Blog
Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15   Entries 1-5 of 73
April 12, 2016, 11:57 AM

The Other Side of the Boat


John 21:1-19
Later, Jesus himself appeared again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. This is how it happened: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus[a]), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter told them, “I’m going fishing.”
They said, “We’ll go with you.” They set out in a boat, but throughout the night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’t realize it was Jesus.
Jesus called to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
He said, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”
So they did, and there were so many fish that they couldn’t haul in the net. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they weren’t far from shore, only about one hundred yards.
When they landed, they saw a fire there, with fish on it, and some bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you’ve just caught.” 11 Simon Peter got up and pulled the net to shore. It was full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three of them. Yet the net hadn’t torn, even with so many fish. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples could bring themselves to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
15 When they finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Jesus asked a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 He asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 I assure you that when you were younger you tied your own belt and walked around wherever you wanted. When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and another will tie your belt and lead you where you don’t want to go.” 19 He said this to show the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. After saying this, Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.”
 
“The Other Side of the Boat”
 
There is an art to storytelling. It is a work of art when a storyteller weaves a story that reaches out and captivates the audience, pulling them into the narrative. One of my favorite biblical storytellers is the Rev. Walter Wangerin, a Lutheran minister who has shared his passion for scripture through beautiful and faithful retellings of favorite biblical stories. I have two favorites. The first I can barely talk about without getting tearful, a telling of Jesus on the cross looking down and encountering his mother.  The second story is a rich weaving of the creation narrative, where God creates Adamah-earth creature—from the dust of the earth. Walter and his wife had recently welcomed a daughter into their family, a child of their heart but not of their bodies, when Walter created this retelling.  This beautiful young girl was having trouble adjusting as she looked nothing like her white, German parents; with her long dreadlocks, beautiful brown skin, and differently shaped nose, lips and eyes. Walter took this creation of Adamah story, and dwelt within it for a moment in order for his daughter to see the beauty of her own creation.
 
He told of God scooping the clay of the earth and lovely shaping her wonderful body. Walter described how God spent extra time molding her head and face so they would be perfect. God’s fingers smoothed out her full lips, nudged her beautiful nose into shape from the clay. God took God’s thumbs and smoothed and smoothed her eyes until they were perfect and shone brightly. God wove the braids of her beautiful hair. Finally, when all was just as God wanted it, God leaned in and pressed God’s lips to hers, breathing ruah-Spirit-into her to give her the spark of life.
 
As Walter told the story, the listeners were drawn into this beautiful, intimate moment. Not only could we visualize God’s creation of Walter’s daughter, in the story we could envision our own creation, the creation of someone we love, and even the creation of strangers we meet on the street. All lovingly sculpted by the hands of the great and loving Creator. There is an art to storytelling.
 
The author of the Gospel of John is such a storyteller. Throughout the gospel of John we are gifted with these wonderful narratives from Jesus’ life and ministry, long and rich in detail, designed to captivate the listener and draw them into the action of the story—to make the story about the listeners as much as the characters in the story. Chapter 21 of John is a wonderful example of this art of taking an event from Jesus’ ministry and calling us to dwell (a favorite word of John’s) within it.
 
The story begins with Peter’s declaration, “I’m going fishing!” Immediately we are invited to step into Peter’s sandals, or as Margaret Keyser would say, “to stand in his feet.” The last few weeks for Peter have been pretty crazy, haven’t they? The craziness basically began when they first arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover—the huge parade, complete with donkey, and crowds shouting “hosanna! (Save us)” as they waved branches and laid cloaks on the path. “This is it!” Peter thought, “All we have been waiting for is finally happening!” Jesus drove the money changers and those gouging the poor out of the temple. He confronted religious leaders. “Yes!” the disciples were so excited, “this is it!” And then the tone completely changed.
 
