“Tend My Sheep”

A Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

Text: St. John 21:1-19


feed my sheep

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, the Great Shepherd who sends us out to tend to the flock. Amen.

Christ is risen, has sent Mary to proclaim this Good News, appeared to the apostles, and even to Thomas. So – as many pastors have asked – now what? Or, in concretely Lutheran terms, “What does this mean?”

We have been promised that Christ is the first fruits of the Resurrection, that we shall join in a new and everlasting life like his. What do we do with this information?

We, who have like Peter, fallen away on occasion, who like Thomas have had our doubts, how do we live into this new reality?

“Follow me,” says the Lord.

For Peter, this meant leading the Church under the constant threat of violent persecution, in Jerusalem as Saul – later called Paul – led lynch mobs and later even in Rome itself, eventually following Christ’s command to take up the cross. The Tradition is full of martyred saints who, like Simon Peter, followed Christ even to the point of death.

We know what it looks like to die for Christ. But what does it look like to live for the Lord? How do we obey those other charges, “Feed my lambs,” “Feed my sheep,” and “Tend my sheep?” We, who have been reconciled like Peter, are sent out every week in loving service to God and neighbor.

We celebrate the great missionaries of the past, like Augustine of Canterbury, John and Charles Wesley, and Mother Teresa, those whose ministries sent them across the globe to serve the Church and care for those in need.

But even here, even in our own state, we have ample opportunity to feed the sheep and tend the flock, to follow our Lord in the ways of loving service – whether it’s at a food bank in our own building or serving our neighbors in Clarkston.

During the sermon, students from the Episcopal-Lutheran campus ministry in Macon shared what they learned during a spring break mission trip to Clarkston, Georgia. Sitting about 90 miles from Macon, Clarkston is part of the Atlanta metropolitan area and is home to several large immigrant and refugee communities from different parts of the globe. These communities represent a variety of religious, linguistic, and ethnic backgrounds. The campus ministry partnered with Lutheran Services of Georgia (now called Inspiritus) and a local ELCA congregation to serve our neighbors. Their work included serving in the congregation’s clothing ministry and taking children on an outing to the World of Coke museum and lunch.

Every week, we are sent out with a charge – to go in peace and proclaim the Good News, to serve the Lord. This is not merely a way of signaling the end of the service. Rather, it’s God’s reminder that our service and worship continues beyond these walls. We, who are given new life through our Baptism into Christ’s Resurrection and are nourished by the life-giving Sacrament of Christ’s Risen Body, are charged alongside Peter and the entire Church to serve as good shepherds.

So, beloved, go! Live into the freedom of new life! Go be the Body of Christ for the world! Go proclaim the Resurrection in thought, word, and deed! Go love God and neighbor! Go feed the sheep! Go tend the flock! Go! And follow Christ out of the grave and into a new creation.

Amen.

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