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Fallen Yet Forgiven

Fallen Yet Forgiven

Romans 3:21-26

John 21:1-19

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Have you ever noticed... that, pretty much all of the characters in the Bible are flawed people?

*Abraham failed to truly trust in God’s plan, God’s promise, and made a mess... becoming the father of Ishmael and Isaac. We’re living in the shadow of that sin, even today, and still dealing with the consequences.

*Moses, one of the great patriarchs of the Faith, killed a man... and was the “king of excuses” when it came to serving God.

*David and his sin with Bathsheba is legendary - he had her husband killed in order to commit adultery. Yet, he was redeemed, as a “man after God’s own heart.”

*Paul... persecuted and imprisoned Christians before becoming one!

The list goes on, and on... including:

*Peter... Peter broke his promise to stay with Christ in his hour of need (along with all the other disciples)... and denied even knowing Jesus, not just once, but three times, over the span of just a few hours.

It kinda makes you wonder: If the great “pillars of the faith” we’re fallen, and flawed, where does that leave us?

Of course, the ultimate point of what God’s telling us in our readings for today, goes well beyond “all have fallen short.” But we can’t deny our fallen-ness...

Like most of us Peter had no problem confessing Christ among friends, and among other “like minded people” - but in the midst of enemies, Peter denied Christ. Of course, Jesus would have been justified had he abandoned Peter, just as Peter had abandoned him. Jesus could have denied Peter, just as Peter had denied him. But if you remember that is not what happened.

In our scripture for today, the Resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples a third time. The disciples had worked all night, fishing, for nothing! So, Jesus helped them out... helped them fill their nets... and even prepared food for his friends.

And as they were sitting around the fire, enjoying breakfast, Jesus spoke directly to Peter. “Peter, do you love me more than these?” Peter responded, "Yes, Lord." Then Jesus said, "Feed my sheep." This conversation happened three times.

Of course, Peter had denied Christ three times, so Christ was giving Peter three opportunities for re-affirmation. Jesus had already forgiven Peter for his sins. Jesus’ death on the cross had already paid the price of Peter’s sin. But Peter needed to accept that forgiveness, so Jesus graciously gave Peter that opportunity... and charged Peter with caring for the church.

We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God, just as Peter did. It’s an undeniable fact that’s unavoidable in regards to our faith. But God's greater message for us today is that through Christ we are forgiven. Peter denied Christ over and over, and Christ gave him a chance to take it all back, over and over. For each time we have denied Christ, he gives us a chance to re-affirm our faith.

How many times in life have we said things that we wish we could take back? We have all fallen short. We’ve all said things, unloving things, hurtful things. And each time we commit an act of malice and hatred we effectually proclaim, "I don’t know him... I don't know this Jesus - I don’t know the man!" Just like Peter, our words, and actions deny Christ.

But for every denial... Christ gives us to opportunity to respond, with our love and devotion... feeding his sheep... doing the work of the kingdom of God... in response to our love for Christ.

Of course, it’s not just individually, or personally, that we fall short! How many times has the Church - with a capital “C” - sinned and fallen short of God's glory. From the days of American slavery when God’s Word was used a justification to keep and oppress other people. To today, when denominations are using a God’s Word to justify hate and to promote their twisted interpretation of God’s Word to justify sin. Some Churches have drifted so far from God’s Word they’ve become nothing more than self aggrandizing; mutual gratification clubs; and political action committees. While others have become so self-righteous, and holier-than-thou, that they put the Pharisees from Jesus’ day to shame. They’re (as Jesus said) “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27) - beautiful on the outside, but full of corruption and decay within. They’re more interested in keeping certain people out - than welcoming all to the redeeming grace of Christ.

Yet, God hasn’t wiped out or abandoned his Church because it’s fallen short. Instead God calls us back to righteousness by asking over, and over... "Do you love me." And as the Church responds "Yes we do" - our love for Christ draws us into repentance, time and again, and leads us to restoration.

Of course, God’s People have been falling short from the very beginning... literally... from the first pages of Genesis; as in “Adam’s Fall we sinned all”... to today, as we gather in this Sanctuary... we all stand in need of God’s continuing forgiveness and restoration, right?

Our history is a constant repetition of this story of disciples gathered around Jesus, in need of restoration and forgiveness. The Good News is that Jesus - who called them - gives them a chance to be faithful, over and over again.

That’s one reason we gather in this place every Sunday. We gather around God’s Word; the Bread of Life, to be reminded that, in Christ, there is forgiveness... it’s here for the taking!

And today, as we’ve gathered, yet again, around the Bread of Life, we can imagine the conversation on that beach so long ago. While Jesus was breaking bread with his disciples, he said,

"Peter, do you love me?"

"Yes lord you know I do."

"Then feed my lambs."

"Peter, do you love me?"

"Yes Lord you know I do."

"Tend my sheep." -

"Peter, do you love me?"

"Yes lord you know I do."

"Feed my sheep."

And if we listen close enough... we can hear Jesus calling each of us by name and saying, "Do you love me?"

What is you response? Will you feed his sheep?

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