"Breakfast With Jesus"

Scripture:  John 21:1-19

A Tough Week…

This past week was a tough one.  We certainly had no shortage of tragedy in the news this week, from earthquakes and floods to bombings and acts of terrorism.  Yesterday afternoon, I actually wrote down the various major headlines from the week, and every single day this week either had a new headline of tragedy or a development in one of the continuing stories.

The series of events from this last week that captured our attention, concern, and prayers the most began in Boston, Massachusetts on Monday.  Two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing 3 people and injuring an additional 170.  The following days have been full of collective sadness, confusion, fear, and anger – in the city of Boston and across America and the world.

Throughout the week, I found myself doing the work that I needed to get done, but my mind and my heart were in Boston.  I found myself glued to my TV and computer screens, constantly refreshing the CNN front page in hopes of a new report that might offer some answers or at least provide a little bit of comfort.  I wanted to see or read something that would make me less worried about my friends and former classmates who are still living in the Boston area.  I wanted life to return to normal.

But throughout the week, more news rolled in:

  • An explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, TX
  • Major earthquakes in Pakistan and China
  • Flooding in the Midwest, including Illinois being declared a State of Emergency
  • Attacks throughout Iraq as the people prepared for regional elections on Saturday

It was a tough week.  I think that the feelings that I carry this morning, at the end of this difficult week, can be summed up by the words of one of my seminary colleagues, whose Facebook status on Friday afternoon read: “Next week had better bring nothing but peace and tranquility and rainbows and unicorns.”

Processing The Events

Now that the suspects in the Boston bombing are no longer on the loose, we want life to return to normal.  But it won’t.  Now that the rubble in West, TX has been searched, we want life to return to normal.  But it won’t.   Not for those who lost life or limb in the explosions.  Not for the people in the Boston Metro area who spent 24 hours in anxiety and uncertainty while they were under an order to shelter-in-place.  Not for those in Texas who lost their workplace, their homes, and their loved ones.  And not even for us who were across the country and the world, watching the events unfold from a safe distance.  The events of this week have changed us.

Unfortunately, as we all know, life isn’t always overflowing with peace and tranquility and rainbows and unicorns.

That’s a fact that I believe the disciples of Jesus were keenly aware of.

When we encounter the disciples in our gospel reading this morning, they had already been visited twice by the risen Christ.  They had already received their commission from Jesus, sent out to share the Good News.  They had already received the Holy Spirit, empowering them to teach and preach and heal and love.  Yet…  In the 21st chapter of John’s gospel, we don’t find them doing those things.  We find them fishing.

What is so important about them fishing, you might wonder?  Well, it is possible that the disciples were just hungry – and fishing was a way that they could get some food.  But I think the fact that we find them fishing in the Sea of Galilee after the resurrection is more important than that.

If you remember, Simon Peter was a fisherman when Jesus encountered him and invited him to be his first disciple.  And it is Simon Peter who is the first to return to the Sea of Galilee and begin fishing after the resurrection.  I think that Peter and the other disciples were trying to normalize what they had just been to, and their profession – fishing – was where they turned for something solid to lean on as they processed what had happened. 

I think they were simply “going through the motions” of life until they figured out what to do and where to go next.  Peter was yearning to do the one thing that he could simply do without having to think about it - pushing the boat out into the lake, lowering the nets and raising them again, hoping for a good catch.  In fact, I'm thinking Peter could probably go through those motions with his eyes closed – and he probably was doing just that as he and the other disciples continued to work out in their minds and in their hearts the unbelievable events of these last days.  

This makes sense to me, because I think that many of us do the same thing.  In times of crisis, or loss, or fear, or uncertainty, we grasp for what we know for sure, returning to familiar routines until our mind and heart can catch up with one another.  Until we find ourselves ready to step out in faith and hope again.

For some, they find that space for processing in digging into their professions.  For others, it’s baking.  Others find it in walking, or driving, or writing.  For the disciples, it was fishing.

Jesus’ Breakfast Invitation

I love this scripture passage because it doesn’t begin and end in that place of uncertainty.  In fact, the author begins this story by ruining it before the story has even been told: Hey, reader, I’m about to tell you a story about Jesus appearing by the Sea of Galilee!

It’s fun that, though we as readers know that Jesus is coming, the disciples on the boat have no idea.  Not knowing what else to do, they return to fishing.  And you can sense that they were probably disappointed by their lack of success whey they do so – they fished all through the night, but they caught nothing.  Not only did they not know how to carry on the ministry that Jesus had called them to, but now they couldn’t even succeed in the one thing they thought they knew how to do.  Now is the time for a pep talk, if there ever was one!

It is in the midst of their darkness and despair, their being paralyzed with grief and uncertainty, that Jesus meets the disciples and invites them to share a breakfast meal with him.  It is through this breakfast fellowship that happens around the table that the disciples recognize and acknowledge, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is Jesus Christ who is in their midst.

The hymn that we are going to be singing shortly has a chorus that has always warmed my heart.  It goes, “O Lord, with your eyes you have searched me/ and while smiling have spoken my name/ now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me;/ by your side I will seek other seas.”  There is power to the image of Jesus standing on the shore of the lake, speaking to the disciples, with a big smile on his face.  I doubt that there was anything that the disciples would have rather have seen in that moment.

We Are On The Lakeshore

There is no doubt that the past week has had its share of darkness and despair, grief and uncertainty.  The Good News is that this is just the type of place where Jesus tends to meet his followers.  So let us leave our boats and go to the lakeshore, where Jesus meets us, greets us, feeds us, and sends us to meet, greet, and feed others.