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Easter 3 April 10, 2016 - The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
EASTER 3  Year C
Acts 9:1-6, (7-20); Ps. 30; Rev. 5:11-14; John 21:1-19
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday, April 10, 2016
The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
From Jerusalem
          all the way  north
          to the Sea of Tiberias.
After the disciples’ encounter
with the risen Christ
in the upper room
          of last Sunday’s Gospel,
some of them
have decided to go fishing.
What do you do,
after all,
when you have experienced
the un-nerving impossible . . .
but take refuge
in something familiar,
something ordinary,
something you’ve known always to be true . . .
like the presence of fish in the sea.
(In those days,
that could be counted on,
unlike our own times
of climate change and ecological crisis.)
that’s not the theme of this sermon . . .
although it is a concern that
demands our attention,
our prayer,
and the kind of learning and conversation
that is occurring in our
Sabbath Economics class this Easter.
Back to the Sea of Tiberias,
where there were always plenty of fish.
But the disciples have been fishing
all night long,
again and again casting
          their heavy, water-logged net
                   out over the sea
                   and hauling it in,
wearying, back-breaking work,
          and nothing to show for it.
Then in early morning’s first light,
a shadowy figure on the beach,
somehow aware of the futility
          of their labors,
(we know how; they don’t)
suggests they cast their net
          on the other side of the boat.
As if the water under the boat
          weren’t continuous.
They are about to experience
the discontinuity
of their new reality.
They have been fishing in the dark,
          in more ways than one,
and not only the morning,
          but the true light
                   is about to dawn . . .
                   the light of the risen Christ.
(Night and darkness in John’s Gospel
day and light signifying
          the mind and heart’s illumination.)
As their net,
thrown to the other side of the boat,
miraculously fills
with a great catch of fish . . .
the sudden, familiar abundance
triggers recognition.
“It is the Lord!”
It’s touching how persistently and gently
the risen One
pursues his disciples . . .
as they struggle to grasp the meaning
of strange post-resurrection events . . .
How willing he is
to meet them where they are . . .
physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Today, he’s put together
a nice little breakfast for them
          right there on the beach.

Over a charcoal fire,
he’s grilled some fish he has apparently
          caught himself,
baked some loaves of bread . . .
and, now, as one does with children,
invites them to contribute to the grown-up work
          of meal preparation,
          “Bring some of the fish you have caught.”
It reminds me of the Eucharist,
from what God’s good Creation has already provided,
the wheat and the grapes,
          the sun and the rain,
          the fertile soil,
we, God’s children,
bring to the meal
our own humble offering of
the bread and the wine we have made,
and God uses them to feed us
with God’s own very life.
A Eucharistic moment,
there on the beach of the Sea of Tiberias . . .
There, where Jesus had once fed 5,000 people
with 5 loaves and 2 fish . . .
do the disciples make that connection? . . .
now, there, with bread and fish,
the risen One is feeding them.
A charcoal fire . . .
another resonance
with what came before:
As Peter, soaked to the skin
from his impetuous swim to shore
draws near to the fire to warm himself,
there are memories of another charcoal fire
in the courtyard of the high priest,
where Peter was warming himself,
          denying Jesus three times,
          and fleeing into the night
                   weeping for shame.
And now,
after the meal,
three times the question
“Do you love me?”
so that Peter may
reclaim his love for his Lord
          as many times as he had denied it,
and be forgiven,
and returned to the ministry of a disciple.
In that upper room in Jerusalem,
the risen Christ had said to the disciples,
“If you forgive the sins of any,
they are forgiven them;
if you retain the sins of any,
they are retained.”
On the beach by the Sea of Tiberias,
he enacts what that means
for the life of the Christian community . . .
for the life of the human community . . .

Where there is repentance,
forgiveness releases the one forgiven
from the prison
of regret, shame, guilt, sin . . .
renewal of hope,
restoration to full fellowship . . .
. . .  and the gift of new purpose
and participation.
“Feed my lambs.
Tend my sheep.
Feed my sheep.”
The sending,
the feeding and the tending,
the mission . . .
entrusted to Peter,
and to every disciple
with him and after him.
A meal with the risen One,
no matter how lovely, how warm,
how intimate,
always ends with the sending of his companions
into the world’s challenges and dangers.
For when we give our life over,
completely over,
to the urgings of the risen Christ,
we no longer determine
          where we go . . .
the cost of our mission –
a complete surrender of our life
to the work
and the way
and wherever the way may take us.
It seems to me
that this richly detailed final resurrection story
          in John’s Gospel,
sums up baptismal life,
Easter life with the God we have come to know
in the risen Christ:
The surprising, the thrilling abundance of God,
          in which we dwell,
          and which is meant for everyone . . .
The permeating presence of God,
          ever meeting us where we are,
          in encounters expected and unexpected,
          in the ordinary and the extraordinary moments
                   of our lives;
The persistence and gentleness of God’s pursuit of us,
          no matter our negligence and betrayals,
          God always ready to forgive,
                   to restore us to fellowship in Christ;
The generosity of God’s breakfast,
          bread broken, wine poured out,
                   risen life renewed;
The feeding and tending mission
entrusted to us,
          for the life of the world
                    and the good of all Creation.
And the joy and the cost
          of complete surrender to God  . . .
And the question asked and answered,
“People of Christ Church,      
‘Do you love me?’ ”