3rd Sunday of Easter

Good morning. This is the 3rd Sunday of Easter, this week with contributions from Rev Jake Dejonge and another excellent choice of music from Martin.

To the Pharisees minding their business,
and the fishermen mending their nets:
‘Follow me!’

To the money-handlers, the lawyers,
the intellectuals, the power-brokers:
‘Follow me!’

To the carers and the cleaners, the married, the single,
the young and the old, country-folk and city-dwellers:
‘Follow me!’

Then and now, together and apart, willing or doubting, ready or not,
Jesus says:
‘Follow me!’

Isaiah, the prophet says, in the one sentence first reading: ”Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

This reassurance is quite necessary, I believe, with all the horrible things we experience or see on the TV; the newscasts full of corona-related or the consequences there of for hospitals, doctors and staff, the impact on our economies etc. etc. . Not all is bad, of course, we also see some positive reactions from many sides.  And to add on a lighter note: Our king has a birthday tomorrow, turning 53!          

But seriously, do you also wonder at times, How would Jesus react to all that’s happening. ….. It is probably the impact of old age that I wonder at times: cannot we do things differently; is there any hope left in a divided world, plagued with conflict, poverty, and now on top of it all this pandemic health crisis. How must we carry on.

It is interesting that in the gospel stories of Easter we find a similar sort of concerned wondering; there too we read of bewilderment, of being ill at ease, worried, with anxiety about what next, how can we cope.  In the gospel stories of the resurrection we also meet a whole range of emotions: there is fear of the unknown and of what was thought to be impossible; there is awe for the divine radiance and there is happiness, the joy of unexpected meeting with someone you love and the fearful question, what next, how to carry on.

It is indeed almost impossible to cope with all that happened to the first followers of Jesus; it was impossible; it was so beautiful; it was totally incomprehensible; to meet up with the one you knew had been properly buried; to meet him in the garden at first rays of dawn; or on the way home as the sun was setting; or suddenly in your midst as you were hiding behind firmly locked doors

All of a sudden He is there; not always recognized; then He mentions your name; He blesses and breaks the bread; He speaks SHALOM and shows his hands and his side. And each time there is the recognition ”it is the Lord”.

But the joy does not last; it is overcome by fear, by feeling unsafe, or becoming angry. You may know those reactions as well, perhaps; also in the current situation.

And then you long for the known security and sense of wellbeing of the past, as it once was. That is what happened to Jesus’ disciples, to Peter and the others we meet in today’s gospel reading. They want to go back to what they know, back to where they feel security in the old jobs they are good at. Back to Tiberius and the Sea of Galilee, the smell of fish and nets, the familiar Northern accent. Back to what they used to know; for belief in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus is still a bridge too far. He does show up at odd and unexpected moments; different to what they were used to; but can you rely on that; how can you build your life on experiences  like that.

No, they must carry on with their lives, provide income and food. They dare not trust as they used to; and they dare not trust themselves that they can cope. The enthusiasm they used to have when they left everything behind to follow Jesus, that enthusiasm is gone; now there is more the feeling of having been abandoned by Jesus; they are frustrated; it does not work out any more.                                   And that may sound familiar to some of us as well.

Peter, the ever spontaneous leader, then says ”I am going fishing”; and the others join him. Now they’ll start to feel better again;… but no, it does not work. Experienced fishermen that they are, they know how to go to work; but not this time; the whole night they catch nothing. Could it be that next to all that they have lost, that now also their old skills are gone. Enough to become desperate….

And then something new happens; with the dawning of a new day. In the light of the new day a man  calls from the beach ”… you have no fish, have you?” No, they do not have any fish. ”Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”

Peter and the others decide to follow this advice, not yet realising that the man on the beach was raised in a carpenter’s family and not by a fisherman. The outcome is nevertheless  totally amazing.

153 fish were caught, so  the story specifies; a special number; do add all numbers from 1 to 17, 1 + 2, +3, + 4 and so on, and you’ll come to 153. And 17 consists of 10, symbol of perfection, by old tradition and modern use (what about a 10 on your report card); and 7, symbol of fullness, as in the 7th day of the week. Thus 153 is a symbolic number that points to the perfection and fullness of life to be found in Jesus.

Experiencing this amazing catch of fish made John, ’the disciple whom Jesus loved’, realize and say to Peter: ”It is the Lord”. When landed with their amazing catch the disciples find that Jesus has already prepared the breakfast: fish and bread. But Jesus does ask the disciples to add some of the fish they have caught to the meal. And that is very important: your own contribution to the story of the risen Lord is very important. Do not ever forget that!

Jesus then says: ”Come and have breakfast.” Come and start the new day, come and start the new life of the resurrection in the knowledge that I have provided it for you. I am there for you in the fullness of life that truly satisfies and fulfils. For I am ’the bread from heaven’; I am he who descends from heaven to give life to the world, who can satisfy human hunger for ever.

Jesus is also the fish. The Greek word for fish, Ichthus, consists of five letters which are the beginning of five words: Jesus, Christ, Gods, Zoon, Saviour, the phrase which through the ages has given hope, trust and freedom; especially freedom, to receive and freedom to give to others.

Believing in the resurrection invites us to a new life; away from what disappoints and invites us to new things, the unusual, in church and world in challenging times, in politics, in economics, in health and wellbeing.  Invites us to bring the fishes of our own knowledge and expertise, of our humanity, to bring all those contributions to bring the new life of Jesus to fruition.

Dare to trust the Risen One and to go with Him who gives us bread and fish, also in confusing times, in difficult situations.

And the Eternal God speaks to us through Isaiah the prophet: . ”Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

Every blessing, Rev Jake Dejonge

Acts 2: 14a, 36-41
1 Peter 1: 17-23
Luke 24: 13-35

Prayer in uncertain times.

May we who are inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at risk.

May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health and paying their rent.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who don’t have the option.

May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no safe place to go.

May we who are using our reserves of money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no reserves at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.

Faithful God, we thank you for walking alongside us, if like the first disciples we fail to be aware of you forgive us for our human weakness and open our eyes to see you as a  constant companion and friend, your face in the faces of those around us.
Merciful God, accompany those travelling through the valley of death, may your love, and our prayers support those walking that journey.
Anthem: O for a closer walk with God – Charles V. Stanford
Hymn: NEH 295 – Let all mortal flesh keep silence

Affirmation of faith
We believe and trust in God who has created and is creating who has come in Jesus –
the Word made flesh –
to reconcile and make new,
and who works in us and others by the power of the Spirit.

We are called to be the church: to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect for creation, to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and hope.

In life and death,
in life beyond death, God is with us.
We are not alone. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Closing responses

The cross …
we shall take it.

The bread …
we shall break it.

The pain …
we shall bear it.

The joy …
we shall share it.

The gospel …
we shall live it.

The love …
we shall give it.

The light …
we shall cherish it.

The darkness …
God shall perish it.