April 30, 2017

Easter 3  April 30, 2017   (Psalm 8) John 21 ************************************* Today’s story, the very last in John’s gospel, is one I’ve loved for a long time… Not always necessarily for the best reasons… As an obsessive-compulsive fisherman in partial-but-not-complete-recovery-from-fish-aholicism I’ve heard this story as a classic fishing story – an encouraging word when I’ve got the fish-aren’t-biting-blues. A ‘keep fishing, never give up’ message, that I’ve sometimes heard to excess…when it was time to get off the water and go home… Still, I think this story can be a good cross-training parable for learning to fish for people. Even when nothing’s in the nets all night, still we look for Jesus, listen to do what he says. “Cast your nets to the other side.” But this year the fishing parable hasn’t been quite working for me. (At least not yet…There’s still time…) I’ve only been out fishing once this year. I went over to Peter’s Pond in Sandwich, more than a week ago, to conduct some research for this week’s sermon. (What better place to fish than a pond named after fisherman Peter?) But like our gospel fishermen today, I caught nothing that day at Peter’s Pond… And instead of hearing Jesus tell me where to cast, I think I heard him letting me know this sermon’s not supposed to be so much about fishing this year. (“Sorry, dude,” I can almost hear him saying…) Except of course… Jesus with fishermen is always a big part of the back-story of the gospel. Over in Luke’s gospel Jesus tells Peter he’ll be fishing for people, after guiding him into another catch of big fish, filling the nets of Peter and his partners, James and John, sons of Zebedee, after another long night of fishing without success. Today’s story brings some essential biblical perspective with it. And sometimes the biblical back-story is meant to be seen in the foreground. (As we remember…) God makes humankind in the beginning and blesses us and gives us right off the bat first thing, dominion over the fish…(As Psalm 8 today reaffirms.) And John’s gospel starts with the same words “In the beginning” as Genesis… God takes seven days to make creation. And John, like Genesis, is very into seven, the biblical number of completion. In John’s gospel Jesus does seven signs (water into wine, multiplying loaves and fishes, etc). And Jesus speaks seven “I Am” sayings (I am the good shepherd, I am the light of the world, etc)… And John sure seems to want us to be thinking of a seven day working week of New Creation… as… John even reminds us of Adam and Eve in the garden, as we see Peter, who’s been fishing naked, not ashamed, as if back in the garden – now putting on clothes to jump in the sea, dragging nets full of big fish onto shore, re-entering the working week… And all these connections between John and Genesis are important… But… If we linger too long in the background stories, we might miss the big hairy gorilla in the middle of the conversation between Peter and Jesus this morning – meaning that other conversation between Peter and Jesus that we overheard back on Holy Thursday – where Peter promises Jesus he will follow him always, even...

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April 10, 2016

Easter 3   April 10, 2016   (Ps 30, Revelation 5:11-14, Acts 9:1-6) John 21 ************************************************************ I had a picture of a fish singing praises to God taped to my refrigerator for several years – a worship bulletin cover, drawn by seven-or-eight-year-old at the time Todd, in our Sunday School, in our small Methodist church in the tiny village of Adamant Vermont. Todd’s picture was inspired by a scripture lesson the kids had studied – it cited chapter and verse, and it may well have been from our reading from Revelation today. The picture had a fish under water, singing, with a bubble caption (like in the comics) with the fish saying, “Praise the Lord!” In our reading today from Revelation it is written, “I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea… singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever…” And when all the world seems in perpetual uproar…I find it deeply comforting to remember – the fish in the sea are praising God through it all. And since the fish  are singing praises to the Lord, I guess it’s no wonder that when Jesus says ‘cast your nets on the other side’ he knows the fish will be there. Jesus knows the fish are near, and he knows they’ll do what he says… Because he knows they’re singing to him. (And for all we know, he may be singing back to them, in a voice we can’t yet hear). Telling fish to swim into the net of the seven fishermen who have been out all night without a bite. John’s gospel notoriously begins with opening lines that remind us of the first beginning… Saying “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” And the first commandment for humans in the first chapter of the first book of the bible, not long after the first word – “let there be light” – is to be fruitful and have dominion over the fish of the sea (Genesis 1, verse 28). Psalm 8 reminds us God has given us dominion over the fish, over all that passes along the paths of the seas. Though, as the letter to the Hebrews points out – we don’t see all the fish of the sea submitting to human fishermen yet. That only happens, Hebrews says, in Christ. And even when we’re in Christ, having dominion over the fish depends on hearing Jesus – when he’s calling – telling us – cast our nets on the other side of the boat. *** As a confessed obsessive-compulsive fisherman I have of course spent considerable time studying, contemplating, and doing field research related to today’s gospel reading, in which disciples are personally guided by Jesus into a huge catch of 153 (yes, somebody counted) – 153 big fish. As a student of the gospels and as a fisherman, I can’t help noticing how fishermen figure prominently in all four gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s gospels all tell of Jesus calling fishermen as his first-round-draft-choices – calling them from boats and nets to come, follow him, fish for people. Only John of the four gospel writers omits...

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May 4, 2014 – Third Sunday of Easter

Luke 24:1-12 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. Luke 24:13-35 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on....

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