Acts 9:1-6, (7-20): Saul travels to Damascus with the intention of arresting any followers of Jesus, but on the road, he is confronted with a vision of Christ that changes him into a disciple.

Psalm 30: The Psalmist experiences a time of great suffering, but experiences God’s deliverance, and commits to a life of praise and thanksgiving.

Revelation 5:11-14: The Lamb is worshipped by the creatures and elders around God’s throne, because he was slain, was victorious, and is worthy.

John 21:1-19: Peter is restored by Jesus at the breakfast on the beach, and then called, once again, to leadership and to follow Christ – even to death.

Peter, do you love me (John 21.16)
A beautiful reflection by Bruce Sanguin on ‘Surrendering, Finally’ that may be a helpful meditation this week:
‘… life was meant to be an offering, a willingness to give over all that is not love to Love itself. And all that came up to give over was the only offering that mattered. I offered all in me that was getting in the way of love. To paraphrase Amos, this is the only sacrifice that matters ultimately, the only one wanting to be received by Love’.
(click on link for the full version)

Call to worship (inspired by Psalm 30 and John 21: 1-19)
Brothers and sisters.
If you lift your net and it is empty,
Come here!
We’ll cast it out again into Christ’s abundance.
If you open your eyes but do not recognize the Holy One,
Come here!
We’ll find the Risen Christ here among us.
If your life is filled with mourning,
Come here!
Christ is leading a dance of joy.
Come here, sisters and brothers!
To give blessing and honor and glory to God!
(c) Rev Quentin Chin, Feed My Lambs, UCC

“Maybe life doesn’t get any better than this, or any worse, and what we get is just what we’re willing to find: small wonders, where they grow.” ~Barbara Kingsolver

“I believe that the strongest sign of the new life is solidarity. Where there is solidarity there is resurrection. When we break the neutrality of silence and abandon our complicity with injustice, the new life begins”. 
(Source: Dorothy Solle)

God of the new fire,
and feasting at daybreak:
come to us
in the dullness of routine
and the pain of betrayal;
call to us
in the way of the cross
and the joy of resurrection;
through Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.
(Source: Prayers for an inclusive Church, Stephen Shakespeare)

Sermon on the Road to Damascus by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Prayer after sermon by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Lord, We are people of the Damascus road, people of reluctant prophets and hearts of stone turned to flesh and difficult resurrections. Our own lives cry out for the kind of healing that comes from you messing with us. Our country is divided, our families are fractured, our relationship need mending. As you did with Ananias, convert our fear into love. Send our enemies to lay hands on us and call us brother, sister, friend so that we might see again. Scavenge what is dead in us and bring it back to life. We know it might hurt. But as your people we will share that pain and then share also in the joy – until the day in which we gather around your throne next to all the people we never thought should be there. In your holy and blessed name we pray, Amen.

A Reflection on John 21:1-19

The blame forgotten, shame covered,
Peter leapt into the sea.
Where tears once drowned hope
and denials became despair and self loathing,
now eyes had seen that figure on the shore,
that body once strung across the stained wood of execution.

A revived fishing business,
the dull depression of remembered cowardice, of failed courage,
bad dreams of abandonment, a deep sea of pain,
now splashed with new hope.

Peter would make it to the shore.

He is risen.
Peter is risen from the dead.
Three times denied.
Three times invited to love again
by him who three times prayed his own despair
and, three times mocked ‘mid three crosses,
in three days rose to resurrect Peter.

Peter made it to the shore.

Others made it to the shore.
They ate together,
a fellowship of grace and rehabilitation,
of forgiveness and hope,
a symbol of the persistence of divine love,
also for you and me.
(Source: William Loader, Bill Loader’s Home Page)

Gospel Feelings website by Lyn Seils Robertson

The great thing is that God gives us so many opportunities of responding to his ever-present love. To be able to come through, or be carried through, the Gethsemane of things which make what was once seemingly impossible, possible, is part of the gist of what it means to be a sharer in what Resurrection means. It’s the end of promoting the phony self and the shallow living out of half a life – it’s about a new sort of space to grow in.
John Michael Hanvey ‘Prayed Out’

Dramatic Reading: Inspired by the events in Acts 9
A dialogue between Saul before his conversion on the Damascus Road and afterward (as Paul).

