To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb Be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! And the four living creatures said “Amen.”
In the great fifty days of Easter, our lectionary directs our focus to encounters with the resurrected Jesus. The Gospel writers share stories of the disciples’ experiences and the accompanying texts give us a glimpse of both the history of the nascent Church and the early Christians’ understanding of the divine implications of the Resurrection. Today we have the conversion of the Saul of Tarsus as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles and the writer of the Revelation to John gives us a vision of heavenly adoration of Christ the Paschal Lamb glorified in his sacrifice for the salvation of the world. The Gospel, however, shares a more down to earth story.
While there is a miraculous occurrence implied in the great catch of fish, the heart of Jesus’ interaction with the disciples is that of a man reconnecting with his friends over a meal. The writer of the Gospel suggests that the disciples’ did not recognize Jesus at first and yet they did not hesitate to once more cast their nets at his bidding…despite the fact that they had been fishing all night and caught nothing. Peter does not recognize Jesus until after they hauled in the great catch of fish. In some respects, the miracle seems only the means for acquiring breakfast, as Jesus makes a fire and cooks a couple of the fish for a picnic by the sea. This is not the only story of the Resurrected Jesus eating with the disciples. As with the other accounts here, the writer of John is making clear that the Jesus who rose from the dead was in fact still human…and not some sort of ghost or ghoul. He had a physical body that could be touched and could eat and drink in the usual way. Of course, none of the writers give us any indication of where Jesus resided or what he was doing outside of his encounters with the disciples. The disciples don’t seem to have any curiosity about where he goes or what he does when he is not with them.
Despite the lack of specifics about his post-resurrection life the point being made here is that Jesus was human both before death and after his resurrection. Of course, there are hints that he was physically different as implied by the ongoing difficulty in recognizing him and in mysterious ability to just appear and disappear. Whether those were miraculous occurrences or just seemed supernatural to ordinary people who were already out of their depth in trying to understand how the dead Jesus was now alive, we cannot know.
The most important part of this meeting by the sea was not the catch of fish or the meal, it was the restoration of Peter. Even in the midst of the joy of seeing Jesus again, Peter had to be dealing with the memory of his betrayal in the house of the high priest. In asking Peter three times if he loved him Jesus was calling to mind Peter’s threefold denial. Perhaps Peter did not realize it until the third time when he becomes distressed. True reconciliation requires us to face our own guilt…to acknowledge the blame that is rightfully ours and to seek forgiveness without denial or excuse. Peter needed to acknowledge his failure and to accept that Jesus forgave him and loved him anyway. When we acknowledge the hurt we have done, as painful as it is to do so, we can truly accept forgiveness and then forgive ourselves.
Three times Peter denied Jesus and three times Jesus asked him to declare his love…three times Jesus reiterated his call as a disciple to love and care for those whom Jesus loves. Peter was called at that moment to carry on the work of Christ and the care for those who would come to follow Jesus in the future. In that one moment, he was forgiven for his failure and restored to relationship with Christ and sent out to share Christ’s love with those who would hear the message and follow.
Like Peter, Christ is always calling each of us to be restored in relationship… calling us to admit our own shortcomings and failures and to accept forgiveness for the times we have not lived into our call to love…. In accepting forgiveness we are reconciled with God and given new purpose and new energy to for fulfilling it. We find inspiration and a desire to share the love of Christ in very tangible ways and to work toward healing our broken relationships with our friends and family.
Admitting our own sinfulness and accepting forgiveness requires a measure of humility that is not fashionable in our current society. We live in a time when people do not want to accept responsibility for anything and arrogance and a narcissistic self-absorption is a way of life. In this throw-away culture, we cultivate superficial relationships with disposable friends that we keep as long as they are entertaining. We spend much more time focused on ourselves…especially our appearance. We expend a great deal of time and money on making our exterior selves look good. We paint and drape and exercise. We surgically mold…suck fat out…inject collagen in…moisturize and mask…all in the pursuit of some ever-changing ideal of physical perfection….an ideal that has been sold to the public by manufacturers and marketers who have amassed huge profits by selling an illusion.
At the same time, we have neglected the interior person focusing our attention on entertainment and diversion neglecting the spiritual and obsessing on the physical. We do not think deeply about anything. We refuse to read anything longer than the average Facebook post or twitter feed. We spend hours binge-watching television programs while our personal relationships languish from neglect. We do not have conversations with our spouses or our children and certainly not our neighbors or friends. We are too distracted to hear the call of the Holy Spirit and the sheep we have been given to care for have been left to starve because we have eyes only for the face in the mirror.
Brothers and sisters, there is still time to reset our spiritual clocks…to shift our focus away from ourselves and back to Christ and those whom our Lord has called us to love. We can learn again to live our lives with intention rather than drifting from distraction to distraction. My sister once told me that there are two kinds of people…those who lead their lives and those whose lives lead them. There is a measure of truth in that statement. Many of us spend our lives reacting rather than acting. We let ourselves be led away by all manner of unimportant things and in the process neglect what really matters. We can if we choose to begin to remove some of the unnecessary distractions from our lives. We can make time to reconnect with our loved ones….to reconnect with our own spiritual selves. We can recommit ourselves to our worship communities and seek renewal of our faith.
Easter is all about resurrection. We are celebrating our Lord’s triumphant victory over death and the grave and at the same time we are reminded of our own need to be resurrected from the grave of apathy…of selfishness…of spiritual inertia. Here in this season of rebirth and new growth, we can find ourselves reborn…reinvigorated… reconnected with life with our community…with our loved ones.
Life is to be savored…to be lived to the fullest with energy and engagement of our hearts our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. It is time to stop gazing into our mirrors. But rather than merely looking out our windows let us instead throw open the doors and run outside to meet the world…with joyful abandon and unconditional love.