Sunday, April 17, 2016

Discover Life, Again: Passion John 20-21 select verses

Discover Life Again: Passion and Commitment
Commerce Presbyterian Church, GA
By Rev. C. Craig Topple

Slide Intro:
How many of you have figured out what you wanted to do when you grow up?
Have you figured out what really motivates you, inspires you, gives you energy to spend countless hours working and yet, you’re willing to give more?  
What are you passionate about and how do you live into that passion?  
What have you committed yourself to because you decided, this is my calling, this
is how I can really make a difference?

These are hard questions, I think. We know we have one life to live.
We know we have made decisions we can’t undo.  We know that others have made decisions that have had a significant impact on our lives, for good or for ill, that can’t be undone.
Have we discovered what is most life giving for us?

Slide: Shawshank

Our series, discover life, again, began a few weeks ago by recalling the scene from Shawshank Redemption, where two men with life sentences were in the prison courtyard dreaming. Andy, dreaming about going to zihuatanejo, Mexico (I’ve been there). And Red responding: “Zewanta-what?”
Andy dreaming about possibilities. Red, could not dream.
“Red, the choice is simple,” his best friend tells him. “You can get busy living or get busy dying.”

Slide: Jesus appearances
We’re back this week to post resurrections stories about Jesus and his disciples found in the Gospel of John. The disciples, of course, had made a significant commitment to him.
They were passionate about their work. But there is a major shift--what had been the focus of their last few years, was gone, Jesus was no longer present with them like before. They are significantly shaken and desperately despondent.   
First,  they huddle behind closed doors fearful of the future. He appears before them and breathes on them--the breath of life that was from the beginning.
Breath in this breath of life.  

[I hope he hadn’t had some of those raw onions to eat like we had on our hotdogs from Wednesday night supper.  It’s funny how we can’t really smell our breath, but my girls were sure smelling mine after that supper.]

Jesus breathes on them, and the disciples are able to muster enough energy to return to something they once knew so well, and probably loved:  fishing..
But, as life would have it, they’re out all night and don’t catch a thing...
Fishing, like life, can be kind of boring--especially if you’re not catching anything--especially if you’re not passionate about anything.
I love how Jesus, for his second appearance act, comes to the shore and calls out to them, “Caught anything? And then: “Cast your nets on the right side of the boat; you’ll find fish there!”
Clearly a statement about political persuasions!  

In some ways all it takes is a simple adjustment: If it seems like you continue to come up empty, Consider a different approach.  If you're empty over here, cast your nets over have the tools, you have the ability, just hear my voice, make a little your passion, discover what you love to do, discover life.  

And you can see the shift in Peter and the others. From empty nets, to nets overflowing.
From dry despondency to splashing in the water and swimming passionately ashore.  

Steve Jobs, who's responsible for this thing (iPad), gave an inspiring speech about re-discovering what he loved due to a significant shift in his life, when he spoke to graduates from Stanford in 2005.

He says: I was lucky - I found what I loved to do early in life. [starting] Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30.

And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? But, at age 30 I was out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

Jobs remembers: I really didn't know what to do for a few months.... I was a public failure; I even thought about running away. But something slowly began to dawn on me - I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life--starting Pixar - which made Toy Story - And, he says, “I fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife and we would have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple, Jobs reflected. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.

You've got to find what you love.

An inspiring testimony from Steve Jobs, and when it works out that way great. But, this was a speech for college students, and focuses primarily on a career. Many of us are well into or beyond our careers.  But, I think there is still meaning here.  

Jobs says, Find what you love.

SLIDE: Do you love me
Peter and the disciples move from the boat to the shore and there they discover, a little meal over a flame, fish and bread.  And they rediscover what they love, or rather who they love.
Do you love me?
Do you love me?
Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.

To me, it is less about what we are doing, and more about how we are doing what we are doing.
As the disciples warm themselves by the cooking flame, rekindle your passion for love....
As the disciples’ love is reinvigorated, commit yourself again to love....

We can do what we do, and it seems quite empty.  But, what happens if we do what we do, with love in our hearts. Love for the people around us. Love for the gift of each day.

