Second chances 041413
Psalm 30; John 21:1-19
Last week we entered into that profound Jesus encounter in a meeting of a motley crew of believers and doubters (a bit like us on a Sunday morning, I thought!). We shared their incredible resurrection experience as Jesus shared his wounds…then he breathed his empowering Spirit on them.
And what happened to them? They went back to exactly what they’d been doing before….fishing. Back to business as usual. Maybe they also just didn’t know what to do next. Isn’t that often what happens to us? When we don’t know what else to do, when we’re uncertain about how to live resurrected lives, we fall back on the tried and true, the safe, unthreatening business as usual.
But business as usual failed them. They caught nothing. The emptiness of their nets revealed the emptiness of their lives.
You see the connection with us? How often we retreat from something new to stay in the familiar, even when the familiar isn’t producing anything?
This text challenges us to be open to Jesus’ instructions, open to new ways and methods, so we don’t persist in old patterns with nothing to show for it.*
The disciples who’re actually named in this story all have something in common: they’ve all had their doubts about Jesus…Peter denied knowing him; Thomas doubted his new life; Nathaniel was cynical about anything good coming from Nazareth…….yet all three at one time or another have also made clear statements of faith—Peter once called Jesus the Holy One of God…Thomas said ‘My Lord and my God’ and Nathaniel called him ‘son of God, king of Israel’. Isn’t that just like us….sometimes denying, doubting, or cynical, sometimes full of praise and insight!
New reality show: the moment. Advertising for it says what if you had a second chance?
The scriptures are full of second chances: last week Jesus came back for Thomas and gave him a second chance. Today Jesus comes back to Peter and gives him a second chance. We’re not forgotten in God’s eyes!!
But we don’t always recognize God’s appearance. The stories of Jesus’ resurrection appearances have lots in common….they have a mystical quality, and disciples don’t at first recognize who it is: when they do, it’s in an incredible variety of ways:
Mary recognized him by how he spoke her name Thomas recognized him by a his sharing his woundedness as we heard last week the beloved disciple recognized him by the miracle of the fish and Peter recognized him by taking someone else’s word for it
What does it take for you to recognize the presence of the Christ?
Of course, we’re such literal and earthbound people we’re not very good at recognizing anything that is mystical, or a mystery, or a new way of seeing or thinking. It makes us uncertain, as it did those disciples: even though they ‘knew it was him’, ‘ none of them dared ask’ if it really was him. When we are uncertain, we can be fearful; even in the midst of an encounter with the eternal, with the Force, with Jesus, our gut response can be fear—why?
We talked about this in our heart listening group on Friday: maybe because we don’t understand with our minds what is going on and because any encounter with the divine is what the poet Rilke calls terrifying - …..because we know that it will change us and demand something of us….
And indeed that’s what happens….to all who answer the call to follow Jesus.
By the comfort of a beach campfire—a charcoal fire like the last one Peter stood near when he denied Jesus—comes this life changing encounter between Jesus and Peter.
Do you love me (agape-unconditional Love)
Yes I love you (phileo-love like brother)
Do you love me
Of course I love you
Then Jesus accepts where Peter is and asks once more:
Do you love me (phileo)
You know I love you (phileo)
We don’t all always get it; we don’t always love the way we could, but Jesus STILL entrust us to a task:
feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep, follow me wherever it takes you.
Feed and tend and follow, you who are weak and who are strong, you who doubt and you who deny, you who are cynical and you who are faithful
The second chance comes for all of us, not through some penitential act of ours, but through the grace of God…..Jesus persistently pursues us
Do you love me, he asks? If we do, his ministry becomes our ministry: feed tend follow* wherever it may take us.
Like with the miracles of feeding the multitude, and filling the nets with fish, God will do great things through us and with us….what we need to do is keep our eyes and ears open to recognize new possibilities, and our hearts ready to feed, tend, follow.
*from web: Lee Koontz at First Look weekly commentary on upcoming gospel.