Sermon for November 13, 2016

Preached at the Church of St John the Divine, Victoria

Text: Isaiah 65:17-25, Isaiah 12 (Canticle 9), Luke 21:5-19 – Proper C28

For an audio recording: here

 

You will hear of wars and insurrections …

Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom

There will be great earthquakes and, in various places, famines and plagues

 

Our readings have a common apocalyptic rumble this week.

Hearing the gospel this morning, it almost sounds like Luke was anticipating our current reality.

These excerpts from our scriptures, written centuries ago but assigned for today in our lectionary, have the uncanny ability to speak truth in all ages and to us again here this morning.

This portion of Luke and our Hebrew Scripture reading from Isaiah are “apocalyptic” or “protoapocalyptic” texts. Unlike Hollywood’s depiction of “the apocalypse,” they are not foreshadowing alien invasions or meteors striking the earth. Neither are they prophecies or predictions of specific events (though we can see the echoes of specific events). Rather they are an attempt by their writers to reconcile their understanding of the righteousness of God with the destruction of land and the suffering of the righteous that they see on earth.

In Luke, the gospel writer has Jesus speaking a future that is an awful lot like the current reality of both the writer and the first Century Christian readers of the gospel. As Luke is writing, the Roman siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple have already happened. The daily life of the Judean people has been decimated and the dwelling place of Yahweh on earth has been destroyed.

Likewise, in our reading from Isaiah, we come upon the Hebrew people re-entering a decimated land. The Babylonians have come and absolutely demolished the temple and taken many of the people away into exile. And only now, as these words are being penned some six or seven decades later, the Hebrew people are finally beginning to return and survey the destruction of their home.

Destruction is a common thread that winds through these readings this morning. Destruction of homes. Destruction of the temple. And, more broadly, destruction of ways of life that have sustained people spiritually and physically for centuries…

 

Which brings us to our present day.

Today we are remembering and giving thanks for those who have served in the many wars and conflicts of this past century, and for those still serving today – these wars and rumours of wars that have wrought devastation on the land, on society, on lives and families around the globe. [This year, like years past, we have heard some incredibly personal stories of how war has touched the lives of people within this community, and acknowledging that it has touched all of us in some way.]

And, with the political shifts of the past week, we must acknowledge that many of us fear that war will come closer to home, that racial and sexual violence, and religious discrimination will only increase – and for some, that fear is personal.

And at the same time we look around our continent at the ongoing destruction of the land and traditional way of life – the tug sinking off of Bella Bella a few weeks ago and the resulting decimation of livelihood being wrecked upon the Heiltsuk First Nation.

– the ongoing violence against the First People’s at Standing Rock as they seek to protect their sacred sites and treaty rights.

If there ever was a time for an apocalyptic word to help us to make sense of the righteousness of God in the face of the suffering of the righteous, this might be it.

 

In many ways, it seems like our readings from Luke and Isaiah portray different parts of the time continuum. Luke’s gospel is much closer in time to the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans than are the words of Isaiah to those surveying the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians.

Perhaps at the time Luke was written, they were still reeling, while Isaiah is more in the rebuilding phase – they’ve begun to return to the land and they are given the freedom and the space to imagine a long life there… Yet even that freedom and imagination is not without its bitterness:

Immediately before the our reading picks up this morning, there is a graphic reminder of how they got there and where the people had come from – in the language of the Hebrew Scriptures – Isaiah is holding out both the blessings and the curses.

This juxtaposition in some ways, gives more hope for us today than simply isolating the promises in the text we heard proclaimed this morning – that God is about to create new heavens and a new earth… Jerusalem as a joy and its people as a delight – where no more shall the sound of weeping be heard, or the cry of distress…

Because we see that as Isaiah addresses his people, the triumph of God – the Reign of Christ that we will proclaim next weekend – is not yet self-evident. In the “now” of Isaiah, it is not entirely clear when the blessing would come…

Even as they planted the vines for the vineyards, they would not see the fruit of their labours for many years. They were still waiting to experience the joy of the new creation with peace and economic justice proclaimed by Isaiah…

But they were building houses

Planting fields

Labouring in vineyards

Having children

Living with expectation

….all in the hope and anticipation of a Messiah they had not yet seen

 

In other words, it is a situation much like our own.

