10 April 2016
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our heart be acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
It’s an interesting thing about the Gospel According to John. There’s a clear concluding statement at the end of chapter 20, we heard it last week. Remember? The author tells us that the Gospel was written so that we might come to believe that Jesus is The Messiah, the Son of God and that through believing we might have life in his name. But there is more, another whole chapter. We read most of that last chapter today. I like to think it was given to help us on our way as we come to grips with the fact of resurrection, as we live into resurrection life. Remember what we have been told so far. How unsettling it was, how confounding, to find that empty tomb. Then there was the joy of recognizing the risen Jesus. And the power of receiving his gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit. Those stories about the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus let us experience what it was like to meet Jesus again on the other side of his death. These stories are signs to the believing community. They remind us that in the resurrection Jesus’ followers find new life every bit as much as Jesus did. And they tell us about Jesus’ ability to transform us. These stories are told to strengthen and nourish our faith. They are told so that we might experience new and abundant life in Jesus’ name. Resurrection life.
So what about this story we just heard, the story of a fishing trip and breakfast on the beach? It is a simple story on the surface. The disciples are back home in Galilee. It is a story set in the context of the ordinary. Did you hear? Peter said: “I am going fishing”, the others said “We will go with you”. Nothing very strange about that. They were fishermen first, before they met Jesus and followed him. They must have instinctively gone back to what they knew best while they tried to come to grips with the changed reality of their lives after Jesus’ death and after their first brief post-resurrection experiences of him. But this is more than just a simple story about a fishing trip. It is a miracle story. And it’s a sign to all of us who continue in the fellowship of the Lord. We all know the story well. The disciples fish through the night but catch nothing. Then just at dawn a stranger on shore tells them what to do and suddenly their net is full of fish. It is a gift. of abundance. And in the gift the disciples recognize the giver, the risen Jesus. What does the story suggest to us? The abundant catch of fish and the breakfast on the beach tell us that Jesus’ gifts continue after his death and resurrection. This was the truth behind the early post-resurrection community’s experience of the Risen Christ. God’s gracious gift of life was available in the Risen Christ just as it was in the incarnate Jesus. This story of a fishing trip and breakfast on the beach was a story of celebration for the post-resurrection community. It expressed their experience that life is grounded in an experience of God’s fullness. The knowledge that life is anchored by God’s unprecedented and unexpected gift of new life, transformed life, even in the face of death. As with the other resurrection stories this story affirms the power of the resurrected Christ to transform our human experience. The more I have read this story, thought about it, talked about it, and prayed with it I have seen it as a story that is essentially about gifts and about sharing those gifts. I am really struck by how Jesus directed the disciples to that large catch of fish, that was surely a gift after a long night of hard work, work that (pardon the pun) netted the disciples exactly nothing.
I am also struck by how Jesus already had some fish and bread ready and waiting on the beach for his tired and hungry friends. I am sure that gift of breakfast was a welcome one.
A gift that provided both warmth and nourishment after that night of hard work. But did you notice that Jesus asked the disciples to bring some of the newly caught fish to share as well? That detail “Bring some of the fish you caught …come and have breakfast …” captures a sense of reciprocal giving. As John probably intended, it leaves me in mind of the Eucharist. We are called to the Lord’s table, we bring an offering from the gifts God has given us, and we are nourished by the real presence of our Lord. Can’t you just hear our Lord saying something like bring me who you are, bring me what you do, bring the best of yourself and I will fill your nets. I will transform you beyond anything you can imagine? But that is, after all, just a little bit dangerous. It looks very much as though our Lord calls us beyond those good feelings of love and devotion and into action. Merely finding ourselves loving Jesus, and feeling good inside ourselves, is not the stuff of true discipleship. Notice that each of the disciples in that boat, transformed by their encounters with the Risen Christ, became beacons of faith for others, for us. It seems to me that we are also called, called to become beacons of faith for everyone we meet day to day. It is no easy task though. How can we best draw others in, how can we share the gifts we have been given? There is no hard and fast rule, no set formula. It looks to me as though we mostly need to ask the right questions. Where has that experience of catching almost more than we can handle happened for us? Do we see all the abundant gifts we are given or in our anxiety do we miss them? Are we to tense, to afraid, to share what we have been given? Or can we be open, open to the strangers in our midst, willing to have breakfast with them? Listen carefully to our lesson from Acts. In fact, why not take the lectionary insert home with you? Read the lessons, pray with them. Let them speak to you, lead you, change you.
For right now though let’s think about Paul. He was not a supporter of Jesus. Not in the least. In fact he persecuted the earliest followers. Then he had his own experience of our risen Lord. Can you imagine the sense of helplessness, of disorientation, When he found himself blind and led into the home of strangers? And what about Ananias? Was he afraid when he found himself called by God to heal and teach the one who seemed so evil? And yet. What came of Ananais’ ministry to Paul and Paul’s experience of the risen Christ? I think it’s fair to say they became people of transformation for us. We each have received grace upon grace from our loving God. Our risen Lord continues to fill our nets, to give us gifts beyond measure. As we share those gifts, as we share ourselves we too will be transformed. And, with God’s help, we will become people of transformation as well. Like the first disciples, like Ananias and Paul, opening the way for others to know the gift of new and abundant life given to everyone through the power of the resurrection. Amen.