Wandering Heart: Here’s My Heart

Rev. Taylor Hall Avatar

Our Lenten, now Easter journey, has been a pilgrimage of sorts, following the footsteps of Peter: from the abundant catch that led him to drop everything and follow Jesus to walking on water, professing his faith, being rebuked, receiving foot washing, denying Jesus, and running to the tomb. And now, on this day, we witness Peter’s encounter with the risen Christ, an encounter filled with forgiveness, redemption, and love so relentless it washes over Peter like a healing balm.

But before we journey further, let us revisit where it all began for Peter. As we embarked on our Lenten journey, we turned to the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 5 where we first met Peter. He was Simon then, a fisherman casting his nets in the deep waters of Lake Gennesaret. Jesus, with his divine authority, commanded Simon to let down his nets for a catch. Simon, although reluctantly, obeyed, and to his awe, he witnessed a miraculous catch, so abundant that their nets were about to break. Struck by this miracle, Simon fell at Jesus’ knees, confessing his unworthiness. But Jesus, in his infinite grace, gave Simon a new purpose, a new identity. “From now on, you will be catching people,” Jesus said, transforming Simon the fisherman into Peter, the fisher of men.

From that moment on, Peter embarked on a transformative journey, walking alongside Jesus, witnessing His miracles, and absorbing His teachings. We journeyed with Peter as he walked on water, as he confessed Jesus as the Messiah, and as he faltered and denied Jesus three times the night of His trial. Each of these moments, these snapshots of Peter’s journey, revealed to us our own humanity and the divine grace that is intricately woven into our own journeys of faith.

Now, in today’s text, we find Peter once again by the shoreline, casting his nets into the sea. The scene is eerily similar to that day on the lake of Gennesaret. Peter, along with a few other disciples, has spent the night fishing but caught nothing. As dawn breaks, a figure appears on the shore. It is Jesus, although the disciples do not recognize Him at first. He instructs them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat, and when they do, they haul in a catch so abundant that they cannot haul it in.

In this miraculous moment, echoes of the past reverberate, and one of the disciples recognizes Jesus. Upon hearing this, Peter, in his characteristic impulsiveness, jumps into the sea to meet Jesus, just like he did when he walked on water to meet Christ in the midst of a storm. The parallels between this encounter and Peter’s call story are striking and powerful. Once again, Jesus provides an abundant catch, a symbolic affirmation of the abundant life He offers. Once again, Peter, the fisherman, encounters the divine on the shores of his everyday life, and once again, his life is about to be transformed.

But this story is not just about an abundant catch; it is a story of relentless love and redemption. Jesus didn’t just provide an abundant catch; He also provided a healing moment for Peter. In the heart of this story lies a powerful dialogue between Peter and Jesus. Jesus offers Peter a chance to redeem his three denials with three affirmations of love. Jesus asks Peter, not once, not twice, but three times, ‘Do you love me?’

But Jesus is not seeking to remind Peter of his betrayal, or to rub salt into his wounds. We don’t worship a God who kicks us while we are down. Instead, His intent is to offer Peter a chance to affirm his love for Christ, a chance to heal and redeem himself.

Can you imagine the weight of this moment? The weight of Jesus’ question asked three times? Can you imagine Peter’s heart, heavy with guilt, lightening with each declaration of love? Each time Peter says ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you,’ he is being redeemed. His guilt and shame washed away by the relentless love of Jesus.

Jesus’ questions to Peter were not a test of his loyalty but an affirmation of his redemption. With each affirmation of love, Jesus entrusts Peter with a new mission: “Feed my lambs.” “Tend my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.” It’s as if Jesus says to Peter, ‘Here’s my heart,’ washing over Peter’s denials with a healing balm and a call to shepherd the flock he was first entrusted with before his three denials.

This is the essence of Christ’s love for us – relentless, unyielding, redemptive. It’s a love that does not focus on our failures but sees our potential; a love that does not hold our past against us but offers us a future filled with hope. We worship a God who constantly seeks those who are down to lift them back up; our Savior who does even if the reason we are down is our own doing.

This story teaches us that no matter how many times we fail or deny Jesus, His love for us remains the same. His grace is sufficient. His mercy is abundant. He asks us the same question He asked Peter, ‘Do you love me?’ And like Peter, we are given the opportunity to affirm our love for him and receive his redemption.

Christ’s love is a love that does not waver, even when we falter. It is a love that pursues us, even when we have strayed. It is a love that forgives, even when we have fallen short.

Consider the child who disobeys their parents, causing disappointment or frustration. Yet, the parents’ love for the child does not diminish. Instead, they lovingly guide the child back to the path of righteousness, forgiving their mistakes, and reaffirming their love.

Think of the friend who, in a moment of weakness, betrays a trust. The relationship is strained, and trust is broken. But true friendship is a manifestation of relentless love, and so the wronged friend forgives, offering another chance, a fresh start.

Or the person battling addiction, who after months of sobriety, relapses. It’s a heartbreaking setback, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are still worthy of love and support. Their loved ones, and indeed, Christ Himself, do not abandon them in their time of need. Instead, they are offered grace, forgiveness, and the promise of a new day.

These examples remind us that we are all human. We will make mistakes. We will have moments where we choose selfishness over service, comfort over compassion. But in those moments, Christ calls us back, reminding us that we are loved, claimed, and called. Jesus is not asking for our perfection; He is asking for our hearts.

And so, we find ourselves here today, on this first Sunday of the month, celebrating the sacrament of holy communion. Just as God’s relentless, redemptive love is always offered to us, so too is God‘s invitation to return to the Table. Here, we are reminded of the grace offered through Christ. Nothing we can do will remove our seat from this Table because nothing we did earned us a place at the Table. It was a gift always freely given, and it will be a gift in the present and future.

This is the relentless love that Christ offers each of us. A love that says, “Here is my heart.” A love that forgives our denials, our betrayals, our shortcomings, and invites us to start anew. A love that meets us where we are and invites us into a deeper, more meaningful relationship with our Savior.

As we move forward in our faith journeys, let us remember this love. No matter how far we wander, Jesus’ grace finds us. No matter how many times we falter, His love redeems us. And no matter how unworthy we feel, He entrusts us with His work. Let Christ’s guide us in our actions, in our relationships, and in our service to others. For just as we are recipients of Christ’s relentless love, so too are we called to extend that love to others.

We are called to love the unlovable, to forgive the unforgivable, and to extend grace where it is least expected. For in doing so, we are mirroring the love of Christ. We are saying, ‘Here’s my heart,’ and offering it to the world.

Peter’s story did not end with the conclusion of the gospels. His journey continued, fueled by the relentless love of his Savior. He went on to become a pillar of the early church, spreading the Gospel far and wide. His story serves as a powerful reminder of redemption, of second, third, fourth, fifth chances, and the transformative power of Christ’s love.

In the same way, our stories do not end here. Each day offers us a new beginning, a chance to experience and extend the relentless love of Christ. So, my friends, as we depart from this sacred gathering, let us carry with us the lessons of Peter, the redemption offered by Christ, and the promise of relentless love that is ours to claim and to share.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.