We live in hope that the world’s moral compass will shift towards love, inclusion, respect, and peace. And while we wait, Isaiah offers a strain of hope in that tension – while the former troubles are neither forgotten nor hidden from God’s sight, and while the future reality has not fully taken hold WE ARE DWELLING – EVEN PARTICIPATING IN – ITS ADVENT.

Because while we wait we are not idle.  We look around us and see that God is in our midst.

Isaiah helps us reorient towards our future: a shining image of what is possible. A call to build enthusiastically and confidently. A vision of reconciliation between the endless warring forces around us.

 

Are we there yet? Probably not.

But, as Herb O’Driscoll writes, “In every society or institution there comes a time when someone must risk singing a song that other people cannot yet sing. Perhaps dark times still threaten, a sense of imprisonment continues to oppress, evidence is not yet sufficient to ignite a general hope. At such times, some voice needs to be raised in a song that no one else dares to sing.”

Our Canticle this morning gives us that song:

You will sing in that day:
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
God has become my salvation.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
And you will sing in that day:

Give thanks to the Lord,
call on his name;
make known his deeds among the nations;
proclaim that his name is exalted.

Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be known in all the earth.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

 

Or, in the words of another well, known song:

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the real though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation;

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear that music ringing;
It sounds an echo in my soul;
How can I keep from singing?

What though the tempest round me roar,
I hear the truth it liveth.
What though the darkness round me close?
Songs in the night he giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I’m clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

And as those melodies echo around us this morning, let us remain confident that while we do not always see it, we are assured that we WILL see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

So let us keep on singing…

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Sermon for October 2, 2016

Preached at St Peter’s, Lakehill – part of the Two Saints Ministry

Text:2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10

 

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the Lounge at St John’s for Parish Council.

We were at every parish’s favourite part of the meeting: discussing the financial reports. As I was glancing through the balance sheets, I mistakenly read “Ministry of Music” as “Ministry of Magic” …

Well, as I’m sure you can imagine, that spawned a lot of interesting conversations both online and in person.  It also has me wondering if the “Ministry of Magic” is more along the lines of that Jesus’ disciples are asking for in this morning’s gospel.

 

Lets take a look:

We are in Luke chapter 17. In Luke’s narrative, we are nearing the end of Jesus’ travelling ministry. He and the disciples have left the area around Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth for the last time are walking the difficult road into Jerusalem. Jesus knows exactly where they are headed: to Jerusalem and to the cross. The disciples, well, they really only know about the Jerusalem part.

So when I hear this dialogue between the disciples and Jesus in our gospel reading this morning, I have “sarcastic Jesus” in my head:

Jesus, increase our faith!

Increase your faith?! What do you want, a magic wand to wave to instantly give you faith the size of a mustard seed? Would you prefer the size of a peach pit? Or an avocado seed? Those are bigger than a mustard seed…

It seems like another one of those moments where Jesus has to refrain from saying, “I’m right here…! You’re asking to increase your faith and I’m still here…!”

They haven’t even hit the “bad stuff” yet – the disciples are still blissfully ignorant of what is to come. Yes, there have been hints of what will happen in Jerusalem, though fewer in number in Luke’s narrative than in the other gospels, but there is very little indication that the disciples truly understand the road of suffering that they are walking on with Jesus.

But they’ve been told that there will be suffering. They’ve been given indications of the fact that this is a hard road they’re walking on. Asking Jesus to “increase their faith” strikes me as a way of asking to get to the Olympic gold medal without actually having to run the race – getting the result without having to do the work.

 

But that is usually the way we want it, isn’t it? I mean, wouldn’t it be great if we would wave a magic wand and our faith would be topped up to the max? Our churches would be full, our Sunday School teaming with kids, our offering plate overflowing…

If only there was a quick fix where we could bypass all of the hard work and just get to the prize.

If only we could skip the suffering altogether.

That is what we are told we should want by society: Turn on the TV, open a magazine and look at all of the advertising for things that offer the quick fix – whether it is a miracle pill or the new workout regime that YOU SIMPLY WON’T BELIEVE or an amazing new cream you can spread on and defy aging – we live in a society that wants results without having to do the work.

It is easier to just throw money at something than put in hard work and time in to something that may or may not work.

