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St. Paul’s – Easter 3 – 5-5–2019

Jesus can be so funny sometimes.

The disciples have gone fishing but have come up empty. Jesus, who they do not recognize, stands on the shore and asks if they have any fish. We know the story because we just heard it in the gospel: Jesus tells them to let down their net, they comply, and suddenly they have a bunch of fish.

But what gets me is not that the disciples come up with a net full of fish. The clincher for me comes in verse 9, when we see a fire of burning coals cooking what? Fish! Jesus already has fish and bread.

But didn’t Jesus just ask them for fish? Yes and no. He asked if they had any fish. Which might lead us to believe that Jesus himself doesn’t have any—if he did, he would share them with the disciples. Right? I mean, if your BFF has something that you need, do you think she or he is  going to make you work all night, after you’ve already pulled a double shift, when he could easily share his goodies with you from the start?

But Jesus apparently operates differently—and that’s a good thing. Because sometimes we rely on others so much that we do not know the value of our own efforts. Jesus is certainly a provider. He’s is also a teacher, and here he teaches his disciples the meaning of grit.

The disciples obey Jesus’ instruction to combine the efforts of their labor (the fish) with what he already possesses. Only then are they ready to commune with Jesus over breakfast—and to move into their deeper purpose. After asking Peter, the lead fisherman and arguably the most vocal apostle, if he loves him, Jesus gives his divine directives. First, feed my sheep. And then, follow me.

So after toiling all night long, Peter and the other disciples

  • listen to Jesus and let down their nets,
  • reap the benefits of their obedience,
  • combine their blessing with what Jesus already has, and
  • are now ready to serve others by following in the footsteps and teachings of Jesus.

The Lord has led by example, and now it’s time for the disciples to step up to the plate.

Our Gospel this morning is set at the Sea of Tiberias. Many a teaching and learning about following Jesus took place around water….one such place was the Sea of Galilee….

SEA OF GALILEE:

Am I a soldier of the cross
A follower of the lamb?
Or shall I fear to own His cause
Will I blush to speak His name?

On the sea
(The sea, the sea)
Of Galilee
(Of Galilee)
My Jesus, He’s walking on the sea
On the sea
(The sea, the sea)
Of Galilee
(Of Galilee)
My Jesus, He’s walking on the sea

Must I be carried to the skies

On flowery bed of ease?
While others fight to win the prize
And sail through bloody seas?

On the sea
(The sea, the sea)
Of Galilee
(Of Galilee)
My Jesus, He’s walking on the sea
On the sea
(The sea, the sea)
Of Galilee
(Of Galilee)
My Jesus, He’s walking on the sea

And there shall I bathe my soul

In seas of heavenly rest

And never more a troubled thought

Shall cross my peaceful breast

On the sea
(The sea, the sea)
Of Galilee
(Of Galilee)
My Jesus, He’s walking on the sea
On the sea
(The sea, the sea)
Of Galilee
(Of Galilee)
My Jesus, He’s walking on the sea
My Jesus, He’s walking on the sea

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Around the fire Jesus builds, Peter’s fear and denial (I don’t know the man!) evolves into trust and worship: Lord, you know everything.  You know that I love you. In the end, Peter realizes that it’s what Jesus knows that matters.  Jesus knows that we’re more than our worst failures and betrayals.  He knows that we’re prone to shame and self-hatred.  He knows the deep places we flee to when we fail.  And he knows how to build the fire and prepare the meal that will beckon us back to shore.

Jesus’s appearance to Peter — like all of the post-resurrection appearances the Gospels record — speaks volumes about God’s priorities. In the days following the resurrection, Jesus doesn’t waste a moment on revenge or retribution.  He doesn’t storm Pilate’s house, or avenge himself on Rome, or punish the soldiers whose hands drove nails into his.  Instead, he spends his remaining time on earth feeding, restoring, and strengthening his friends.  As we have observed in the Easter gospels: He calls Mary Magdalene by name as she cries. He offers his wounds to the skeptical Thomas.  He grills bread and fish for his hungry disciples.  He heals what’s wounded and festering between his heart and Peter’s.

In other words, Jesus focuses on relationship.  On reconciliation.  On love.  He spends the last days before his ascension delivering his children from fear, despair, self-hatred, and paralysis.  He wastes no time on triumphalism or smugness.  Even at the height of his power, he chooses humility.  He chooses to linger on a lonely beach till dawn, waiting for his hungry children to realize how much they need him.  He chooses to ask Peter an honest and vulnerable-making question about denial, even though the answer might hurt.  He chooses to feed and tend his sheep.

Peter’s shame meets Jesus’s grace, and Jesus’s grace wins.  That’s the Gospel story in a nutshell.  As writer and research professor Brené Brown puts it, Shame cannot survive being spoken. Meaning, shame cannot survive the living Word.  Shame cannot tolerate the resurrection.  When shame encounters the God who is Love, it burns to ash and scatters.

What happens is that we are freed of the box we tend to put ourselves in and Christ gives us elbow room to live, a freedom to be ourselves and room to maneuver as we follow in his footsteps.

