Easter 3, Year C

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Easter 7, Year C May 29, 2022 Easter 7, Year C John 17:20-26
Easter 6, Year C May 22, 2022 Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C John 14:23-29
Easter 5, Year C May 15, 2022 Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C John 13:31-35, Revelation 21:1-6, Acts 11:1-18
Easter 4, Year C May 8, 2022 Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C John 10:22-30, Acts 9:36-43, Revelation 7:9-17
Easter 3, Year C May 1, 2022 The Third Sunday of Easter, Year C John 21:1-19
Easter 2, Year C April 24, 2022 Easter 2, Year C John 20:19-31
Easter Sunday, Year C April 17, 2022 Easter, Year C John 20:1-18
Good Friday, Year C April 15, 2022 Good Friday, Year C John 18:1-19:42
Palm Sunday sermon April 10, 2022 April 10, 2022 Palm Sunday Luke 22:14-23:56
Lent 5 April 3, 2022 Lent 5, Year C John 12:1-8
Lent 4, Year C March 27, 2022 Lent 4, Year C Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Lent 3 March 20, 2022 Third Sunday in Lent, 2022 Luke 13:1-9
Lent 2 March 13, 2022 Lent 2, Year C Luke 13:31-35
Ash Wednesday, Year C March 2, 2022 Ash Wednesday, Year C Genesis, chapter 4
Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C February 27, 2022 Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]

 

Easter 3, Year C

Sermon Date:May 1, 2022

Scripture: John 21:1-19

Liturgy Calendar: The Third Sunday of Easter, Year C


“The miraculous catch of fish” – Jan Toorop (1912)


In today’s gospel, Jesus returns to the disciples again, after having appeared to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb on the morning of the resurrection, and twice to the disciples when they were locked in the house where they were meeting in Jerusalem because they understandably feared for their lives.

And in John’s version of events after the resurrection, the disciples then  seem uncertain about what to do next.

So they return home.  They go back to Galilee, to Capernaum, Peter’s hometown, beside the Sea of Galilee. 

Peter decides to go fishing, and some of the other disciples join him. 

And the story goes on from there. 

This year as I’ve revisited these stories that tell us that Jesus is indeed alive, having been resurrected by God, I’ve been wondering about why Jesus kept appearing to the disciples—of course the most obvious reason is so that they would come to believe that he had indeed been resurrected, and that God’s love can overcome even death. 

But I think there’s another reason that Jesus kept showing up. 

My theory is that Jesus himself was reluctant to leave behind his life on this earth, reluctant to leave the beauties of this earth, and most of all, reluctant to leave his friends behind.  After all, as Jesus had told them before his death, where he would be going they could not go, except through him.  He longed for them, and he still wanted them with him, and so he kept coming back to them to make sure that they would follow him, even though he would no longer be with them and he knew that they would feel uncertain in his absence.  

It’s true that in John’s gospel Jesus gave the disciples the Holy Spirit to be with them, and the Holy Spirit would sustain them in Jesus’ absence. 

But still, he must have desired to be with them again.  They were the ones who had believed in him and had followed him and had gone with him through both the joys and the sorrows of his life. 

So he sought them out on last time in Galilee, where he had first met his disciples beside the Sea of Galilee.    For three years, Jesus had preached throughout Galilee, often using examples from nature to help people understand God’s love.  He had healed and fed the crowds, bringing God’s grace and abundance to life.    I imagine that those three years were the most fulfilling years and the happiest years that Jesus spent on this earth, there in Galilee.

So on the morning that was to be the last resurrection appearance that he would make, Jesus went out to the shore early in the morning before the sun was up to fix breakfast for the friends that he loved so deeply, so that they could share one last meal together. 

There on the shore, in the cool damp predawn air, Jesus  pulled the marshy breath of the sea into his lungs as he built  a charcoal fire.  He listened as the raspy sounds of the two stones he rubbed together mingled with the songs of the waking birds. He watched as the spark from the stones became the tiny flame that grew into a lively fire which pushed away the morning chill.  As he tended the fire,  Jesus listened to the water lapping against the sand, calling him to step into the cold water, feeling the exhilarating chill rush up his legs and through his body.

As the light dawned, Jesus caught glimpses of Peter’s boat shrouded in the early morning mist.  He could tell, from the way the boat sat high in the water, that his friends had caught nothing all night.  How disappointed they must be.  And so Jesus, so full of grace and abundance, called out to them.   His voice echoed across the water,  as he told them to cast their nets on the right side, and their nets filled with fish.   

The nets were so full of fish that the disciples knew that this abundance could only be God’s grace upon grace, and the person on the shore could only be Jesus. 

When they got to shore, Jesus invited them to have breakfast.   He took the bread and then the fish, gave it to them, and they all ate.

We know that Jesus loved celebrations, parties and food, for his very first miracle in John’s gospel took place in Cana, at a wedding, and Jesus changed water into wine.     

So what a joyous reunion this breakfast around the charcoal fire must have been, early in the morning, the day stretching ahead, like the sea  that stretched in front of them,  rich with possibilities.  The disciples and Jesus must have reveled in beginning this day together in this familiar and beloved place, feasting together and celebrating. 

But after breakfast had ended, Jesus and Peter had a private and quite serious conversation.  We’ve all heard how Peter had denied Jesus three times after Jesus was arrested, and now, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him—giving Peter the opportunity to redeem his earlier betrayal of Jesus. 

But I also think that Jesus needed to know for himself that Peter really did love Jesus more than anything or anyone else. 