Because the mindset we all-too-frequently buy into says that suffering is something that is not okay, in fact, it is something shameful we must hide – and pain is something we have to pop a pill to avoid.

Or – better yet – we can pass it all off to the leader of our group. Isn’t that what the disciples want? Jesus is Jesus, so he can just increase our faith for us with a snap of his fingers.

The rector is the leader, so they can make our church grow, do all of the hard work and have all of the faith on behalf of all of the rest of us … right?

 

But that is not the faith that we are called to live into.

We are called to live into a faith where Jesus invites us to take up our cross – to embrace suffering – and follow alongside.

In the letter we read this morning, the writer named as Paul says, DO NOT BE ASHAMED, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but JOIN WITH ME in suffering for the gospel …

Paul is clear: Our faith is NOT disgraced by suffering. Despite the fact that he was in prison for proclaiming the gospel, Paul says, I am not in prison because we have any reason to be ashamed of what we are doing. No, says Paul, I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith

And then Paul proceeds to remind Timothy of what the disciples needed to hear, of what we need to hear:

You already have faith.

To Timothy, Paul says, I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to REKINDLE the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands…

To all of us, we can imagine him saying: Rekindle that faith that I know is within you and that was confirmed through the laying on of hands. Remember that hand that was laid on your head when you were washed in the waters of baptism. Maybe you don’t remember the exact moment – but that is why we renew our baptismal vows throughout our lives, so that we will remember that we have faith.

We already have what we need. HOLD ON to that, says Paul.

 

Instead of complaining about the size of faith, what would happen if faith were not thought of as a commodity to gain – a metaphorical carrot on a stick to be chased after – and not as a feeling that we need to have – but as a way of being.

Many have suggested that a more appropriate translation of the word “faith” is actually “faithfulness.”

 

Jesus, increase our faithfulness.

Now, it ceases to be something we need to find or obtain – but a way to live.

What does it mean to live with faithfulness?

It means we continue despite not feeling like it.

It means we struggle through hard conversations.

It means we make hard choices – and even sacrifices – so that the gospel might be proclaimed not only to the people who sit here in these pews with us on Sunday mornings, but so that it might be proclaimed to those who are not here – to our children and grandchildren, to our neighbours, to the people in the community around this building here at St Peter’s and in the Village around St David’s, to our coworkers and friends …

It means we do not get weary of doing what is right, knowing that we will reap the harvest if we do not give up.

 

And, for our encouragement, Paul reminds Timothy – and reminds us – that we are part of a legacy of faithfulness.

Like Timothy, who is reminded of his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois, who from childhood instructed him for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, we have a legacy of over 150 years of Anglicans worshiping in this region.

And the church has been around for 2 thousand years – has faced much more suffering than we could even imagine facing here in our corner of the world – and it has continued to exist and will continue to exist long after all of us are gone.

 

But that isn’t to say that Paul is telling us to look back to what was and seek to recreate it again now. Rather, Paul is encouraging us to remember the amazing heritage we are a part of, and allow it to rekindle the faithfulness that is planted and rooted within us, and use that as a resting foundation to inspire and propel us in our future.

Because if we just wave a magic wand and skip the suffering, we lose the history and the heritage that have made us who we are and that ground us for moving into the new and exciting – though difficult – future.

 

Faithfulness, it turns out, is what enables us to vulnerably have the difficult conversations

To make the hard decisions

To work through the conflict

 

Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is scary. Yes, it is difficult.

But, says Paul, God did not give us a spirit of cowardice – in some translations that reads “fear” – the fear that keeps us from being faithful to our calling – God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

The power and self-discipline needed to remain faithful and engaged in our community  – and the love of God and love for each other that keeps us together in community as we go.

Jesus, rekindle our faithfulness.

Amen

Sermon for September 4, 2016

Preached at the Church of St John the Divine, Victoria BC

Text: Jeremiah 18:1-11 and Psalm 139

Audio here

 

Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words…

But before we go: Put down whatever you are working on – the dishes can wait until later, and that TV show is already on Netflix.  Put down whatever you are thinking about, whatever is distracting you – the shopping list can be put together later, and there will be plenty of time after church to plan the rest of the long-weekend. Because together we have been asked to step out of our home, step out of our office, step out of our comfortable pew, and go for a short walk.

