May 3, 2020 4th Easter John 21:1-19 “Jesus changes the guilt of sorry”

We're in a series about Jesus our game changer. Each week we're looking at a different board game that represents one of the struggles of life. And then we examine how the resurrection of Jesus changes the game. Last week we talked about a game called “Trouble.” Today we're talking about a game called “Sorry.” “Sorry” is like Trouble except its way more complicated. With both games you have four pieces and you're trying to get 'em around the board, and if somebody lands on you, you have to go back home. But the difference with Sorry is, instead of this little dice, you have cards. And the cards can be complicated: Draw a 4 - Move backward four spaces.  An 11 - Move eleven spaces forward or switch places with an opponent.  A 10 — Move ten spaces forward or one space backwards. Draw a 7 — Move seven spaces forward or split move between two pieces.  Sorry is a version of Trouble but the cards your dealt or pick make it much more complicated. 

The game Sorry goes from being just plain trouble to really complicated depending on the cards your dealt or the cards you choose to play. Isn’t that like life? It would be one thing if it was just one trouble you had to deal with but often the cards are stacked against you. The only moves you see available to you just either don’t make sense or make you feel like the meanest person in the world.  The cards your dealt make you do things you feel bad about “Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Sorry I’m normally not like that. Sorry, I couldn’t see another way.” Perhaps for you Life got complicated years ago or days ago… you had only so many cards at your disposal or you chose poorly.  Either way you came out Sorry.  And that regret has staid with you ever since.  You are guilt ridden, shame stained, or find in yourself that most complicated place of self-hating.  And that is a real sorry state to be in.

Peter was in one of those “sorry places.”  Life had gotten very complicated. He was the leader amongst the followers. Yes, he had been the first to confess Jesus was the Messiah. Yes, he had walked on water. When Jesus celebrated the Passover meal and wondered aloud “who would stay true to him?” Peter had “Yes” flashed his sword and promised never to abandon Jesus.  He was to be Jesus’ rock on which the new church would be founded. Yes but!! With Peter there always seems to be a “Yes but…” 

Yes but… he was constantly screwing up.  Yes, he had been first to confess Jesus as Messiah and Lord BUT… he’d also vehemently argued with Jesus about the Messiah ever having to suffer and ended up rebuked by Jesus as an agent of Satan.  Yes, he’d been the brave one to jump out on the water to walk to Jesus but he’d also taken his eyes of him and let his fear of the waves overwhelm him and Jesus had to save him from the drink.  Yes, he’d been the first to confess his loyalty that night of the holy Passover with Jesus only to within hours loudly deny him not once but three times just to save his own skin!  This was a game of sorry that was complicated.

Perhaps you can relate to this complicated sorry guilt ridden self-hating kind of situation.  You love your kids and you want the best for them there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for them. Yes but… they’ve been home for 40 days during this quarantine and they know just the button to push… and you blow your top! Say things you regret or do thing you shouldn’t.  Yes, you are a good parent but…how could you do that to them?!  What may even make it more complicate is that they may forgive you, but do you- forgive you?!

You love your parents you try really hard to be a good kid but there is that one thing that they can never find out you did, you are.  It would ruin everything.  We all have those secrets that weigh us down, that makes us sorry and complicate things. We have those nagging voices that keep us humble by constantly popping up those sorry ”Yes, but moments in our life.” The screw ups that maybe everybody knows about or only we know.  I’m not sure which is worse in the sorry game; the guilt only we know or the shame that everybody knows?!

This is the game Peter is playing that Jesus wants to interrupt, put to rest and move on, to be a game changer for.  How does Jesus know Peter is playing this game?  Let me tell you, you can tell you are in a sorry game when you these three things.  When you abandon the future, to pretend in the present so you can try to recreate the past.  (repeat)

Peter’s fishing and not catching.  He’s abandoned his future as a follower of Jesus to pretend he can be a fisherman today just like he was before he met Jesus.  He’s back at his routine but its empty.  That’s the thing about playing life’s game of sorry.  We can continue our routine but its empty.  What once was rewarding is now void of joy or meaning. BUT we do it anyway.  Why? Because its known. Its comfortable even if its uncomfortably unfulfilling.

