship God – to give honor and glory to God.
By definition that is what worship is. It is something that we offer to God. Praise. Thanksgiving. Giving God the honor and respect due His name.
The very word “worship” comes from the old English word “worth ship.” Worth ship. To give worth to. Sometimes we sing, “Worthy is Christ the lamb who was slain.” By the way, if you’ve ever wondered where those words come from, they are right out of the book of Revelation. The reading that we just heard a few moments ago. “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Those are worship words. Power – wealth – wisdom – might—honor – glory – blessing. And to whom do these worship words belong? Jesus! The problem is that we want those words for ourselves. Power, wealth, honor, glory and so forth. That’s what we want for ourselves. But worship – Christian worship says, “NO. These things belong to you Jesus, and we gladly – well, sometimes grudgingly – give them to you.”
So regardless of WHY you might be here today – what we are here to do right now is to experience God. To meet God. To enter into God’s presence. To meet Jesus here in this place. And sometimes that experience is a powerful thing. The music, the singing, Holy Communion – baptism – we have two baptisms [this weekend] [today]. And YES sometimes God even shows up in the preaching. But when it all comes together in a powerful way – then you know you’ve been to church. You know you’ve been in the presence of God.
I also know that sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. Sometimes for a variety of reasons. Sometimes Pastor Becca and I are off our game. And we know that. Maybe things didn’t flow right – didn’t gel or come together. Or maybe, when we come here our hearts and our minds aren’t quite ready to receive what the Lord wants to give us. I don’t know. But I do know that sometimes the worship is flat. Thankfully – thankfully – that doesn’t happen a lot. And sometimes people go walking away saying, “I just didn’t get anything out of worship today.” Ah yes, I know what you mean, because I have felt that way too. Usually when I’m on vacation, and worshipping at some other church. Okay – that’s not actually true. Well, yeah – I mean – sometimes. But not all the time.
Anyway – the main reason we are here – at least the main reason why I hope we are here today – is to worship. That is what we have come to do. However, there is also a certain expectation that we have. When we come here to worship, we have a certain expectation that we will also take something away with us.
A Catholic priest once told me years ago that people are going to go where they are fed. So yeah – one expectation I have is that we – all of us – we will be fed. Maybe even inspired! You know – get our batteries recharged. AND – AND – to hear once again that our sins are forgiven. And to hear once again that you are standing in the presence of the God who loves you. To meet with friends – because – you know – I believe that God’s people want to be where God’s people are.
It’s all of this. But the main thing about worship is this: worship is primarily about God. It’s not about me, it’s not about Pastor Becca, it’s not about you. It’s about God. The challenge of worship is to give God the place he deserves and the place he desires in our hearts – in our lives – and in our homes. To put God at the center of everything that we are and everything that we do. That’s what worship is all about. Giving first place to God. Because, quite frankly, that which we love the most – is that which we are going to worship the most. Christian worship – is all about giving first place to God.
Lutheran pastor Michael Foss has written a book, Real Faith for Real Life, and in it, he says that worship – is not – an option. For Christians – worship is essential. Regular, weekly, coming together with other Christians for the purpose of worship is essential to a life of faith.
Now, I grew up in a home where we went to church every week. How many of you grew up in a home like that? Didn’t need to get up on a Sunday morning and ask if we were going to church. We were going, even – I remember – when I wanted to stay home and watch cartoons. It was a habit. A good habit. A holy habit. To the point where it no longer became a burden nor an obligation or a duty. I can’t stand talking about worship or any part of it as a duty. It’s something that I want to do. Something that I choose to do.
So kids, if you’re parents made you come here today – to be here with the church – then thank your parents for that. Thank them that they love you enough to make sure that you are here to meet the Lord. After all, they make you go to school, don’t they! They take you to the doctor or the dentist when you need to. They also bring you here to experience God along with everybody else who is here. Because we’re all here for the same reason. To worship God. To have an encounter with Jesus Christ. So be thankful that you have parents who love you enough to make sure that you are here.
Now having said all of that about worship – and meeting and encountering God here in this place – it is also true that this is not the only place where we can meet God – or where God can meet us.
Here’s what I want you to remember. And I say this all the time. Remember that Jesus promised that he would be with us always. Not just when you come here. SO – some of what happens here in this place – CAN happen in other places outside of these four walls.
Places where you can actually feel God’s presence. Places where you can feel the power and the presence and the touch of the Holy Spirit. So this isn’t the only place where we encounter God or have an experience with the risen Christ.
Like in our Gospel lesson today. There’s this encounter between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus is risen from the dead. He has previously appeared to his disciples – as we learned last week – in what we call the Upper Room in Jerusalem.
Now, and for whatever reasons – the disciples have gone back to doing what they were doing before they met Jesus. They have gone fishing. Back to the familiar. Back to their comfort zones.
But they have an encounter with Jesus – who is now the risen Christ. They recognize him, and when they get their boat, their nets, and their catch of fish back to shore, they find that Jesus is there with a charcoal fire, with bread and fish ready for them to eat.
Now don’t miss this connection. The last time we read in the Scriptures that there was a charcoal fire was when Peter was in the courtyard of the High Priest Caiaphas warming himself. And what does Peter do when he is at that charcoal fire? That’s right. He denies Jesus – how many times? Three times.
Now here on the shore of the Sea of Galilee there is another – charcoal fire. And how many times does Jesus ask Peter, “Do you love me?” That’s right. Three times. He denied Jesus three times – Jesus forgives him three times. Do you think that Peter got the message? And then Jesus calls Peter – and the other disciples – to come and follow him once again.
This encounter is an actual face to face experience with Jesus. But I want you to see that it does not happen within the context of a worship setting. It happens while the disciples are busy doing their everyday work.
Now, we don’t have the luxury of having a face to face encounter with the risen Christ as those first disciples did by the Sea of Galilee. But what I want to suggest to you today is that Jesus can and does come to us at anytime and at anyplace. We can have an encounter – an experience of Jesus Christ – at anytime at anyplace.
So tomorrow when you’re at school. Or when you’re at work. Or when you’re at the store. Be prepared. Just like Jesus showed up to his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee – he might just make himself known to you wherever it is that you find yourself tomorrow. At your Monday through Friday places. Or maybe in those quiet moments that you have set aside to be alone with God.
So be prepared to meet the Lord in those places and in those moments – where and when you experience God’s love, God’s joy – God’s grace – God’s peace – God’s forgiveness.
And as important and quite frankly – sometimes unexpected – and wonderful – as those experiences can be – you just know I have to say this – they are not a substitute for being here week after week after week. Just so we’re sure about that.
Remember what Michael Foss says. “Worship is not an option – it is essential.” This is a connecting place – a place where we come to get connected with God – and with each other. To come here to tell God how awesome He is. So when you come here – when I come here – I expect God to show up. Amen? I expect to meet God. To worship God. To give Him power – wealth – wisdom – might—honor – glory – blessing – prayer – praise – and thanksgiving. Do I need to repeat that?
And the rest? The rest as they say – is all gravy. Being fed – inspired – fellowship – teaching – forgiveness. It’s getting our batteries recharged. It’s all gravy.
That’s what happens when God shows up. Because here in this place – worship is not a duty – but a delight. Amen