This meeting between the risen Christ and the disciples on the shoreline of the sea of Galilee reminds us that sometimes we need to act, and help pull in the net. Sometimes we need to listen, sometimes we need to completely change course, jump out of the boat being lead and inspired by Christ who calls us… and sometimes we simply need to be fed. To allow the sacred to wash over us and fills us and heal us and encourage us and inspire us.
We need to come and listen and eat and be filled and watch the coals flicker as we listen to the Word.
Let us Pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight oh Lord in whom we live and move and have our being. Amen
I was fortunate enough to travel last month to some of the places of the Holy Lands in Israel and Palestine where people tell the story of what happened in this spot here or in that spot over there.
So you’re going to these tangible locations, these Holy Sites. “here, this is the point of the crucifixion—according to the Catholics—but over there that is where the Orthodox believe it occurred. And here is the tomb, according to the Protestants…. There’s this preacher, Fred Cradock who tells the story of his visit to the holy lands. He was on a tour that visited the upper room, the site of the Last Supper. The group right before them was being led by a pastor who they overheard talking to his group. “This is the very room where Jesus shared the last supper with his disciples. You are sitting on the very seats where they sat …” and then the group prayed and had communion and left. Then when it was Cradock’s group’s turn to come in and enter the room, their tour guide points to the walls and the arched ceiling and started telling them “now we can tell that this is a 16th or 17th century building by the arches over here and the real last supper plainly did not take place anywhere near the vicinity.” So at this point a woman leads over to Cradock and whispers… “I want to be in that group.”
For some folks traveling in my delegation, they couldn’t get over that. The confusion and debate, the archeological excavations and the discrepancies of where specific events happened…. And even some of the places filled with the candles and red velvet and it seemed maybe even a little tacky in some of the churches. And the commercialization of a spot. They were desiring a sense of the holy and it became a barrier for them in these places. I think especially for generations of protestants, we’re prone to skepticism, we want to examine the reality and understand how and know how everything happened in specifically what way and somehow that squeaks out a sense of the sacred, especially in these places, these places of conflicting sources, disagreeing scholars and proof seekers.
But for me, to think about how people/ how pilgrims of many generations have come for centuries to these very spots to this Holy Ground, and reflect and to pray and to read scripture, and think about these specific events, even if it wasn’t this exact spot, that meant something to me. I tried in the crowd of people clamoring to touch the stone, the specific spot, I tried to envision the crowd so many years ago clamoring to yell, mercy or crucify! And then imagine the silence of the morning when the women made their way to the tomb. Even if this wasn’t that spot, that specific place, the sense that people have come and connected with the divine in these very locations… there was something awe-inspiring in that.
But Then we came to the shore of the sea of galilee also called the Sea of Tiberius, that we read about in the Scripture today. We only had a few minutes there beside the sea and I walked to the edge, and I pulled my boats and socks off and stuck my feet right in. I was struck by the clearness of the water, the smooth lapping of the shoreline, the serenity of the day as the sunshine glinted off the ripples. I reached my hand down into the cold water and I picked up some of the stones. I turned to my friends on the trip and I could see the skepticism was gone… there was no one arguing the spot of the sea… Maybe the exact spot where the breakfast happened seemed less important. There weren’t any adornments. There was just a simple chapel close to the Beach. And No one’s changing that location… no one’s moving the sea. The landscape may be different, But people have stood here and prayed here, connected with God in this place… we become part of the history of that shoreline, a part of the tangible story.
When studying this passage at the end of the Gospel of John there is debate about how it fits into the gospel or not. Maybe it was written by John, maybe it was just added at the end.
It differs from the other post resurrection stories in the Gospel of John, which occur in Jerusalem at specific intervals of time. Mary it says came to the tomb early on the first day of the week, and Jesus came to the disciples on that same evening on the first day. And then one week later… when Thomas is with the disciples and invited to touch and believe. Those all happened in Jerusalem at the end of Chapter 20 and it seems to wrap things up nicely. With a concluding statement, saying that there were many more things done, and there wouldn’t be enough paper to fill with all the stories. I think that seems like a solid conclusion. Then this encounter is back in Galilee and introduced as after these things… there is a vague sense of timing in which these disciples have gone back home. Gone back to where they started from… and gone fishing. It might be helpful to think of this chapter functioning as an epilogue to the Gospel. To remind us of some things we might have forgotten in the activities and excitement of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Remind us about how Jesus meets us where we are. 
But sometimes epilogues don’t quite fit. You know how JK Rowling wrote an epilogue on the end of her Harry Potter masterpieces. Some fans were upset by how trite it seemed at the end of her beautifully engaging and epic tales of Harry and his friends. A lot of folks were up in arms about it, but she got to decide how the story ended. Others didn’t get to finish the story in whatever way they wanted. She remained in control of the future happenings of her characters.