Peter is sorry and he’s fishing without catching.  He’s abandoning his future so he’s diving back into empty routines.  Peter had been given a mission to proclaim the good news to all the world and he’s… fishing.  He’s going back to what he knows.  He wants to play it safe, act like nothing happened.  By fishing Peter avoids having to lead the disciples or say something about the Jesus he betrayed. If he’s out on the boat doing what’s familiar, he doesn’t have to move into the future.   What people might expect of him.  The problem is Peter is stuck.  He’s trying his best to convince everyone it’s all good.  Yet, even if he convinces everyone it’s all good, he’s stuck knowing it’s not all good.  The guilt is all his, the shame is all his.

Jesus doesn’t avoid Peter, nor does he abandon him.  Jesus purposely interrupts his fishing to point him to his true purpose. He does this graciously, not judgmentally.  He grants a good catch:  You guys catch anything?  Try the other side, that might work?!  And it works wonders! Jesus doesn’t stop there he fixes Pete and company a good breakfast.

It must of seemed vaguely familiar to Peter looking across a charcoal fire in the dim morning light.  It probably flickered the memory of seeing Jesus across the dim light of a charcoal fire at the High Priest’s courtyard.  That place where he did the worst thing in his life.  That memory he’d be avoiding at all costs.

Jesus probably saw the look of pain on Peter’s face and shared the same flashback. But Jesus looks at Peter in love- not judgement- and says, “Do you love me?”  What’s behind that question?  You know in my experience folks don’t ask that question if they don’t love you first. If they don’t care for you, aren’t invested in you, they don’t ask “Do you love me?” Jesus’ question almost first and foremost has a statement before it.  It’s somewhat like saying “You don’t need to doubt I love you- I would go to the cross and back for you… in fact I have done just that!”  The question you need to ask yourself is, do you love me?”  Do you love me more than these things- the life you are going back to? Peter answers, “Of course I love you more than these!”

Jesus gives him three chances to answer this question.  It gives Peter three times over the chance to experience how redeeming and healing it is to proclaim his love for Jesus.  Last week as we talked of Thomas talked about how he differed from Judas because he was honest, staid on aboard, and trusted Jesus to show up, trusted Jesus to give him what he needed. 

Peter unlike Judas and Thomas wasn’t honest about his guilt and shame. He’s certainly not processing it by fishing.  But Peter is staying on board and his friends are keeping him on board.  He could have isolated himself or been ostracized (kicked out) for what he did, but he stayed on aboard.  Now like Thomas, Peter when Jesus shows up, Peter gets what he needs from Jesus. 

What does Peter need? Proof like Thomas?  No, Peter doesn’t need proof he believes Jesus is risen.  He needs freedom.  You see he believes Jesus is his risen Lord he just can’t believe Jesus loves him. He needs freedom from his guilt, healing for his shame.  Jesus the game changer doesn’t give up on Peter.  Jesus gives Peter exactly what he needs reassurance of his deep abiding love. A love that has such forgiveness it can bring reconciliation to a deeply broken relationship and something else.  It’s a forgiveness that doesn’t erase the past but it does grant a different hopeful future not based on his past.

Are you carrying around that complicated occasion that no matter how many times you replay it, it never comes out right?  You did what you did, or you didn’t do what you should have done, and you can’t forgive yourself!?  You aren’t the person you thought you were!?  The shame is more than you can bear.  They’ve forgiven you but you can’t forgive you!?  All those complicated aspects of life’s game of Sorry.  Sorry, where the guilt remains, the shame still stains, the pain still connects you to the past and won’t let you go forward without first looking backward?

Do you think Jesus loves you?  Look at that cross- if that’s not love what is?  Does Jesus expect you to be perfect, no… again would he have chosen the cross if he thought it was possible for you to be perfect, to carry that burden that he carried for you?  God loves you!  The question is will you let him love you?  Forgive you.  Will you love him in return?