Quite often we want our day to day activities to fill us, We want others to fill us.
What happens when we are the ones, filled with God’s breath and our lungs are filled by God’s love for us, If we are the ones who are able to fill others with our love.
Do you love me? Feed my lambs

All of us, deep down, want our life to be full of meaning, purpose, hope, commitment, we want our nets to be full.  And one of the greatest gifts we can give one another as a church community, is to help one another discover our passion for love, to offer opportunities for loving commitment.

Passion is one of those tricky words. It’s used to talk about that almost obsessive attraction for another person  when we fall in love. And it’s a word to describe Jesus brutal trial and crucifixion. Talk about mixed messages…
But, that same passion that drives us when we fall in love is similar to the passion of God’s love for us, and how we can love in this world.
SLIDE: “A deep awakening of passion in us is something that will stir into life the passion that is in others too.” (JPNewell One Foot in Eden, p54)
Love passionately as you are loved passionately.

Four people from this congregation will commit themselves to serve this congregation as elders beginning later this summer; making a commitment in this way can be difficult for we are very busy people. But the nominating committee has seen the love of those being asked, and prays that their passion and commitment may stir life giving love throughout the congregation and into the community. “A faithful response to the grace of commitment, whatever the outcome, nurtures in us a strength and endurance of character that are not easily measured. Let us know however that in following this grace we are being restored to our truest selves.” (JPN One Foot in Eden, p64)

Slide Peace Pilgrim
Here is an inspiring story about a passion to love which turned into a deep lasting and unusual commitment. Some of you who were around in the 50s may remember stories about a woman known as Peace Pilgrim (from Peace Talks Radio)
In 1953, during the Korean War and under the ominous threat of nuclear attack Mildred Norman set off from the Rose Bowl parade on New Year's Day walking wearing  a t-shirt that read: "Peace Pilgrim"
And she walked...and walked. She walked for 28 years. She never used money. She wore the same clothes every day: blue pants and a blue tunic that held everything she owned: a pen, a comb, a toothbrush and a map. "I own only what I wear and carry. I just walk until given shelter, fast until given food," she said. "I don't even ask; it's given without asking. I tell you, people are good. There's a spark of good in everybody."
It sounds strange to many of me at least; but certainly sounds like a similar lifestyle to the one we worship in this place: Jesus, is who I’m talking about.
How did Ms. Norman come to have this passion and dare to commit herself on this journey?
A childhood experience, she said:
One night in the late 1930s, "out of a feeling of deep seeking for a meaningful way of life," she began walking through the woods. She recalls,
"After I had walked almost all night, I came out into a clearing where the moonlight was shining down. And something just motivated me to speak and I found myself saying, 'If you can use me for anything, please use me. Here I am, take all of me, use me as you will, I withhold nothing,' "
Peace Pilgrim remembers: "That night, I experienced the complete willingness, without any reservations whatsoever, to give my life to something beyond myself."
By 1964 she had already walked 25,000 miles. Eventually, she stopped counting.
In an interview, the manager of a small radio station in Knox, Ind., Ted Hayes, said:
"Peace Pilgrim, you know, there are a certain number of people who would probably think of somebody like yourself as a kook or a nut."
"Well, I'm quite sure that some of those who have just heard of me must think I'm completely off the beam," Peace Pilgrim responded. "After all, I am doing something different. And pioneers have always been looked upon as being a bit strange.
But, I am passionate about this: 'I shall remain a wanderer until [hu]mankind has learned the way of peace..
In the same interview, Tom Hayes noted how she appeared to be a most happy woman."
"I certainly am a happy person," Peace Pilgrim responded. "Who could know God and not be joyous? I want to wish you all peace."
Slide: Commerce
Peace be with you, Jesus breathed on his disciples.  Cast your nets to the other side. Come ashore and be fed. And then show your love for the world by feeding sheep and lambs.
JEsus said, “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”

We pray to God asking for the courage to lose ourselves to a passion for loving, a deep commitment for loving that will fill this world with peace.

In the name of life giver, the life teacher and the life sustainer. Amen

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