I am Saul
I am Paul

I am passionate about my faith
I am passionate about my faith

I will work tirelessly for what I believe in
and I recognize that may hurt others
in order to keep the faith
I will work tirelessly for my beliefs too
and I also recognize that doing so can hurt others
but living the faith is never going to be easy

I have made a choice to put myself on the line for my faith
and if those who are out to destroy the faith get in the way,
then I will move them out the way
I have made a choice to put myself on the line for my faith
and will continue to do so
even in the face of those who want to move me out the way

I am Saul
I am Paul

Faith is everything to me.
It must be kept true at all costs.
It is too vital to my culture,
my traditions and how I understand life
Faith is everything to me.
It must stand true at all costs.
It is too vital for the Good News
for traditions and culture to stand in the way
of this new understanding of life

I will seek out those who destroy the faith
I will seek out those who limit the faith

I will keep our borders pure
and our traditions clean from contamination
I will cross every border
and welcome in Jew and Gentile, slave and free

I am Saul
I am Paul

I will work for the authorities
I will work for Jesus Christ

I will hold tight to the church
I will break open the church

I will keep the faith pure
I will keep the faith growing

I will be the death of Christianity
And I will be its life

I am Saul
I am Paul
(Source: Rev. Roddy Hamilton, Minister of New Kilpatrick Church. Posted on the Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday website)

John 21: 9-17

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish 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, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared 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.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt 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.”

Here is Frederick Buechner’s excerpt on Peter, first published in Peculiar Treasures and later in Beyond Words:

Everybody knows he started out as a fisherman. He lived with his wife in Capernaum, where they shared a house with his mother-in-law and his brother Andrew. He and Andrew had their own boat and were in business with a couple of partners named James and John, Zebedee’s sons. The first time Jesus laid eyes on him, he took one good look and said, “So you’re Simon, the son of John” (John 1:42), and then said that from then on he’d call him Cephas, which is Aramaic for Peter, which is Greek for rock.

A rock isn’t the prettiest thing in creation or the fanciest or the smartest, and if it gets rolling in the wrong direction, watch out, but there’s no nonsense about a rock, and once it settles down, it’s pretty much there to stay. There’s not a lot you can do to change a rock or crack it or get under its skin, and, barring earthquakes, you can depend on it about as much as you can depend on anything. So Jesus called him the Rock, and it stuck with him the rest of his life. Peter the Rock. He could stop fishing for fish, Jesus told him. He’d been promoted. From there on out people were to be his business. Now he could start fishing for them.

There was a lot of talk going around about who Jesus was and who he wasn’t, and Jesus himself seemed just as glad to steer clear of the subject. Then one day he brought it up himself, and the disciples batted it around for a while. There were some people who said he was John the Baptist come back from the grave, they told him, or maybe Elijah, or Jeremiah, or some other prophet who thought he’d see what he could do a second time around. There were all kinds of half-baked theories, they said. Then Jesus put it to them straight: “Who do YOU say that I am?” Nobody wanted to stick his neck out, and the silence was deafening till Peter broke it or till it washed up against the rock that Peter was and broke itself. “You’re the Christ,” he said, “the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16: 15 -16).

It took a lot of guts to say, and Jesus knew it did. If it was true, it was enough to blow the lid off everything. If it wasn’t true, you could get yourself stoned to death as a blasphemer for just thinking it. But Peter said it anyway, and Jesus made up for him the only beatitude he ever made up for a single individual and said, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona,” which means Simon, son of John, and seems to have been what he always called him when he really meant business. Then he went back to Peter the Rock again and told him that he was the rock he wanted to build his church on and that as soon as he got to Heaven, he was to be the one to decide who else got in. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom,” Jesus said (Matthew 16:17-19). It was another promotion.

But if Peter was the only one Jesus ever gave a beatitude of his own to, he was also the only one he ever gave Hell to, at least in quite such a direct way. It happened not long afterwards. Jesus was saying that to be the Christ, the Son of the living God, wasn’t going to be a bed of roses all the way, and the time wasn’t far off when he’d suffer the tortures of the damned in Jerusalem and be killed. Peter couldn’t take it. “God forbid, Lord. This shall never happen,” he said, and that’s when Jesus lit into him. “Get behind me, Satan,” he said because the rock that Peter was at that point was blocking the grim road that Jesus knew he had to take whether he or Peter or anybody else wanted it that way or not because God wanted it that way, and that was that. “You’re not on God’s side but men’s,” he said. “You’re a rock I’ve cracked my shins on (Matthew 16:21-23).

It wasn’t the last time Peter said the wrong thing either, or asked the wrong question, or got the wrong point, or at least failed to do the thing that was right. The day he saw Jesus walking on the water and tried to walk out to him himself, for instance, he was just about to go under for the third time because rocks have never been much good at floating when Jesus came to the rescue (Matthew 14:28-31). Once when Jesus was talking about forgiveness, Peter asked how many times you were supposed to forgive anyone person–seven times maybe?–and Jesus turned on him and said that after you’d forgiven him seventy time seven you were just starting to get warmed up (Matthew 18:21-22). Another time Jesus was talking about Heaven, and Peter wanted to know what sort of special deal people like himself got, people who’d left home and given everything up the way he’d given everything up to follow Jesus; and Jesus took it easy on him that time because a rock can’t help being a little thick sometimes and said he’d get plenty, and so would everybody else (Matthew 19:27-30).

