What gorgeous texts the Revised Common Lectionary offers us for this coming Sunday!
A passage from Revelation that is perhaps known best to most of us from its myriad musical settings, from Handel’s “Messiah” to “This is the Feast of Victory”…
A brief sketch of Saul’s own transformation from the guy “breathing threats and murder” against followers of Jesus’ way, to one who, twenty verses later, is proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues…
And then there’s one of my very favorite resurrection stories, John 21:1-19. It’s a long text, and it’s a rich one. It’s a funny text, in that, it seems pretty clearly to have been tacked onto a gospel whose author had already given it an ending (John 20:30-31). It begins with a scenario that seems a little odd in the aftermath of several depictions of resurrection encounters—with Mary Magdalene, with a group of disciples-minus-Thomas, and then with Thomas.
Seven disciples are together by the Sea of Tiberius (aka, the Sea of Galilee, and these are just two of its many names), and Simon Peter decides to go fishing. His six friends say, “We will go with you,” and they do. (Why fishing? Why now? Have the disciples lost the resurrection thread? Where, do you suppose, are the other four? OK, five? In Matthew Judas takes his own life; in Acts, Judas buys a field with his ill-gotten gains, and then falls in it and dies a spectacular, bloody death. No word on him, in either Mark or John, following the moment of betrayal.)
And it’s a miserable failure of a night—a whole night, and not a fish. And when, at dawn, Jesus stands on the beach, the men on the boat see him, but they don’t know him. (This is a persistent theme in the resurrection encounters, across the gospels: seeing, but not recognizing Jesus; seeing, but having doubts it could possibly be Jesus.)
(The gospels were made for us. They get that we are out here, wondering.)
After Jesus tells them to let the net down, one more time, on the right side of the boat, and an enormous haul of fish results, the one Jesus loves tells Simon Peter, “It is the Lord!” Whereupon, Simon puts on his clothes (puts them on? Not, takes them off?), and jumps into the water to swim to shore, to get to Jesus as quickly as he can.
And Jesus is, once again, host at a meal, this time a barbecue on the beach, fish and bread. And no one asks Jesus, “Who are you?” (What a detail! Which means, clearly, they wanted to ask… again, the mysterious resurrection body of Jesus. He passes through walls, but he eats. He materializes and disappears, but you can touch his wounds and feel his hot Spirit-breath on you.)
Jesus asks Simon, “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me more than these other chumps?” (I’m editorializing.)
And Simon replies, Yes, Lord, you know I do. And Simon is commissioned for the work of feeding the flock that will bear Jesus’ name.
The passage ends with Jesus seeing into Simon’s future, that the work he will do will lead him to a martyr’s death.
And then, after it all, even in the face of death: “Follow me.”
How about you, friends? Which passage is calling to you?
Are you in the midst of a sermon series, by any chance? I’m doing one called Easter People, because we have such an enormous cast of fantastic personalities and stories all through the season. But a series on Easter images throughout Revelation is equally fascinating, as is a series focused entirely on the passages from Acts—the Newborn Church.
Join us, won’t you, in the comments? Let us know what you are doing—and how you are doing, too.
And blessings this Eastertide. May the words of your mouths and the meditations of your hearts be pleasing to the one who is our rock and our redeemer; and may they be food to God’s hungry flock.
Pat has served as the pastor of Union Presbyterian Church in Endicott, New York since 2007. Pat is a graduate of the Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York (MDiv). She is a mother of two young adults (Ned and Joan) and happily partnered to Sherry. She loves swimming, reading, writing, and film. A native of the Jersey shore, and in love with the New England coastline, she misses the ocean every day.
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