John 21: 1-19
+ Now I know this is a strange questions to ask on a Sunday morning. And I know the answer I’m going to receive before I ask. But…have you ever had one of times in which you seem to have a bunch of excess energy? The answer is probably a big fat no. I know many of us would kill to have excess energy in their lives.
But, I’ve got to say it, I am experiencing that excess energy right now in my life. I feel like I’m revving with energy all the time. I don’t now if it’s because I’m a vegetarian or what, but I am just like some kind of mini tornado.
In addition to all the work I was doing during Holy Week and since in being your priest, I also have been working like crazy at the Rectory. I’ve been painting cupboards. I’ve been cleaning. I bought a pair of 1950s chairs this past week and they looks soooo cool in the rectory. But of course that meant rearranging and changing around. You can see some of these changes I’ve made on my blog:
Often times in my life, anyway, I find myself feeling much more comfortable doing something, rather than just sitting around. Especially when the big things happen. For example, when my father died, I found that the worst thing could’ve done is just sit around. I ended doing something everyone tells us we shouldn’t do in situations like that. I drowned myself in work. I don’t recommend that toany of you. But it was good for me. I found doing some thing helped me deal with that shock and loss.
In this morning’s Gospel, we find the Apostles doing something very much like that. They aren’t sitting around doing nothing. They are doing some thing. They are keeping busy.
In the wake of the murder of Jesus, in the wake of his resurrection, in the wake of his appearing to them—in the wake of this unusual, extraordinary activity in their lives—they do the most ordinary thing in their lives. They go fishing. They pick up their nets and they go out onto the water. No doubt, considering all that had happened to them in the previous days and weeks, their minds were reeling. But, now, are doing something they knew how to do Something that gave them some comfort, no doubt.
This what they did after all. This what their fathers did and no doubt what their grandfathers and great-grandfathers did as well. Fishing was in their blood. It was all they knew until Jesus came into their lives. And, no doubt, when the extraordinary events of Jesus’ murder and resurrection happened, the only way they could find some normalcy in their life was by going fishing.
The fact is, this is probably the last time they would ever go fishing together. Their old life had once and for all passed away with the voice that calls to them from the shore. Their jobs as fishermen would change with the words “Feed my sheep.”
No longer would they be fishing for actual fish. They would be fishing from now on for humans. That symbolic number of 153 seems to convey to us that the world now has become their lake.
And what is particularly poignant about all of this is Jesus doesn’t come into their lives to change them into something else. He comes into their lives and speaks to them in language they understand. He could have said to them: “Go out and preach and convert.” But to fishermen, that means little or nothing. They are fishermen, not priests or pastors. They are not theologians.
Instead, Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” This they would understand. In those simple words, they would have got it. And when he says “feed my sheep,” Shepherd my sheep,” it was not just a matter of catching and eating. It was a matter of catching and nurturing.
In a sense, we are called by Jesus as well to be shepherds like Peter and the fellow apostles to feed. And those around us—those that share this world with us—are the ones Jesus is telling us to feed as well.
It isn’t enough that we come here to church on a Sunday morning to be fed. We, in turn, must go out and feed. And this command of Jesus is important. Jesus asks it of Peter three times—one time for each time Peter denied him only a few weeks before. Those words of Jesus to Peter are also words to us as well.
In the wake of the devastating things that happen in our lives, the voice of Jesus is a calm center. Amid the chaos of the world, the calm, cool voice of Jesus is still saying to us, as we cope in our ordinary ways, “feed my sheep.” Because, it is in these strange and difficult times that people need to be fed and nourished. It is in times like these that we need to be fed, and it is in times like these that we need to feed others as well. That, in a sense, is what it means to be a Christian.
Following Jesus, as we all know, is not easy. The fact is: it’s probably the hardest thing one can do. Christ—God in the flesh—is not present to us as he was present to those fishermen in this morning’s gospel. He is not cooking us a breakfast when we come back from ordinary work. Loving a God who is not visible—who is not standing before us, in flesh and blood, is not easy. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone here this morning: loving our neighbors—those people who share our world with us—as ourselves, is not easy by any means.
It takes constant work to love. It takes constant discipline to love as Jesus loved. It takes constant work to love ourselves—and most of us don’t love ourselves—and it takes constant work to love others.
But look at the benefits. Look at what our world would be like if we loved God, if we loved ourselves and loved others as ourselves. It was be ideal. It would truly be the Kingdom of God, here on earth. It would be exactly what Jesus told us it would be like. But to do this—to bring this about—to love God, to love ourselves, to love each other, is hard work.
Some would say it’s impossible work. Certainly, it seems overwhelming at times. It seems too much for us to even consider in times when the world seems out of control, when hatred and violence seem to reign supreme, when crazy dictators threaten to launch nuclear missiles as a show of might and power. It seems impossible when we realize that what we are asked to do is love and serve something that we don’t see.
Let’s face it, to live as Jesus expects us to live, to serve as Jesus calls us to serve, to love as Jesus loves, is not easy. Being a Christian means living one’s life fully and completely as a follower of Jesus. It means being a reflection of God’s love and goodness in the world.
A quote you’ve heard me share many, many time is this one of St. Augustine: “Being a Christian means being an Alleluia from head to toe.”
It means being an Alleluia even when the bad things in life happen. It means being an Alleluia—in our service to others—when we would rather go fishing. It means, occasionally, going and feeding the sheep rather than going off fishing when the bad things in life happen.
In the midst of all the things in the world that confuse us—as we struggle to make sense of the world—the voice of Jesus is calling to us, is telling us to “feed his sheep. Because in feeding those sheep, we too will be fed. In nurturing Christ’s sheep, we will be nurtured. In finding the Alleluia amidst the darkness, we—in our bodies and in our souls—become—from our head to our toes—an Alleluia.