And so Jesus put Peter on the spot three times. 

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” 

Jesus doesn’t say, “Peter, do you love me more than these?”

Instead, Jesus addresses Peter by Peter’s original name, Simon, son of John.  Jesus calls Peter by the same name that Jesus had used the very first time he met Peter back at the beginning of John’s gospel.

Remember that day?  Andrew, Simon’s brother, brought Simon to Jesus, and Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John.  You are to be called Cephas (which is translated as Peter). 

Jesus wants to know—after all that has happened, do you, Simon, really love me more than all the goodness of your old life as a fisherman on this sea?  Do you love me more than these familiar friends who have been such good company and have been part of your life for so long?  Do you love me more than safety?  Do you love me above and beyond your fears? 

Jesus wanted to know.  Jesus needed to hear that Peter was at last ready to set aside everything else and step into what would be the ongoing uncertainty of following his Lord and Savior.  After all, Peter  would not see Jesus again in person on this earth.  This was the last time they would be together.

Jesus needed to know.  “Simon, son of John, are you truly willing to be Peter, my disciple?”

And Peter, chastened by these three questions, professes his love for his Lord and Savior.  Jesus is brutally honest with Peter.

All through your life, Peter, you have made your own decisions and gone where you wanted to go.  But, Jesus says,  if you love me and follow me, you are going to end up going where you do not want to go.  Others will take you there. 

And then Jesus issues the invitation that he issued to Simon, son of John, the first day he ever met Peter. 

“Follow me.” 

Peter did not know that morning where his Lord and Savior would lead him.  But at last, he was willing to go wherever Jesus led, no matter how far, no matter how unfamiliar, no matter how frightening,  no matter the cost. 

We know that Peter did leave the familiar shores of the Sea of Galilee, and went all the way to Rome, to the center of the Roman Empire, where he was put to death for being a leader of the followers of Jesus.  But Peter’s story did not end with his death.

Here we are, on the shore of another body of water, the Rappahannock River, and we gather each Sunday as members of this little group of Jesus’ followers, here in a church named in honor of St Peter himself.  Peter, in all his humanity, lives on in each of us. 

After this conversation with Peter, Jesus was reassured that he had indeed chosen well when he had called Peter to follow him the first time.  Peter, despite his faults, would indeed be the rock on which Jesus built the community of followers of whom we are a part. 

As I’ve thought about the story’s meaning for all of us, the current followers of Jesus, two things come to mind. 

First, these resurrection appearances assure me that Jesus longs for each one of us, for you, and for me.   Jesus longs to dwell in our hearts. 

John, who wrote today’s gospel, tells us that Jesus was the Word who became flesh, who came to live and die as one of us, the one through whom we receive grace upon grace.  Jesus, the one who is close to the Father’s heart, longs to be close to our hearts as well. In John’s gospel, Jesus invites his disciples to abide in him. “Abide in me as I abide in you,” Jesus said to his disciples.    

This eternal desire on the part of Jesus to dwell in our hearts is the true miracle of Easter. 

The resurrection appearances remind us that Jesus wants to be with us and will be with us, especially in our fears and doubts.  Jesus longs for us so deeply that he will come and find us no matter where we are, and will appear to us in all sorts of ways.  If we are looking for him, we will keep finding him with us. 

Jesus will go with us, plus, bonus, he gives us the Holy Spirit as well. 

Second, Jesus calls us into uncertainty. To follow Jesus means to enter into uncertainty.  Jesus told Peter that Peter would be led by others where he did not want to go—into uncertainty.

All of us live with uncertainty, at some times more than others.  But I’ve become convinced that it is in the times of our deepest uncertainties that Jesus is most present with us.  Jesus is present with us in illness.  Jesus is present with us in the transitions in our lives, as we leave the familiar behind and face into the unknown.    Jesus is present with us in our anxieties and our fears. Jesus is present with us in our losses.   Jesus is present with us at our deaths and welcomes us into our own resurrections. 

So for all of us facing the uncertainties that life inevitably holds, I find this last resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples especially inspiring.  Jesus is clear that no matter where Peter goes, Jesus will go with him.    

“Jesus here, Jesus there, Jesus everywhere.  Jesus above, Jesus below, Jesus along the road you go.”  Tom Hughes sent me that little verse this week, and it sums up what Peter came to understand that morning beside the sea.  Jesus would never, ever, leave Peter because Jesus loved Peter so much. 

And Jesus himself was reassured that Peter would never, ever leave Jesus because Peter loved Jesus so much. 

Their love for one another was certain, so they could enter any uncertainty ahead without fear. 

In his meditation “The Graciousness of Uncertainty,” Oswald Chambers points out that “to be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth.  This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it would rather be an expression of breathless expectation.  We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.  Immediately when we abandon to God, and do the duty that lies nearest, God packs our lives with surprises all the time….

when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous joyful uncertainty and expectancy….leave the whole thing to Jesus, it is gloriously uncertain how He will come in, but He will come.” 

That is the miracle of Easter, that Jesus will come to each of us because Jesus loves us too much to leave us alone. 

Remember, too, that Jesus will also want to be reassured of our love for him.

So he will ask each of us, just as he asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?”    Jesus will ask us that question more than once! 

May each of us answer, along with Peter, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 

And then we can follow him with breathless expectation into the uncertainties of our lives, leaving our fears behind.   

 

Resource:  Chambers, Oswald.  “April 29th  The Graciousness of Uncertainty”  in My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year.  New York, New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1966