April 14, 2013  — EASTER 3

Rev. Carol Prochaska (ret.)

 

Title: An Easter Question: "And What Now?"

TEXT: John 21:1-19

 

When the disciple Peter says "I'm going fishing!" was he remembering all the times in the past when he was able to successfully feed his extended family? Was he remembering the long hours he willingly put in, so often the first at the water and the last to leave? When James and John go along with Peter to fish were they remembering their confidence in guiding their boat out into the deeper water and how much they could catch in just a few hours? Were they remembering how it was to be taught by and to work with their successful father? Did the other disciples go along with them to fish because doing something was better than doing nothing – and seemingly better than asking questions and discussing what Jesus had commissioned them to do?

However, as we know, all of them put in a long and frustrating and disappointing night. How tired and how hungry they must have been! And then! Jesus appears to find them not only fishing but in a fishing failure—with pie on their face (so to speak!) Couldn't he have waited to appear to them when they were in the synagogue? Why now when they're looking not like fishermen or disciples?

There is no condemnation. There is only tender love. Once again we see God's love revealed in Jesus. The Risen Christ comes to them in their less than finest moment and guides them out of their failure. Although they catch an abundance of large fish—this "icthus" fish—the kind they had caught with Jesus' help is not mentioned again. Remember those are not the "opsarion" (condiment kind of fish) they ate at the breakfast. It's as if Jesus is saying, "Now! Now never you mind about those fish!" We're done with that. You are moving on. You are moving out. You are moving in a different way.

You may remember the story of the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus: still known as Saul, he was advocating and taking part in the murder of disciples of Jesus. The Book of Acts tells how Saul is on his way to the synagogues at Damascus "...so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, he would bring them bound to Jerusalem." He's determined to put a stop to these disciples of Jesus Christ. These new thinkers and new doers have no place in his faith community. Life in the synagogue will be as it has always been. On his way to Damascus a light from heaven flashes around him, he falls to the ground, and he hears a voice saying: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" When he manages to get up he cannot see and has to be led by the hand into the city of Damascus where he regains his sight and is baptized. He stays for a while with other disciples to listen and to learn from them—the very ones he had been trying so hard to silence!

As we know, Saul becomes Paul and goes on to preach, write, start new churches, and in every way live his life proclaiming Jesus and the Jesus Way. He was led out of the past. He was transitioned into new ways of being faithful.

Transition is the word our Church Board has given us for this year. It seems to me it is an Easter word because Easter is a transition from the past into new ways of being faithful. We do this not because the past was wrong or bad (in fact it may have been in many ways quite wonderful). We transition because the world is changing—sometimes by leaps and bounds. We transition because we may be having little or no success with worked in the past. We transition because we're bored and/or tired—you know "been there done that—a hundred –thousand times!" And for some of us we need transition because we're just too old to keep on in the same way and, or, we never did like doing such and such.

So like those first disciples, like the apostle Paul, and like most of ancestors in faith: we move on. We move out. We move out in a different way. Of course we know that this not without fears and doubts and potential for failure. And my goodness, don't we know that there any number of reasons to just stay as we are. Like in this morning's story of the little Dolphin: "His fins won't go. The air is too cold. The waves are too slow." And then "One day Dolphin leaves home." It seems to me that Easter has something to do with "leaving home," so that no matter what history has imposed on us, no matter what others have imposed on us, and no matter what we have imposed on ourselves—God in Easter is guaranteeing our release and the coming into something good!

According to scripture we don't do this alone! Paul needed and received help and encouragement from others in the faith community. The gospel writer tells us that after resurrection Jesus was revealed three times to those first disciples - even they needed help and care and encouragement. And yes the little dolphin is encouraged by a young girl's presence and friendly smile.

We need each other.

We need the direction of our Board.

        April: "We reach out to NUC members active and inactive.

So according to our Board: The time IS NOW to do some connecting.

Perhaps you will connect with someone you haven't seen for awhile. Perhaps you will connect with someone whose name comes to mind as if from God's Spirit. Perhaps it will be someone you've been meaning to invite to your home.

This morning we heard Jesus saying—and still saying–to us: "If you love me: Feed my lambs. If you love me: Tend my sheep. If you love me: Feed my sheep."

The summer my Dad died my younger brother, Tom, was just 13 years old. Needless to say my mother and Tom and I were sad and scared. For of all of Tom's life he was one of those who bottled things up inside and so back then he didn't or couldn't say much about what was going on for him. Our neighbors across the street were newlyweds in their mid 20's(Archie and Noreen). Archie and my Dad had worked in the same company, so of course Archie and Noreen attended my Dad's funeral. I'm sure they send a condolence card and they brought over food for us. They did what people usually do at a time like that.

Archie was a quiet, in the background kind of guy. He was not someone who would stand out in crowd. No one would ever see him as "the life of the party." In fact people would have described Archie as shy. But that summer there were many evenings when he came over to our house to sit on the back steps with my brother Tom. Was Archie a grief counselor? No. Had he lost his own father? No. But he stepped out of the familiar, out of what he knew, and probably had never done before to tend to, to be there for, a frightened and grieving lamb.

Theologian and author Henri J. M. Nouwen has been quoted as saying: "Our faithfulness will depend on our willingness to go where there is brokenness, loneliness, and human need. If the church has a future it is a future with the poor in whatever form." So not without some trepidation, but trusting the God of Easter: Together we move on. We move out. We move in a different way.