Catch my fish; feed my sheep
April 27 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Catch my fish; feed my sheep | Friday, April 27, 2001

Friday, April 27, 2001

Catch my fish; feed my sheep

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor Another Easter has come and gone, and many are experiencing a post-Easter let down. Hundreds, thousands, even millions of people who celebrated Christ's resurrection on Easter morning got up the following Sunday and went back to reading the paper, mowing the lawn and enjoying brunch instead of breakfast. Modern believers are not the first to abandon Christ quickly. John's gospel relates the familiar story of how Simon Peter, despite having encountered Jesus at least twice following the resurrection, seemed ready to forget the Lord's "follow me" and go back to his old way of living.

When Peter went back to the fishing boats, he seems to have been retreating from the past and hiding from the future, but Jesus was unwilling to leave him there.

Twice Jesus asked Peter to express unconditional love for Him, but the discouraged disciple's denials had prompted him to be more careful with his words. Peter was less confident about keeping his promises, and professed only that he loved Jesus with a brotherly sort of love. Finally, Jesus questioned him even on that level, and challenged Peter to prove it by caring for his sheep.

Jesus knew the warm thoughts associated with brotherly love don't hurt anyone, but they don't change the world either. Brotherly love does not get a person out of bed in the morning with a desire to impact others for God and for good. The selfless love that Jesus demonstrated and called his followers to practice takes warm feelings and turns them into deeds that make a difference.

Jesus challenged Peter (and all who follow him in hiding behind their failures and inadequacies) to discover and to live out an after-Easter faith that is motivated by the presence and the compassion of the risen Christ. He called Peter to join him in ministry by combining two unlikely metaphors: fishing and shepherding. Those two metaphors represent the church's twin charges to practice evangelism and social ministry - to touch the world with concern for both soul and body.

It was from fishing for fish that Jesus had first called Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow Him and to become fishers of men and women (Matt. 4:19). A fisher of fish seeks to bring living creatures from life to death, but a fisher of people seeks out the dying to bring them life.

When Jesus described Himself as a shepherd (John 10:7-11), He was preparing the disciples to become shepherds in their own right. As shepherds care for their sheep, so God's people are called to care for others: to feed the hungry, heal the sick, shelter the homeless, protect the abused, comfort the wounded and seek the lost.

Christ's call to a ministry of both body and soul is a challenge that cannot be met on Easter Sunday alone. It calls for the best we have every day of our lives. It calls for a faith that comes out of hiding and manifests itself in our living.

I like what some of the churches in southern Africa do on Sunday mornings. Leland Kerr, director of missions for the Kings Mountain Association, recently told me about his experience of preaching at Langa Baptist Church, near Cape Town. Like other black churches of the area, the congregation began its worship time with a healthy dose of joyful, exuberant a cappella singing. After the sermon, church members closed the service with more of the same.

It was what happened next that speaks volumes to those who would follow Christ. After filing out of the building, the congregation formed a circle in the churchyard and continued their lively praise for another 15-20 minutes as townspeople walked by on the busy street. The pastor explained: "We do this because we want the people outside to know what we have inside. We want to take our faith out of the church and into the world."

May more of us answer Christ's call to take our faith out of hiding and put it to work - not just on Easter Sunday, but every day.

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4/27/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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