And then there were the things he did or failed to do, those final, miserable days just before the end. At their last supper, when Jesus started to wash the disciples’ feet, it was Peter who protested-“You wash my feet!”-and when Jesus explained that it showed how they were all part of each other and servants together, Peter said, “Lord, not my feet only but my hands and my head!” and would probably have stripped down to the altogether if Jesus hadn’t stopped him in time (John 13:5-11). At that same sad meal, Jesus said he would have to be going soon, and because Peter didn’t get what he meant or couldn’t face it, he asked about it, and Jesus explained what he meant was that he was going where nobody on earth could follow him. Peter finally got the point then and asked why he couldn’t follow. “I’ll lay down my life for you,” he said, and then Jesus said to him the hardest thing Peter had ever heard him say. “Listen, listen,” he said, “the cock won’t crow till you’ve betrayed me three times” (John 13:36-38), and that’s the way it was, of course–Peter sitting out there in the high priest’s courtyard keeping warm by the fire while, inside, the ghastly interrogation was in process, and then the girl coming up to ask him three times if he wasn’t one of them and his replying each time that he didn’t know what in God’s name she was talking about. And then the old cock’s wattles trembling scarlet as up over the horizon it squawked the rising sun, and the tears running down Peter’s face like rain down a rock (Matthew 26:69-75).

According to Paul, the first person Jesus came back to see after Easter morning was Peter. What he said and what Peter said nobody will ever know, and maybe that’s just as well. Their last conversation on this earth, however, is reported in the Gospel of John.

It was on the beach, at daybreak. Some of the other disciples were there (see NATHANIEL), and Jesus cooked them breakfast. When it was over, he said to Peter (only again he called him Simon, son of John, because if ever he meant business, this was it), “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” and Peter said he did. Then Jesus asked the same question a second time and then once again, and each time Peter said he loved him-three times in all, to make up for the other three times.

Then Jesus said, “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep,” and you get the feeling that this time Peter didn’t miss the point (John 21:9-19). From fisher of fish to fisher of people to keeper of the keys to shepherd. It was the Rock’s final promotion, and from that day forward he never let the head office down again.

Psalm 30 – a reflection and blessing by Jan Richardson
(Jan’s husband Gary died suddenly in December 2013)
I’ve been thinking again about the verse in Psalm 30 where the psalmist writes, “You have turned my mourning into dancing.” It would be easy to think that all too often in life, the opposite is true – that our dancing is turned into mourning.
I have a hunch, though, that what the psalmist presents here – and what God offers us – is not a set of opposites. It’s not mourning OR dancing, as if we have to choose between them. It is mourning AND dancing. One of the beautiful mysteries of grief is that as we learn its rhythms, our hearts become more and more able to hold the sorrow and joy that are inextricably intertwined. We become freed to dance within the mourning, slowly learning the steps that bear us into life anew.
This blessing was inspired by that mourning-and-dancing psalm and by my remarkable sweetheart, who is still teaching me the steps. If you are mourning, or know someone who is, this is for you.
May you know
the slow mystery
in which mourning
becomes a dance,
turning you toward
the gladness
that wants to meet you
in your grief.
May comfort
come to enfold you,
not to take away
all sorrow
but to infuse it
with tenderness,
with rest,
with every grace
it has.
May you give yourself
to the rhythms
of joy,
even when your steps
are stumbling,
even when you are
most fragile
and faltering.
May you know
the dancing that comes
in the dying,
moving you in time with
the heart that
has held you
even when you
could not hear
its beating,
even when you
could not bear
its love.
(Source: Jan Richardson, from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief)


Peter Said, I’m Going Fishing”
BEECHER D (“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”) (MIDI)

Peter said, “I’m going fishing,” so his friends went out with him.
Through the night, they labored, watching, Hauling empty nets back in.
In the grey of early morning, Jesus, you came walking by.
From the beach you called a greeting, “Cast out on the other side!”

Soon their nets were filled to brimming; Someone cried, “It is the Lord!”
Jumping in, he started swimming; Christ, you met him on the shore.
Guiding them to better waters, Eating fish, and sharing bread-
You showed Peter and the others: You were risen from the dead!

Risen Christ, you send us fishing! God’s great sea is everywhere.
You have guided us in mission, You have given love to share.
Through the years, our church has heard you, We have answered your great call:
“Cast your nets where I have told you. Bring my word of love to all!”

Lord, be with our congregation; By your spirit, send us forth!
May we care for your creation; May we work for peace on earth.
In our worship, in our giving, In our serving those in need,
May we know, Lord; you are living, Guiding us in ministry.

John 21:1-14
Tune: John Zundel, 1870
Alternative Tunes: HYMN TO JOY D (“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”)
ABBOT’S LEIGH (“God Is Here!”)

Copyright © 2003 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.

Resources (Pilgrim)
8am Sunday OoS (2013) COCU33C.Easter 3C.8amSunday.OoS2013
.30am Sunday OoS (2013) COCU33C.Easter3C.9 30am 2013.OoS

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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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