Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30: 6)
This has been a strange week. It began with a scene of mortal fear: 33 dead in Blacksburg, Virginia.
It continued with Earth Day, a plea for renewal for our whole planet – in the face of real danger.
And the gospel gives us an extraordinary scene.
153 fish. An experience of God’s abundance, a foretaste of the feast that will never end – as Sarah Dylan Breuer puts it – proof that into our world of scarcity, of competition for limited resources, even of active and open warfare for scarce and coveted goods, into this world comes a sign of hope.
Jesus is here, with us, ready to join us at the table he sets before us. Breakfast is ready: are we? Limitless joy, limitless peace and joyful, eternal life are there for us. It is morning; and yet we live in darkness.
We are born free, yet we are everywhere in chains.
The psalmist pulls it all together for us. The fear we can experience, in a setting as mundane, Herbert O’Driscoll points out, as a doctor’s office or the corridors of a medical building, can open a trapdoor into the underworld beneath our feet. Sudden news of mortality grips us.
Like the psalmist we may find ourselves pleading to God, promising, promising anything, if only this cup of sorrow can be taken from our lips.
And then joy comes, like the break of dawn, and our sorrows and fears are gone.
Don’t worry—it’ll all work out, a friend told me (self-mockingly). Revelations says so. And of course that is what John is telling us.
What he shows us is a scene beyond dreams: all of creation, all creatures that ever were or will be, on their knees before the throne of God. And there in front of them, behold, the Lamb of God.
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!
The cost of glory is revealed—vulnerability and sacrifice. What better creature to show us those treasures than a lamb?
Next to this the Gospel scene is mundane, down-to-earth indeed.
After all the breathless tumult and painful striving of Holy Week, and the shocks of Easter, the disciples have scattered like sheep before a storm. Who will gather them together again?
Indeed, after all this craziness, Peter – and who can blame him – says, simply, “I’m going fishing.” And six others say, “We’re going with you.”
When life shatters, it is human to want to return to what we know, to take control. We want to go – back to Galilee, back to what we know, back to what we know how to do, back to normal. But –
Things are never the same.
The guys go fishing all right, but they don’t catch anything. Without Jesus, nothing happens.
Then they do see something normal. A man is on the beach. Breakfast is cooking over a campfire – they can smell that it’s ready.
But before they get ashore, he calls to them: “Put down your nets right there.” Close in to shore, right near him.
They do – and with him suddenly there is abundance beyond belief, beyond need, beyond hope.
Beyond hope, Jesus brings them overflowing grace – the gift of God’s mercy shines into their lives like the first ray of dawn after a long and lonely night.
Weak, wandering, lost – the disciples are gathered in like strayed sheep. Their shepherd is calling to them. They come to anchor.
And then he turns the table around on them. Now, Peter, you are to be the host. The shepherd. Do you love me? Yes, Lord, you know I do. Then you look after my sheep.
You, who have shown your own weakness, your own fear, your own folly, you are the best qualified. You know what it is to be lost – and you know what it is to be found.
Feed my sheep.
Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)
Sarah Dylan Breuer, “Living by the Word: Unlimited good”, The Christian Century, Vol. 124, No. 7 (April 3, 2007), p. 19.
Herbert O’Driscoll, The Word Today: Reflections on the Readings of the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Volume 2 (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre), 2001, p. 64-71.
Trinity Cathedral, Sacramento
April 22, 2007