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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beach Barbeque

Easter 3, Yr. C Acts 9:1-20; Rev. 5:11-14; John 21:1-19

Sometimes the dilemma a preacher faces is an overabundance of riches! The temptation with today’s line-up of lessons is to tell you to get out the popcorn and soda and settle into your pews because there’s so much here I’d like to explore.

These readings tell us of new things happening right and left…what could be more appropriate for me to preach about on a Sunday when we’ll later celebrate the new ministry Pastor Carri shares with us? Or we could take a look at Acts, a book begging to be turned into a graphic novel. There’s a reason it’s called The Acts of the Apostles, not The Sitting Around of the Apostles, and this episode is a case in point. Saul, the single-minded persecutor of the church, suddenly has his life turned upside down by a road-to-Damascus encounter with Jesus, and poor Ananias gets dragged into a relationship with a man he knows is nothing but trouble. The psalm and the reading from Revelation are full of praise and thanksgiving, ancient words so expressive that they might convey the fullness of our own hearts better than we can on our own. Then there’s Jesus’s motley crew of fisherman who, after seeing their Lord crucified and resurrected, go right back to the fishing business as usual, hardly missing a beat. And Jesus on the beach, unrecognized until after he’s pointed his disciples in the right direction, and those 153 fish—no more, no less—that the disciples caught when they thought the waters were empty, and Jesus gently and insistently reconciling with Peter, certainly more for Peter’s sake than his own. What’s up with Peter, anyway, naked on the boat and leaping into his clothes before jumping into the water? Both Acts and the gospel call us to be people who proclaim the good news of Jesus in word and deed, tending to the hearts and souls of God’s flock; plenty to think about there. See?…what a feast for a preacher! Fear not, however…I won’t keep you here forever; we’ve got a big day ahead of us.

Out of all of these and so many more, here’s the question I ran across that piqued my curiosity most of all: Why is Jesus hanging out there on the shore barbequing breakfast for his buddies? He’s just been resurrected, for heaven’s sake; shouldn’t he be off showing himself to more people or healing the sick or teaching the crowds or ushering in the kingdom or something? It’s hard to believe he doesn’t have better things to do than this! But this is what he’s doing, and because it’s Jesus, I have to presume that cooking on the beach and giving fishing tips is exactly the right thing at that particular moment.

What seems odd about it is the absolute ordinariness of his activity. This is the Lamb who is worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! Why would a big God like that do such a small, mundane thing? And therein, perhaps, lies the answer: because to our God, being present in the little stuff matters. In fact, God does little stuff really well, and the incarnation is the prime example. Honestly, to God, humans could seem pretty small peanuts. Yet God loves us so much as to become one of us, and to do it in the most ordinary and humble of ways. God indeed cares about the little stuff and does it well.

Jesus is there on the beach in order to give the disciples what they need. You need your nightly catch? I’ll fill your nets to the breaking point! You need breakfast? I’ve got bread and fish right here, piping hot and ready to eat! You need forgiveness, to be brought back to my love? I’ll give you that too! You need direction? Follow me. In fact, Jesus offers a ridiculous amount more than they need. Months before, he’d fed thousands with 5 fish and 2 loaves; this time, there are 153 fish for just 8 of them. He doesn’t simply tell Peter he’s forgiven for claiming not to know him, back in the High Priest’s courtyard; he invites Peter to proclaim his love thrice over, once for every denial. Because that’s God’s way too: giving us more than we can ask or imagine.

We’re waiting, often, for the road-to-Damascus events, God appearing in a vision or speaking to us ever so clearly or performing miracles obvious to all. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if that’s the only way we look for God, we’re going to miss out on a lot, and we might not receive what God offers that we need. That moment at the end of an exhausting day when someone shows you a small act of courtesy, or a phone call out of the blue when you’re feeling particularly lonely; the unexpected smile from someone whom you’ve found off-putting or a chance conversation that sheds light on a situation that’s been puzzling you; the opportunity to share one of your gifts with another person. We could take any of those for granted. But if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, if we open our hearts in expectation in the midst of the ordinary, Jesus appears in so many ways every day, to feed us, forgive us, lead us, and love us. The fish have been caught; the bread is ready; the meal is spread. Come feast with the Lord!

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