We are going down to the potter’s house – perhaps it is an unfamiliar place, because we’re more likely to pick up a new piece of pottery at the mall or at the market than we are to visit the potter’s home studio… But maybe in this unfamiliar place we might be better able to hear and see and smell the words of God.

The potter’s house is just over there – around that corner. Watch out for the step and mind your head as we duck through the door. It feels a little close inside, but don’t worry, there is plenty of room for us all. God has invited us here to hear her words.

As we listen for the word of God, look around you, see and smell and hear the sights and smells and sounds of the potter at work – the whirr of the wheel, the smell of fresh clay, the cool splashes of water used to work the clay, and the bright colours of already glazed and fired vessels on the shelf on the far side of the room. There is such a difference between the two: this malleable clay being moved around on the wheel by the potter’s firm but gentle hands – compared with the brightly painted, gleaming, hard vessels lining the shelf, waiting to be sold and used.

As we watch, the potter pulls the clay off of the wheel, reshapes it, and begins again. And as we see the new vessel emerge out of the hands of the potter from the lump of clay on the wheel, it occurs to you that this transformation would no longer be possible with those brightly glazed vessels over on the shelf.  This clay held lovingly in the potter’s hands has not yet been fired. And unlike fired clay that has dried and shrunk, hardened into a permanent structure and shape, and become rigid and brittle; this unfired clay is plastic and moldable. It can be shaped and reshaped over and over again. It is flexible and responsive. It is a material of possibility.

Not moldable so that the potter can do whatever they desire with the clay, but left unfired so that it can constantly be worked and reworked – as flaws are found in the clay, they can be removed. As strengths are found, they can be built on. The hands of the potter are so sensitive that they can feel all of these strong points and weak points in the clay with the tenderest of touches…

 

Lord, you have searched me out and known me, you know my sitting down and my rising up, you discern my thoughts from afar.
You press upon me behind and before and lay your hand upon me.
Where can I go from your spirit? 
For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will thank you because I am marvellously made; your works are wonderful and I know it well.
My body was not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth…

And then you remember those creation stories: God scooped up clay, scooped up dust from the earth and formed it to become a person. As the Creator leaned over the clay, shaping it, the air and water that makes up breath was breathed into the clay, giving it life.  Not to become dry, rigid, brittle vessels, but flexible, responsive vessels – every pore of the unfired clay still filled with the Living Water that continues to give life day after day after day

And those individually formed, intricately knit, wonderful human bodies come together to create an even bigger living vessel that we see here today: the church. Not a hard or rigid structure – beautiful and shiny, but only good for one or two things and certainly not flexible – though some days our physical plant may feel hard and inflexible – but a living, breathing, flexible, responsive vessel that is continually being shaped and reshaped as strong points and weak points are found: building on the strong and reshaping to shore up the weak. Changing and responsively reshaping over and over as more living water is added to the clay.

Not so that the potter can have their way with the clay, arbitrarily making it into whatever they desire – plucking up, breaking down, building, or planting at will, but a mutual responsiveness : as the clay responds to the potter and the potter to the clay, so we respond to God and God to us.

Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words

Rather the words we hear is this analogy we see in the potter’s house:  God did not shape us – as individuals, as a community – once and for all: we have not been fired in the kiln and set on the shelf waiting our one single, specialized purpose. We are clay that has not yet been fired. God’s plans for our community, this church, as we hear from Jeremiah, are not fixed or hardened in clay.  God says to Jeremiah that God’s plan to build up a people may be thwarted by their choice not to go along with that.  On the other hand, we hear that God’s plan to pull down a kingdom that has become strong by taking advantage of the poor and marginalized may not happen if the people turn from that behaviour. God responds to us responding to God…

God cannot and will not make us do anything. We have gifts here in this place – oh so many gifts and talents – but God will not make us use them if we do not choose to.  The shape of our lives and the shape of our life together in this community is not fixed. Like unfired clay, we remain supple. We become formed into our particular shape through living and worshipping together… Because unfired clay has endless possibilities… Education, common practices, the gifts we have and choose to use and share – they shape us and form us into what we are.

But in it all, God announces her desire for us to return to communion with each other and with God – that we might be formed into the image and likeness of God as we respond to the potter’s tender hand.

