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Devotion prepared for the Spring Pastor’s Conference, Kearney Nebraska April 14, 2015
A reading from John Chapter 21:1-17  After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.  Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.  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 as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.”  He said to them, “Cast the net on 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 of the quantity of fish.  That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.  The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out 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, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.  Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.  Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.  This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed 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.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”  He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved 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.
++++ Meditation…. ++++
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Our text for reflection this morning was just read, but we will focus on these words of our Lord: Jesus said: “Feed my lambs…” “Tend my sheep…” “Feed my sheep.”
Brother Pastors, family, District staff and guests… as we gather here for these two days of collegial conversation and learning, we do so in the all too short a time of the year, which is the joy of the Eastertide! This is truly a wonderful and joyful time, where we pastors have the opportunity to proclaim even more boldly the risen and victorious Christ. Such proclamation by us as pastors holds forth the unbridled reality of Christ Jesus’ resurrection to an unbelieving world. Also, our living of lives in keeping with that Easter proclamation is not a job, not merely a choice, not a duty or something of obligation, but as Lutheran Christian pastors it should be the heartbeat of who we are… and to equip the laity to live that reality in their daily lives.
Sadly, in the face of such great peace and joy of the Easter blessings of God, many in the world and even in our congregations will quickly return to the passive, often tepid treatment and seeking of God’s gifts of life in Word and Sacrament. From where does much of that problem and also the solution come? We are focused on it for this conference… Catechesis! The lack of ongoing Catechesis for life, the fumbling of understanding what Catechesis is and means, leaves so many people seeing their relationship with God and his means of grace muddled and incomplete. The lack of teaching of the basics of the Christian faith leads so many to think that the Small Catechism is just for children and just a way to have them “graduate” from Sunday School. However, the proper use and continued use of Catechetical instruction is central to who we are as Lutheran Christians and one that is for our life and whole lifetime.
In the three fold restoration of Peter, we find a daily three fold admonition for us as pastors… “Feed my lambs…” “Tend my sheep…” “Feed my sheep.” We, as men who hold the office of the Holy Ministry, need to hear those words resounding in our ears each day. From feeding the lambs… not just the little children, but those also who are immature in the faith. Lambs, toddlers in the faith, are not defined by their age, but by their growing and living faith given to them by the Word of God. That faith is and should be taught through our rich hymns… taught through the treasure we have in the liturgy… taught through the consistent use of the lectionary… taught through the proclaimed word of God, bringing the full fury of the Law and the overwhelming sweetness of the Gospel… and taught through the right administration of the Sacraments. Just as feeding lambs on a farm never ends, feeding the little lambs of God, the new, the infant, those weak or faltering in the faith… these are in constant need of the teachings of the core of the faith in Christ Jesus. These teachings come in simple Word and Sacrament, broken down for all to understand in and through very basic ongoing instruction.
That ongoing instruction and care by us as the under-shepherds of Christ does not and cannot stop with the Small Catechism, confirmation class or some cursory adult instruction. Jesus said, “Tend my sheep…” the tending we do is the tough day and night work of fixing the fences, moving the flock from dry bad ground to green pastures, fighting off the wolves, seeking the strayed… and carrying home the dying and the dead to their place of rest, day in day out, night and day, and round the clock. That is the ongoing instruction in the living faith engendered by the core teachings found in the Catechism. By living the vocation of pastor, that is bringing the Catechism from a little book, so quickly forgotten from childhood, to life and daily use for the people to see, as a means of continuing to bring God’s Word and Sacrament to life for God’s people. However, if we instead of tending the flock and follow other desires of our own, or paths we choose, then we fail in our stewardship of the flock of which we are entrusted. Basic instruction in the knowledge and wisdom of God, knowledge and wisdom of God’s means of grace in simple Word and Sacrament comes to our people through us, through what we do, through what we model and the simple day to day tending of the flock. That flock well tended is not simply contained in our congregations or out in some empty place… but it is focused in and is fed in the sanctuary where they and we climb the holy mountain to be satisfied in the great meal of victory and life.
There on each of our little holy mountains we and climb up into the pulpit to proclaim God’s law in its full fury to break all our hard hearts… there on the little holy mountains we climb up into the chancel to bring to our tended flocks God’s gifts of the Lord’s Supper, as we follow Christ’s command to “Feed my sheep!” We feed them not with wisdom, not with feel good fluff, not with excuses to satisfy the fierce world… NO my friends, we bring them only the very best of God. We bring them God’s pure word that brings the hurting heart comfort in the forgiveness of sins. We bring the proud heart to humility in revealing the suffering of the Savior who paid to redeem them from their sins. We bring the greatest gift of the meal of eternal life, the very body and very blood of Christ Jesus, whose precious once for all sacrifice brings us not just a little food for a quick snack… not just a stale piece flat bread and a sip of wine… but his everything his all – for all our life, an eternal life. The prophet Isaiah, tended an unruly and hard hearted flock… who had not been well catechized… all they heard were rules and regulations and compromise with the world… but Isaiah brought them the great teaching that brings into focus Christ’s great words to us “feed my sheep!” Isaiah cries out to us of just what the feeding of the flock is… as on the mountain of God, we will have “a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined… the mountain where he will swallow up the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations;” “He will swallow up death forever;” “and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken;” “It will be said on that day,
Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (Isaiah 25:6-9 ESV)
Though sometimes we too may think ourselves in the midst of shrinking flocks, unruly flocks, faltering flocks, lost or wander flocks, let us return to the basics of the faith, and teaching those basics in all that we are, do and proclaim… simple teachings which are God’s Word, and God’s gifts in His living means of grace, as we “Feed [Jesus’] lambs…” of all ages… As we “Tend [Jesus’] sheep…” day in and day out and around the clock… and we “Feed [Jesus’] sheep…” the Feast of Victory that has no end… Now that’s catechesis, from the cradle to our heavenly home… fed, tended and fed again all in God, in Christ Jesus’ victory!
We pray: Heavenly Father, you have revealed yourself to us in your Son. Help us to faithfully teach and catechize the sheep of the flocks you have given us to tend. Let us always seek your face through Christ Jesus and the means of Grace which you have given to us in Word and Sacrament. Help us to always find the peace that the world cannot give in your abundant forgiveness given to us again and again in the Word and Sacraments alone. Restrain all attempts and efforts of the evil one to come into our lives, seeking to damage and destroy, keeping us all safe in your ever strong hands to the day you have set to gather us home to you to the place Your Son has prepared for us… in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.