GOSPEL: JOHN 21: 1-19
The risen Christ appears again to his disciples by the sea where they were first called. After echoes of the fishing and feeding miracles, he gives a final reminder of the cost of a disciple’s love and obedience.
1After [he appeared to his followers in Jerusalem,] Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
As you see here, the Easter Breakfast is a biblical tradition. Perhaps in keeping with tradition, next year’s Easter Breakfast following worship will be a bonfire with grilled fish instead of casserole. Jesus shared a meal with his disciples quite frequently in scripture. He also fed thousands with bread and fish. He invited those who would normally not be invited to dinner. He shared meals with all sorts of people in all sorts of places. And so it is no surprise that the sacrament where he has promised to be present is a meal
Breaking Bread will always be central to our life together. Because to face physical or spiritual uncertainty, we need to be strengthened and nourished.
Before Easter we heard the story of The Last Supper at our Maundy Thursday worship. Jesus gathers with his disciples on the night he will be betrayed and handed over to death, and implores them to eat this bread and drink this wine in remembrance of him. Not only that but he tells them he will be bodily present with them and with us when we do this together. Also at the last supper Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment – to love one another, as he has loved them. Jesus leaves them with instructions for their life together, for their little community, and promises he will be with them.
And then he leaves. He’s been crucified, executed as a criminal, and buried.
He comes back a few days later. Appears to Mary Magdalene, appears to the disciples in the upper room – and then comes back a week later to see Thomas.
Jesus meets the disciples where they are at, and it’s unclear how long it has been since that first day locked away in the upper room when the risen Christ appeared to them with his peace, presence and purpose. At the end of John chapter 20 the writer assures us “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”
And then chapter 21 begins, “After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.” In a story I like to call The Last Breakfast – it’s important to note how exactly the Risen Christ shows up for them . How does he show himself?
In unexpected abundance. So they cast the net, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ They recognized him providing this surprising abundance. I think it’s important to note that they not only recognize him in this surprise – but that the abundance is not people. Their ranks of disciples aren’t magically growing because Jesus has been raised, but there is abundance – there is plenty – and in their lack, now they recognize they have more than enough.
In a meal. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. Jesus again shares a meal with them, again feeds them and talks with them over breakfast – the most important meal of the day you know. Jesus shows up in a meal.
In forgiveness and new life – as Jesus brings Simon Peter back from his shame in deserting and denying. He asks Peter three times if he loves him – just as Peter denied knowing him three times. He does not shame Peter or punish him, but gives him the words and the space and the time to acknowledge his love and try again with heartfelt words.
And in a command and a mission to not just eat together but feed and tend others Specifically, Jesus sheep and Jesus lambs. Next week we’ll be reminded that Jesus sheep are everywhere, and are not limited by who we assume is part of the fold. That Jesus is the Good Shepherd, but we who love Jesus, we who have denied Jesus, we who have doubted Jesus and been surprised by Jesus. have been tasked with caring for and feeding the sheep too. This is now Peter’s task, and will be the rest of the disciples too – to feed and tend.
This is a season of resurrection, of surprising abundance, and new life. But is it also a season of feeding and being fed; nourished and strengthened for what God is calling us to next. God calls us to the future, instead of dwelling on our past regrets and failures. Jesus commands us to tend and feed those whom he loves, which is not just this small group gathered here.
Which is exactly what we have been doing. With your donations and support, our food pantry feeds and tends to Jesus’ beloved flock. It is not just a side project of the congregation, it is at the root of who we are as disciples. And I see the season of resurrection reflected in this work. Especially with surprising abundance. The disciples caught so many fish they couldn’t haul it in properly – we have received donations in surpassing abundance at the most necessary times. Each week when we start to think, oh man we’re out of Jelly again, should we go buy jelly? Jelly shows up. And that may not seem like a big deal, but the ability to pack your kids pb and j is important. The boy scouts collected SO MUCH FOOD for us. Neighbors and strangers know we have a pantry and just drop off amazing donations because they can. We cared for 31 families last week. That includes 91 adults and children. So unexpected abundance, check.
Next is a meal – and Easter breakfast – breaking bread together as a whole group for the first time in what seemed like ages. And planning for a Potluck next! We celebrate a meal with Christ’s presence each time we gather, but in our less formal meals, ones which are not just a foretaste of the feast to come, we load our plates and sit with each other. We nourish each other and are nourished by the food that has been lovingly prepared. We talk and laugh, and remember and plan, and enjoy the meal and the company.
Forgiveness and new life is part of this season of resurrection, and it’s the hardest part, because it involves honest conversations like the onne between Jesus and Peter. Your council has been having those honest hard conversations. I have been having those conversations too. If we are all honest with each other some have left CLC to seek new life elsewhere – but more have led to people renewing their love for this congregation, in this place, with these people, having breakfast together, working in the food pantry together.
And then we’re back to feeding people and tending to people, to recognizing Christ in the abundance and to forgiving and making space for forgiveness. It’s not a magic formula. There are no magic formulas for making disciples or being Christians. Any one who says if you build it they will come or if you feed them they will come is selling something. But feeding and tending are what Jesus did and tells us to do, and so to the best of our abilities, like the disciples full of faults before us, we try. And in the midst of this trying, in the midst of our fear, in the midst of our shame, the Risen Christ appears. Surprising us with abundance, forgiveness, a meal and a mission. Amen.
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