Sermon for August 14, 2016

Preached at the Church of St John the Divine, Victoria BC

Text: Luke 12:49-56

Audio here

 

It is one of those weeks when curates and associates across the country have a few words to say to their rectors who have taken today off and left us to preach on this particularly challenging set of readings.

Take our gospel reading this morning, for instance, what do we do when Jesus seems to contradict himself? Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!

Was Jesus just having a bad day on the way to Jerusalem? How else can we reconcile what we read in today’s gospel with what we read in the rest of Luke’s gospel and in other places in the Holy Scriptures?

For example, there is Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, where the shepherds are told that Jesus’ birth is to bring peace on earth…

Or there is that passage familiar to many, interpreted by the New Testament writers to be about Jesus, where the prophet Isaiah says that the divine child to be born will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

And what about in the gospel of John where Jesus is reported to say Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. 

Why on earth would Jesus say that he has not come to bring peace to the earth but division when – everything – else – we know – and – read about Jesus — is that he comes to bring peace?

 

In our sermon circle gathering this week, I posed the question, “Is peace the opposite of division?” That is, are peace and division opposed to each other? Can there be peace where there is division or can division exist amidst peace?

I’m not sure that we ever came to a final decision at sermon circle. Certainly, Jesus’ words seem to suggest that peace and division are opposites, but I am not convinced.

Why would Jesus say that he has not come to bring peace after all of the peace that is proclaimed by and about him throughout the Scriptures?

Let us consider peace.

We might think of peace as being merely the absence of war or conflict.

And that may be so. But I suspect there is more to it than that.

 

By way of example, let us turn our minds back in time to a small, out of the way, unimportant village in a small, out of the way province, in a big big empire.

There, the countryside is simmering with tension that threatens to boil over any day. It did a few months ago, when reports suggest that hundreds, if not thousands of people who had rebelled against the empire were brutally killed by crucifixion, their crosses lining the roads out of Sepphoris, not far chronologically or geographically from when and where Jesus grew up in Nazareth. Yet this time period, the one into which Jesus was born, is one that is often called peaceful because it existed under the Peace of Rome.

The shadow of Rome might be more accurate. Because while there is no longer any open war in the streets or countryside, it is an occupied territory and the citizens who are being occupied are not entirely happy with the situation. And so while on the surface there seems to be peace, Jesus and his disciples know full well that it is not peaceful.

So it makes sense that Jesus would not want to bring that peace, when the rulers of the land say that they have already brought peace. Because the Peace of Rome was a peace sustained through bloodshed and show of power. If Jesus had said that he was also bringing that peace, I can imagine folks around him saying, “more of the “peace” that mighty leaders bring? More deaths? More oppression? No thanks Jesus, take your “peace” elsewhere…”

 

We have peace in Canada, in Victoria, don’t we?

There is no war, no tyrannical leaders who we avoid speaking out against for fear of imprisonment. No major threats to our lives.

Sure, we might not speak up in a meeting when we think we will be the lone dissenting voice on a major commitment of the group, but it is better to keep the peace and have a false sense of unity, right?

Or we might avoid talking about certain issues with family members or friends… we might feel that remaining on “peaceful” terms with everyone is more important than calling out our brother-in-law or neighbour on their racist or sexist comments.

And of course we will never change anything in church, because we can’t if we want peaceful worship – someone might not like the change and therefore keeping the peace means no changes – right?

But in all seriousness – when did “peace” come to mean that we all have to always agree about everything? Or all be / think / act / and worship in exactly the same way for all time? Do we really think that “keeping the peace” means giving in or, the opposite of that, that “making peace” means forcing our will on everyone else so that we can all be in agreement? When did peace come to mean no divisions? Because despite all of our attempts for peace as the end of all divisions, divisions remain.

It is somewhat reassuring to hear Jesus say that there were divisions then too. Even with Jesus present day-in-day-out, the disciples still experienced division. Just a few chapters earlier in Luke, the disciples were arguing over who amongst themselves was greater!  So, division exited between the disciples.  But even while they were arguing over who was the greatest, they were discovering the difference that Jesus’ peace can bring.

And even though they were at odds with the rulers of the empire – and even their own families at times – they were at peace with following Jesus. Enough peace so that they would follow Jesus into persecution and death.

