The readings for Sunday, April 14, 2013:
First Reading: Acts 9:1-6 [7-20]
Psalm: Psalm 30
Second Reading: Revelation 5:11-14
Gospel: John 21:1-19
Here we have another mystical encounter with the risen Christ. Notice that it's mystical and yet grounded in earthiness. Jesus makes a barbecue breakfast, and Simon Peter gets wet. It's mystical, yet rooted in second chances. It's mystical and yet a bit whimsical too. The men have fished all night and caught nothing. What does Jesus cook for breakfast? Fish.
This Gospel reading also has a lovely symmetry. It ends the ministry of Jesus in the way that it began, on the shore, with Jesus calling his disciples to mission. This Gospel story gives Peter a chance to redeem himself. He declares his love for Jesus three times, just the way he had previously denied Jesus three times.
The Gospel reading for Sunday reminds us of some of the essential messages Jesus gave us. We are to let down our nets, again and again, even when we have fished all night and caught nothing. Our rational brains would protest, "What's the point? We know there are no fish!" But Christ tells us to try again.
Even when we can't see the results, even when our nets are empty, there might be activity going on beneath the surfaces, in the deep depths of creation, where our senses can't perceive any action. We might need to repeat our actions, despite our being sure that it will be useless. We aren't allowed to give up. We aren't allowed to say, "Well, I tried. Nothing going on here. I'm going to return to the solitude of my room and not engage in the world anymore." No, we cast our nets again and again.
What do those nets represent? What do the fish represent? The answers will be different for each of us. For some of us, casting our nets might be our efforts at community building or justice work. For some of us, casting our nets might be our efforts to reach the unchurched. For some of us, we cast our nets into the depths of a creative process. We cast again and again, because we can't be sure of what we'll catch. Some days and years, we'll drag empty nets back to the shore. Some days and years, we'll catch more fish than we can handle.
The Gospel also reminds us that we're redeemable. I love the story of Jesus and Peter. Peter would have reason to expect that Jesus would be mad at him. But Jesus doesn't reject him. Jesus gives him an opportunity to affirm what he had denied in the past.
Jesus also gives Peter a mission, and this mission is our mission: "Feed my sheep." There are plenty of sheep that need feeding and tending. We have our work cut out for us.
But this Gospel also shows us the way that it can all be done: we must work together, and we must take time to nourish ourselves. The men work together all night, and in the end, Jesus makes them a meal. Think about how much of Jesus' mission involved a meal. Jesus didn't just tend to the souls of those around him. He fed them, with real food. In doing so, he fed their souls and renewed his own ability to keep healing the world.
We must do the same. We must heal the world. And in doing so, we must continue to practice self-care. A burnt out husk of a person can't prepare a barbecue breakfast.
Now, as we walk through Eastertide, think about the redemption of the world and the good news of Jesus, that the redemption of creation is breaking through right here, right now. We see a God who wants to be with us, who cooks us breakfast, and who forgives us, no matter how many times we just don’t understand the mission.
That God still walks beside us, forgiving us, encouraging us—and commanding us to keep casting down the nets.
feeling the feelings…
3 months ago