Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Many Branches


Listen to these 2 selected verses from the famous Frank Sinatra classic: “My Way” -
Regrets I've had a few, But then again too few to mention, I did what I had to do, And saw it through without exemption, I planned each charted course, Each careful step along the byway, And more, much more than this, I did it my way, For what is a man, what has he got, If not himself then he has not, To say the things he truly feels, And not the words of one who kneels, The record shows I took the blows, And did it my way.
There is a good part of us that hear these words and think, ‘Yea’! “That’s right” “That’s what we have to do” “Great song” “Great inspiration”. “Good for him” “We all need to be more like that!” That is the message we get from the world around us - we gotta take care of ourselves. Pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps. It is up to you to make something of yourselves……. And on and on. The message is just as Frank Sinatra teaches us - what we admire, what we strive for, is to be strong enough to stand up for ourselves and do it “MY way”.
And today as we hear the message of Jesus, the words are exactly the opposite. We are not to do it My Way - but to do it Jesus’ way. We are not to be independent and on our own and “You gotta take care of yourselves cause no one else will”…….. We, as the children of God are to be connected to the vine and we are to have an attitude, not of independence, but of dependence.
As we continue to look at these 40 days of instruction from Jesus as he gives the disciples, and us, these final directions of how to live we get some great word of encouragement and a word to remember to depend on him..…
If you remember from last week, Jesus has met the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The disciples had traveled back home and back to their fishing jobs. This particular morning as they were done fishing Jesus greets them on the beach with a great breakfast of fish and bread. So they all sit down together, they eat their breakfast and begin to talk. Scripture tells us that after Peter denied he was a follower of Jesus on the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter carried with him some heavy guilt. He had denied his Lord. He kept stressing over how he could have done this - he was a failure - he had failed Jesus. This weighed heavy on Peter…..
We’ve all been there. We have done something - multiple things - and we carry this guilt around with us. Guilt can be paralyzing. Regrets can incapacitate us. Feeling guilty can limit our ability to live for God; to work for God as he desires; Guilt and regret can destroy our relationships; it can even separate us from God.
Jesus knows that he has to deal with this before Peter is going to be able to live up to what Jesus needs Peter to do. Peter is going to become the leader of this new church; Peter is going to be the leader of the disciples as they gather together to do the work that God wants them to do… And Peter will not be able to do any of this if he carries around this guilt from his night of publicly denying his Lord Jesus. So as they sit around this campfire on this morning on the beach, eating their fish and breaking their bread, Jesus lets Peter know that he is forgiven; that his mistakes of the past are just that - past mistakes; that God has forgiven him - that God has forgotten these missteps and now Peter can get on. That is the gist of that familiar conversation between Jesus and Peter: “Peter, do you love me?” - Feed my sheep. “Peter, do you love me?” - Feed my lambs. “Peter, do you love me?” - Take care of my sheep. Three denials - and three times Jesus assures Peter that all is well and that the roadblocks are clear and that Peter can get on with the business of what Jesus is asking Peter to do.
The morning together continues as Jesus then takes Peter and says, “Let’s go for a walk” and together they go down the beach. The disciple John is a little jealous that Jesus is spending so much time with Peter - and keep in mind that it is John who is writing this account of what is
happening this morning on the beach. Peter and Jesus begin walking down the beach as Jesus is giving Peter some further instructions and some further encouragement and further information about what is going to happen. John, writing this account, throws in this little sentence that says in affect - I was the one who sat by Jesus at the last supper and I heard him say that someone was going to deny him and Peter denied him and I didn’t…….. Peter then, walking along with Jesus looks back at John, who is following them, says “What about him?”
Doesn’t that sound like us? How many times to we get caught up in what everyone else is doing, or has done, or didn’t do, or did 10 years ago? How often are we held back from doing what God wants us to do because we are worried about what someone else has been called to do and it is different than what we have been asked to do and what they have to do is easier, more fun, less time consuming, brings more recognition, than what I have to do. I want to do what they have to do…….
We also read today a passage from Exodus. This passage comes from that wilderness journey which is a story that God gave us so that we can learn about our journey to become better at being God’s people. In this particular passage, Moses is up on top of Mt. Sinai receiving the 10 commandments and receiving a lot of other information as God lines out exactly how he wants his people to live. In all these instructions are the design for the tabernacle - the place where God wants his people to gather and worship. God very specifically orders particular objects to be a part of the worship space. And then God tells Moses, I am going to give particular people each a specific talent so that they will be able to craft these distinct pieces that I want in my tabernacle. And so in this passage of Exodus we actually get to read the names of these individuals God has chosen and gifted to craft these items that will be know as the ‘furniture’ of God’s sanctuary. This is important to notice - no where does it say, “God went to these fellas and asked them if they would like to be the ones to perform these tasks.” God just simply says - these are the ones I am going to tell they will do this! But notice as well that God gives them to skills they need to do what God has told them to do!
As Jesus walks along the beach with Peter, he tells Peter “The time is coming where you are no longer going to make your own decisions. The time is coming where you will be lead where you do not want to go.” In other words, God has chosen Peter to lead his church and there is little Peter can do about it. This is what Peter is to do now…..
And Peter is not to worry about what John is going to be called to do and John is not to worry about the fact that Peter sinned greatly.
Traditionally in the church lectionary - the list of sermons that are suggested for each Sunday - this Sunday is always the Sunday where we are to remember the words of Jesus - I am the vine and you are the branches…… I am the boss and you are the disciples. You job is to do what I call you to do. You job is not to worry about the other branches on the vine; your job is not to want to do what she or he is doing; you job is not to judge whether so and so is able to or good enough to do what God has called them to do; your job is not to do it your way.
Jesus says, “I am the vine and you are the branches. Staying connected to me means that I will always give you whatever you need to do what I have called you to do; gifted you to do; you don’t have to do it your way or worrying about doing it your way cause as long as you stay connected, it will be fine…….”
Sounds good; sounds challenging; but practically what does that mean for me?
It is simple, well it sounds simple but since we are people that think we have to do it My Way it can be kind of a struggle. We have to spend time, every day, walking with Jesus. Just like Peter did that day on the beach. And what that looks like in your own life you have to work out. It means that sometime during the day you find a moment - even if it is only 5 minutes (and I know you are busy but all of us can find 5 minutes for God….) Find some time each day to just sit quietly and ask Jesus to guide you. Not prayer so much, just ask Jesus what he wants you to do and sit quietly…
And what you will realize is that it is not about doing it “My Way”, it is not about worrying about guilt and regrets, it is not about what anyone else is doing, it is about living the life God has for me. And it is remembering that as long as I stay connected to Jesus, as long as I remember I am a branch connected to the vine, It will be OK. Amen!