In a way the epilogue in John is functioning similarly. It reiterates important points of the Gospel: Grace, abundance, Christ’s presence in the midst of the community, Feeding. Then after their breakfast Jesus charges the disciples to feed his sheep.
So as a reader of this book, if you were thinking Jesus’ compassion only exists in his human side, before the resurrection… think again! Jesus still sits with his friends on the shore and does very human activities… he cooks them breakfast. If we are thinking his generosity stops at the cross… here, he is offering a feast, a communion among his people.
The risen Christ continues to come among them, as they break bread together. As they are gathered. “This morning meal [shows] …the risen Christ continues to share in the table fellowship of the church, continues to supply the strength and nurture we need for our lives and work.”
Even if the epilogue wasn’t written by John himself, it has become part of the story. Like the locations and the sites of the Holy Lands, it has become part of the story. And we can choose to learn from it, or let skepticism put barriers between us and the bigger story. It functions as a bridge between the Jesus of Nazareth and the continued presence of Christ among the believing community and reminds us to sit with Christ. Remember to let him feed you!
As I stood at the Sea of Galilee, I looked out across the water… and the sense of incarnation, the reality of Christ walking among us hit me in a powerful way, it centered me.
For the disciples, their next steps, their way forward wasn’t easy. They end up living and dying for what they believe in. But first they were fed. They were grounded in their faith. Reminded of truth.
On my trip After that morning, by the sea, later in that day, we had some really challenge meetings and met with some folks who had suffered truly great sorrow…. we had the privilege to hear their stories and walk with them for a few hours, to sit with them and eat with them, learn from their hospitality. Later in the evening as we attempted to be a presence for them in their sorrow, I thought about had much it had strengthened me to sit and to pray and to read scripture… it grounded me, it prepared me for what was to come.
Sometimes its easy for us to get taken up into a struggle and be overwhelmed by a situation, whether it is our own or a dear friend’s and we feel lost maybe unstable, and we feel ourselves slipping away… OR maybe it’s a project at work that we are so caught up in, that we don’t see ourselves becoming consumed by it.
Over and over again, you’re running something in your head, trying to solve this problem at work, or school, you’re trying to think through the conversation you need to have with your family or a loved one.
But, you come up with nothing. All night long, dwelling, and no clarity comes.
Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my thoughts that I fail to open my eyes see the bigger picture… Look! The fish are on this side of the boat.
The disciples couldn’t see it until they listened for God. Allowed the boat to turn, a refocusing of energy.
Sometimes, it’s a small adjustment, just slightly shifting the course. And other times you have to jump completely out of the Boat, abandoning the original plan and swim full heartedly for the shoreline, in another direction.
Sometimes this happens when you go away for a time. Sometimes when students leave home and then return, their friendships are never quite the same. Or if you’ve traveled, and encountered life in another way, or you’ve experienced a deep grief, and then you go back home. You think about how life could maybe be like it was… but it’s never the same. You are different, you’ve been changed and maybe you expect things to be how they were before. But they’ve changed too.
The disciples had been changed by their time spent with Christ. they leave Jerusalem, they come out of hiding from the upper room and go home. But after this they were changed…. Profoundly.
Here for the disciples, they try to find some solace in their old occupation, as fisherman. Out in the water… but they can’t they can’t do it without the guidance of Christ. They spent all night fishing on the wrong side of the boat!
When we don’t take the time to stop and eat breakfast with Jesus, or whatever that means for you in your life, listen to his guidance. We could be so close, but we’re just missing the mark, slightly!
And it’s never too late to realize this… it’s never to late to throw your net on the other side. IT’s not to late to do something about that little voice urging you to turn around, urging you to a more fruitful place in your life.
There is a difference between the times when we need to do the feeding and when we simply need to be fed, and that takes listening. That takes prayer. That takes the community. Peter didn’t recognize the man on the shoreline. It was the beloved disciple, another person in the community. He recognized Christ in the man on the shore. And Peter led the way. So whether you play the role of listener or leader, your role is important. Its important to take the time to sit at Jesus’ feet around the campfire.
And be reminded to row close to shore, and come and be filled. Enjoy a tasty fish breakfast. Sit by the coals and enjoy the companionship of good friends.
In these weeks, we as a community are taking the time to listen to one another and listen to where God is calling us. I was telling the youth last week, that one of the things I love so much about the Presbyterian system, is we get to listen and learn and grow together as we feel God is leading us. Pulling our hearts. It’s not just executing one in charge person’s vision. We get to study and learn and listen and grow and change together as God is leading us. And if we don’t take the time now to make the space to ground ourselves, to understand where we’re going and who we want to be, not only in our own lives, in our personal dreaming and callings, but also in the life of this community and this place. If we don’t ground ourselves, we can spend all night fishing on the wrong side of the boat.
So take the time. Listen. Pray. Eat good food with friends. And swim confidently towards God’s calling in your life!
 Thomas H. Troeger, “John 21:1-19 Homiletical Perspective.” Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2009), 421-423.
 Troeger, 423.