FIFTY MILES OF ELBOW ROOM:

Twelve-hundred miles, it’s length and breadth
That four-square city stands
It’s gem-set walls of jasper shine
They’re not made by human hands

One-hundred miles it’s gates are wide
Abundant entrance there
With fifty miles of elbow room
On either side to spare

When the gates swing wide on the other side
Just beyond the sunset sea
There’ll be room to spare as we enter there
There’ll be room for you and room for me

For the gates are wide on the other side
Where the fairest flowers bloom
On the right hand and on the left hand
Fifty miles of elbow room

Sometimes I’m cramped and I’m crowded here
And I long for elbow room
I long to reach for altitude
Where the fairest flowers bloom
It won’t be long before I pass into that city fair
With fifty miles of elbow room
On either side to spare

Oh, when the gates swing wide on the other side
Just beyond the sunset sea
There’ll be room to spare as we enter there
There’ll be room for you and room for me

Oh, for the gates are wide on the other side
Where the fairest flowers bloom
On the right hand and on the left hand
Fifty miles of elbow room

Songwriters: F.W. Mcgee

Fifty Miles of Elbow Room lyrics © Peermusic Publishing

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The following is an excerpt from Easter Us by Walter Brueggemann. I have added a few words to set it into the context of today’s Gospel and the next song shared with us by Hogan and Moss.

You God who terrified the waters

Who crashed your thunder,

Who shook the earth, and

Scared the wits out of chaos.

You God who with strong arm saved your people

by miracle and wonder and majestic act.

Look upon us in our deep need,

mark the wounds of our brothers and sisters just here,

notice the turmoil in our lives, and the lives of our families,

credit the incongruity of the rich and the poor in our very city,

and the staggering injustices abroad in our land,

tend to the rage out of control, rage justified by displacement,

rage gone crazy by absence, silence, and deprivation,

measure the suffering,

count the sufferers,

number the wounds.

You tamer of chaos and mender of all tears in the canvas of creation,

we ponder your suffering,

your garment taken in lottery,

your mocked life,

and now we throw upon your suffering humiliation,

the suffering of the world.

You defeater of death, whose power could not hold you,

come in your Easter,

come in your sweeping victory,

come to the beach in your glorious new life.

Easter us,

salve wounds,

break injustice,

bring peace,

guarantee neighbor,

Easter us in joy and strength.

Be our God, be your true self, lord of life

massively turn our life toward your life

and away from our anti-neighbor, anti-self deathliness.

Hear of thankful, grateful, unashamed Hallelujah 

as we go down to the river to pray…..Amen+

DOWN TO THE VALLEY (RIVER) TO PRAY:

As I went down in the valley to pray
Studyin’ about that good old way
And who shall wear the stary crown
Good Lord, show me the way
Oh fathers let’s go down
Let’s go down come on down
Oh fathers let’s go down
Down in the valley to pray

As I went down in the valley to pray
Studyin’ about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way
Oh mothers let’s go down
Come on down don’t you wanna go down
Come on mothers and let’s go down
Down in the valley to pray

As I went down in the valley to pray
Studyin’ about that good old way
And who shall wear the stary crown
Good Lord, show me the way
Oh brothers let’s go down
Let’s go down come on down
Come on brothers and let’s go down
Down in the valley to pray

As I went down in the valley to pray
Studyin’ about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way
Come on sinners and let’s go down
Let’s go down oh, come on down
Come on sinners and let’s go down
Down in the valley to pray

As I went down in the valley to pray
Studyin’ about that good old way
And who shall wear the stary crown
Good Lord, show me the way

Songwriters: Doc Watson

Down in the Valley to Pray lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing

Opening Prayer

Brothers and sisters.

If you lift your net and it is empty,

Come here!

We’ll cast it out again into Christ’s abundance.

If you open your eyes 

but do not recognize the Holy One,

Come here!

We’ll find the Risen Christ here among us.

If your life is filled with mourning,

Come here!

Christ is leading a dance of joy.

Come here, sisters and brothers!

To give blessing and honor and glory to God!

Collection

We give in grateful thanksgiving 

for all that God has given us.  

In the upside down world of the gospel, 

we measure our wealth not by what we have,

but what we can give away.  

Let us give away generously, in this offering, 

To bless your church, your people, your creation.

Blessing

Christ asks if we love him?

If we say yes, 

he says; “Then care for one another.”

This is our opportunity to make a difference, 

to live lovingly

on the frontiers of his bright new world.

We cannot promise to do it perfectly, 

but we can give it a go,

relying on his abundant wisdom 

to take our small love,

and fit it into a larger pattern 

of good for all creation.

May God bless the world in which you move,

and bless your home and bless your friends.

May God bless the eyes with which you see,

and bless the ears with which you listen.

May God bless the way you use your hands,

bless the way you employ your tongues.

As a bonus from the living God in Christ Jesus,

We go out these doors 

with the Blessing of God Almighty…..

Amen!