Jesus is letting those gathered around him know that following him and his way will not be easy. The gospel will not always bring harmony. Families may be torn apart. Communities may disagree.

But is the gospel about all of humanity agreeing on everything all of the time? Is the end result that we desire to have everyone holding hands around a campfire and singing kumbaya?

 

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, I do not give to you as the world gives. Peace I leave with you; MY peace I give to you…

Jesus did not bring peace as Rome brought peace – the false peace of military might – but brought the peace that passes all understanding to keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. Not that divisions might be created, but that by naming that division and discord exist, we might enter into the roots of it and discover what it really is so that we might work for Jesus’ peace rather than the world’s peace.

I wonder if that is the grace in this difficult passage: Jesus’ permission for peace and division to not necessarily be at odds with each other. That it is okay for us to disagree – that it is about how we disagree rather than that we disagree.  Do we seek God’s will as the outcome, not our own interests or the interest of “keeping the peace”?  Do we, in the words of our baptismal covenant, have as our priority seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbour as ourselves and respecting the dignity of every human being?

Because in doing so, we have the opportunity to bring peace. Not the false peace that means suppression of all around us or the promotion of ourselves. And not the peace of military might. But the peace that is, in the words of the Iona liturgy: not an easy peace, not an insignificant peace, not a half-hearted peace, but the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ that is with us now…

Amen.

Sermon for April 10, 2016

A sermon preached at Grace United Church, Sarnia, Ontario

Text: John 21:1-19 

 

 

 

Two weeks later, here we are, back at the seashore… Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two others have returned to the Sea. Here they are, all together sitting around a fire on the seaside. They’re just hanging out. Ever the impetuous one of the group, Peter suddenly looks up: “Guys, I’m going fishing.” One by one they join him and soon all of the boats are back out on the water.

Follow me, said Jesus, and I will make you fish for people. But now our fishermen have returned to their fish.

***

Easter. Two weeks ago we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection from the dead with what was likely a lot more faith and hope than did Mary, Simon Peter, and the other disciple when they encountered the empty tomb early that morning. It was empty of Jesus’ body and, in the words of Mary when she unknowingly encountered Jesus in the garden, “they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.”

The inclination that something had happened doesn’t seem to have fully sunk in, however. The evening of the day Jesus rose, the disciples were hiding away behind a locked door. A locked door?! So much for believing in the power of the resurrection!

To their surprise, and very likely ours had we been in their shoes, Jesus appeared among them, speaking to them before breathing his spirit upon them as he sent them out.

But… one week later, there we are, still in the same room with the same locked door, clearly not entirely sure of what has happened. Jesus appears again in our midst and we are able to see and touch him.

Another week passes and the disciples are no longer locked up in the room. Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanial, James, John, and two others have walked some 170 kilometres north of Jerusalem to the Sea of Tiberias – the Sea of Galilee. That’s not too far off the distance between here and, say, Kitchener. First century roads, however, are far cry from our highways and it took them a little longer to plod the dusty tracks of Israel than the couple of hours it might take us to drive that distance today.

It is a familiar road.

I wonder if they were recalling the last time they had all walked it: on the way to Jerusalem and the way to Jesus’ death on the cross, though they did not know it at the time.

This time, though, we’re headed north instead of south. Perhaps they feel as we sometimes do when travelling: the return road seems to pass by faster than the leaving did. Despite the hills and the dust as we walk along, maybe our pace begins to pick up as we get closer to the Sea.

They’re going home.

Did the painful and confusing memories of the previous few weeks in Jerusalem begin to fade as they put some distance between themselves and the city? Were they talking about what had happened? Were they trying to forget? Or were they still struggling to make sense of what had happened?

Despite having seen Jesus, seen him twice for some of those in our travelling group, there seems to be some confusion about what to do now. Jesus sent them out, but maybe they don’t know what that means.

So we are gathered together beside the Sea, their familiar place, the place where they had fished every day up until Jesus called each one, one-by-one.

Two weeks after the resurrection and that first Easter morning, two weeks after Jesus’ appearance to the disciples and his sending them out… Three years of hearing Jesus’ teachings day-in-day-out and seeing his miraculous actions, and we are back where we started: at the sea, fishing.

I don’t know about you, but Easter Sunday wasn’t even over before I was back to my regular routine: papers to write, textbooks to read…

We have work to do. Activities to plan. People to see. Daily life catches up with us and it is easy to forget.