His forgiveness doesn’t erase the past, it rewrites the future.  God’s total and absolute forgiveness means you are not defined by that hot mess of humanity that you were.  Proclaim your love for Jesus and you will experience his powerful love and amazing grace of forgiveness.  And let his love and forgiveness allow you the power and grace to forgive yourself and forgive others.

You don’t have to be Sorry for the rest of your life.  You don’t have to be trapped in the Jumanji game of Sorry with its guilt, shame and pain and its prediction of your future.  No, be freed by Christ’s forgiveness!! This meal we celebrate today is where Jesus asks “do you love me because I certainly love you… I gave my all for you… every time you taste this bread you taste my forgiveness every time you drink this wine you sip the love and salvation I won for you on that cross in that empty tomb.”

I’ve got a mathematical question that I’ve asked many times before, but it bears repeating; If Jesus forgives your sins- how many do you have left?  NONE!  Perhaps there is one caveat, the Only sins left are the ones you won’t let him forgive! Let go of them, give them to him, forgive yourself.  If you can’t forgive yourself borrow some of Jesus love and forgiveness. Jesus’s forgiveness is total and complete and it rewrites not your past but your future.  Jesus doesn’t sit there with a line item veto- ohh that one yeah I forgive, but this one no way. He forgave Peter for God’s sake!  He forgave him so much that he gave him the keys to his church, the keys to the kingdom.

I like that picture of being given the keys.  Since we’re all in cars today I thought I’d use the picture of being given keys to illustrate how Jesus changes our complicated game of Sorry.  Imagine Jesus gave you a wonderful vehicle- your favorite luxury car or grand powerful truck.  Just gave you the keys and you went out and crashed it.  Perhaps it was an accident, perhaps it was the result of being plain self centered and stupid- either way its your fault and the wonderful car or truck is now trash nothing more than a huge paperweight in your life. 

Now, picture Jesus saying “I forgive you for crashing the car. Here’s keys to the new car, I trust you to drive it well.  I love you, I trust you, I see good things in your future.  Just promise me one thing, stop trying to drive down the road by looking in your rear-view mirror.”  You’re in cars right now- look at that rear-view mirror.  Now think about trying to put the car/truck in drive and pulling out of here and down the road not using anything other than rear-view mirror!  No windshield, no side windows just the rear-view mirror. 

That is what you are doing by narrowing your vision to all that guilt and shame you carry with unforgiveness in your heart.  That’s what life’s game of sorry does to you.  It confines you to live your life staring at the mirror of unforgiveness of yourself with guilt that’s back there, the stain that’s back there, the pain that’s back there.  It makes you try to go forward in life with the only thing guiding you is your rearview mirror!! 

It’s truly disconcerting and confining to try to live life with that viewpoint of unforgiveness for others but even more confining to live with that mirror unforgiveness for yourself as the way you move forward in life.  Now take your eyes off that mirror, look around.  There’s a whole world out there you’ve been missing by living in that mirror of regret, guilt, and shame.  Look out the side windows, look out the front- WOW!! Don’t you want to drive through life like that?  How much easier, less stressful, enjoyable and freeing is that?! 

That’s what Jesus wanted for Peter, to get his eyes off the rear-view mirror of his guilt and shame and instead go forward and proclaim the love of God in Christ Jesus. That’s what Jesus wants for you and I. To get our eyes off the rear-view mirror of our Sorry life of guilt and shame and instead go forward and proclaim the love of God in Christ Jesus that we’ve experienced three times over.  Open your eyes to the amazing freeing forgiveness of God and that sorry little mirror will only be a tiny part of your life, a tiny reminder of what was, but it’s nothing compared to what is to come.

Jesus is our game changer folks!!  Christ is Risen!  His amazing love and forgiveness, his powerful resurrection, changes our focus from the past to the glorious future we have in his love and grace. He shrinks that mirror of lifes’ game of sorry down to where its just our rearview not our windshield, its not our forecast and its not our future.  Because like Peter we have a future in Christ Jesus who loves us and forgives us and compels us to go forward.  We have a future, we are to be fishers, fishers of men and women who need to hear “Life’s game of Sorry is over!!” because Jesus is a game changer, because Christ is Risen!! (He is risen indeed!) Amen.