There was a dinner. Jesus knelt at their feet and washed their feet like a slave. He was subdued, even sad; talking about God’s glory and his own death.  There was the garden, Jesus’ anguished prayers. And a kiss…that changed everything. A betrayal by one of their own—Judas. Peter found himself in a courtyard around a charcoal fire, and three times he denied he was a follower of Jesus. The disciples fled into the night, hiding behind locked doors. Crucifixion. Burial. How did it all go so wrong? And then, in the wee hours of the night—morning really—Mary ran in claiming Jesus’ body was missing—stolen. Peter ran and found it to be true, but a short time later Mary returned claiming, “I have seen the Lord!” And everything changed again. Twice Jesus stood among them—physically there, completely present, proclaiming new life and peace, and declaring it was their turn to be sent.
 
So what is Peter feeling in this moment by the lake? What is he feeling after these last whirlwind weeks? Exhausted? Emotionally drained? Overwhelmed? How would we feel, standing in his shoes? What do you do when it is all just too much to process? You turn to something familiar, something you can do in your sleep. You turn to something your body knows. You keep busy and let your mind turn off for a bit. We understand this feeling of Peter’s, for we get overwhelmed by life as well—especially in this season when calendars are easily filled to overflowing and to-do lists swell. And then suddenly the story expands, as the other disciples present declare they are going fishing with Peter. Now this story is about more than Peter’s personal exhaustion and confusion, it is about the community of followers, together overwhelmed and struggling.
 
We, the church of today, are experiencing our own exhaustion and sense of being overwhelmed. The world is changing so quickly. Nothing seems to be as it was. Attendance is different. Budgeting as a community of faith is difficult as giving changes. Ministries and programs that were foundations of our life together now struggle to survive. How do we minister in this new day and age? So what do we do as we become overwhelmed? We turn to what we know. We turn to worship, Sunday school, our classes and studies. We feed people—we are United Methodist, after all. All of these are wonderful things. But when we pull in our nets to measure our fruitfulness, however that looks for us, too often we find the nets heart wrenchingly empty. So we try harder. We get bigger, better nets. We move them in the water with more energy. We hang some bait on them. We cast them and pull them in over and over and over again. And we find ourselves exhausted, and frustrated, and even a bit angry—all this work and so little result.
 
And then there is this cheeky person, standing just a few yards off, who seems oblivious to our frustration and effort; This One has the audacity to call over, “hey kids, did ya catch anything?” “No, grumble, grumble, grumble.” The One calls, “Turn to the other side of the boat.”
 
What does that entail, turning to the other side of the boat? It shouldn’t be a big deal, should it? We just need to turn around. Surely the disciples have fished out of both sides of their boats over the course of their years as fisherpersons? But Jesus isn’t talking about fishing, is he? Jesus is talking about discipleship, and the ruts we find ourselves in from time to time. Jesus is talking about changing perspective, breaking the status quo, turning in new directions. He didn’t ask them to move to new waters, or to buy new and better nets, but simply to find the right side of the boat.
 
In the disciples’ willingness to give it a try, everything changes. As the fruitfulness of this new perspective begins to pour in, the disciples realize that it was Jesus calling to them from the shore. After all, every amazing catch in the gospels is a result of Jesus’ presence among them. With this realization, they rush to Jesus and are welcomed, invited to breakfast and to contribute toward breakfast. They are fed and nourished. Those overwhelming feelings and stresses fall away as they are surrounded by love and grace. Perhaps the next time they are overwhelmed by the world, by life, by expectations and feel that urge to dig deeper into what they know, they will hear Jesus calling sooner and try the other side of the boat.
 
As the story moves toward its conclusion, the wide expanse is again telescoped in on Peter. Along with the other disciples, he has been nourished and renewed, but more is needed. Once again he finds himself around a charcoal fire, but not at a trial this time, in Communion. Jesus probes Peter’s pain and doubt, and he pulls a confession from Peter three times of his love for Jesus. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.” Simon Peter, the Rock, is now not only renewed, he is re-commissioned, restored, reconciled. He is a new creation, molded in the image of his Creator, his Rabbi. He is ready to be the Rock on which Christ is building Christ’s church. All this because the followers of Jesus were willing to listen and try the right side, the other side, of the boat. Thank you, gospel storyteller, for calling us into the story. Amen.

Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15   Entries 1-5 of 73
Contents © 2017 First United Methodist Church | Church Website Provided by mychurchwebsite.net | Privacy Policy