 

The writer of the gospel of John doesn’t tell us the motives behind Peter’s return to fishing fish, so we are left to fill in some of those blanks. Thinking about human nature, though, I think that I get it: Life has been pretty uncertain for awhile. They haven’t had a stable place to stay for anything more than a few nights at a time. Their leader has just died and then strangely reappeared.

 

The economy is uncertain. Unemployment has been dragging on and on. Too many good people have died for what seems like no reason. Food prices keep fluctuating.

It is pretty natural to want to stay in the security and certainty of things that are known, even if it does mean going back.

 

But can we go back? Can we remain unchanged?

 

Easter has happened and is happening whether we feel certain about it or not.

Today we call the third Sunday of Easter – so our feet are still firmly planted in the season of Easter.

With the cross and resurrection, time shifted and what was then is now. Rather than Easter being that day we look forward to once a year, it is every single day.

The sun rises every morning and we are reminded that early in the morning today, yesterday, and tomorrow, Jesus rose.

 

So it is for the disciples, whether they knew it or not: the things they witnessed and participated in over the previous three years have changed them irrevocably. There really is no going back for any of us.

 

As if as a reminder of that, Jesus suddenly appears to us for the third time since he rose.

But, we don’t know it is him at first. We’re still out fishing – well, trying to fish. It has been a bad night and we have caught nothing.

Maybe they had been about to give up anyway. Thomas, leaning over to Peter, reminding him that he had thought this was a bad idea in the first place: they hadn’t fished in three years! What made us think we could just pick it back up?

And a figure appears on the beach, shouting out: Have you caught anything?

I’m not much of a fisherman. Two summers on the lake with my husband and his family haven’t increased my skill at all, so I have some understanding of what it feels like to have to respond to that question with a sigh and a Nope. Still haven’t even caught one fish

But I have enough of an understanding of how fishing works to realize that when you’re out in the middle of the sea, throwing your net or your rod over the other side of a small boat isn’t going to make a huge difference.

Believe me, I’ve tried everything.

 

But that is what Jesus tells them to do: Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.

So they do it and have an epic haul of fish. The gospel writer tells us that there were so many fish that they were not able to haul in the net, fearful that it might break.

 

Such abundance.

Such abundant grace from Jesus: these people he had invested so much time and energy into over the last three years seem to have abandoned everything to go back to how life was before they met him. Rather than pout or get angry, Jesus extends so much grace that it strains our capacity.

It overflows.

Because that is what grace does.

When you least expect it. When all hope is gone. When you wonder what you are doing. When there are no fish. When you think there is no future.

There is overflowing abundant grace.

Not blame for having failed. Not guilt for feeling like there is no hope. Not shame for feeling lost.

Only overflowing abundant grace.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness, in your doubt, in your confusion…

 

And then, as if to settle it, Jesus invites them to share a meal.

They came, Jesus took bread, broke it, and passed it to his disciples.

Then he did the same thing with the fish.

Eat with me, he said.

Remember what happens when we eat?

Where two or three are gathered,

Whenever you break bread and eat, you do this in memory of me.

Food.

It is so simple, isn’t it?

In the midst of our doubts, in the midst of our uncertainties, Jesus shows up on the shore and invites them to share a meal once again. We sit down together and eat: whether it be around the Table of the Lord on a Sunday morning as the church community breaks bread together, around the kitchen table at home with the familiar laughter of family or friends, or around tables in a church hall smelling and tasting rich and fragrant soup prepared by your church family, Jesus is with us on the shore this morning, inviting us to share life and eat with him.

The Last Supper and resurrection meals fold into one with the changing of time and we find community and fellowship with each other.

Not only that, but we remember that today is Easter. And tomorrow when we wake up and eat breakfast, it is still Easter. And the next day, and the day after that.

Shortly after Jesus rose, two disciples, in their fear and uncertainty, went for a walk and found themselves at the table, eating with Jesus.

As the bread was broken and shared, their eyes were opened and they realized that Jesus had been amongst them the entire time, overflowing with such grace that their hearts had been burning with the joy of his presence.

May it be for us as it was for them: as we eat, as we drink, may we find and know the abundance of God’s grace in our lives and in our lives together.

Amen.