“Caught Anything..?” Let us pray Rev. Stuart Buisch
I really didn’t want to reference the pandemic in this sermon. Then pulling a phrase from the John text for the sermon title, I looked at it later in the bulletin and realized how deeply connected the sense of being caught could be to our time. In John, Jesus asks the disciples in the boat, who didn’t recognize him, if they had ‘caught anything?’
Habakkuk tells the story of a time of crises not simply because of conflict and enemies but also poor harvest. The hearers of his prophecy were afraid and overwhelmed and yet they climb a mountain to realize that God is with them to help them go on no matter the details of their current situation. Song of Solomon tells the story of a bridegroom ‘caught’ by the love of his soon to be spouse.
The image of caught has two images: hope filled promise, ‘I got it,’ the thing that I have wanted/needed/longed for a long time. And, for those out of control, caught only heightens the anxiety, ‘We have been caught.’ Habakkuk and Song of Solomon clearly set out these two uses. But let’s look more closely at this ‘third appearance of Jesus’.
The night before Simon Peter, wait Simon? Jesus gave him the name Peter but Jesus is something... gone, raised, playing hide and seek. As people who have read these stories for years we have a sense of what is happening. But the disciples are living this forward. They don’t have our global understanding of the story from years after it took place. They are troubled by this Christ who shows up, disappears and repeats this time after time. John says three times. If you add to this account the reality of death. The women and John saw Jesus die. Judas saw him convicted and went and killed himself. Did the disciples feel that suicidal loss of Judas or was he always the outsider. Seldom do we talk about the grief of losing one of their comrades for the last three years. Did Peter do the thing about replacing Judas to get some level of normalcy? They were twelve again! Judas’ outsider nature must have had an impact.
So the death of Jesus, the suicide of Judas, the betrayal of Peter – the one who ran to see the empty tomb but never saw the risen Christ in that empty tomb. Faith grants a capacity to believe that which cannot be seen. John saw risen-ness in the folded grave clothes. Mary saw the gardener, and when he called her name, she saw Jesus. Now Jesus appears to them in the most irrational ways. These followers of Jesus have a lot of information and experience to process. We have these things to process as well all these years later. What have we caught?
Let’s return to Simon Peter. Did Peter return to part of his old name simply until he got his faith feet under him? Is he both old self and new self, combined in that name, Simon and Peter? Whatever the case he is ready to return to the boat, to the familiar, to the routine. All of us like routine. In moments of crises we all seek to stabilize with a tradition, a pattern something we know what to do with. I grew up in a home of creativity and routine. I can remember rocking in the chair in the kitchen while mom ironed on the board that came out of a cupboard in the wall next to the rocker. When the ironing was done the board went away. It was pretty cool. The sewing machine, knitting or crocheting was not so tidy. They stayed where they were left. That’s my excuse and I am sticking to it. However, when I sit down to the sewing machine I have a familiarity, I think I sense my mom’s presence even if she was convinced that there were jobs for women and other jobs for men and I was in the wrong place.
Peter went fishing to process. To seek to make sense of what was happening. Even there Jesus met him as I believe the Spirit of Jesus meets us today wherever we are. Our scene can seem like Monday morning quarterbacking. A man on shore tells you to put the net on the other side of the boat. I am still not sure why they did it. Was it sheer exhaustion or failure from a whole shift with nothing to show? No matter, they did it and could not get the net in the boat. They even counted the fish. Their lives had shifted. They needed Jesus even to do the old and familiar. They were caught by their need of Christ. As are we.
Peter gets dressed and jumps in the water. I may never understand that but I can see the impulsive one who also raced to the empty tomb, racing to be with Jesus. I can imagine the need to be with Jesus before the others get there and Jesus mingles with them. I know an inner need of mine to be alone with the one who loves my soul. I can also imagine what the sequence might be like trying to understand, trying to believe what had happened to Jesus. Like Luke on the road to Emmaus more made sense to the two when Jesus broke the bread. Here again on the shore, with a fish cooking fire, bread and fish are broken and understanding and faith are more firmly planted in the souls of these disciples. They are caught by a truth taking root in them.
We all need to bring to Jesus some of what catches us, some of who we are, some of what we dream. When we are in the presence of the risen Christ the rest of the story of Jesus becomes our story if we listen and enter the story. Like Simon we may be afraid of becoming the rock – Peter. We may be uncertain of the gifts and skills that we were created and redeemed to be and have. In a certain sense we will always be both Simon and Peter. But that is why in some baptisms the wet one gets a new name. In Christ, in the love of God, in the calling by God of our name or names we are named for the life that lies before us. What God is calling us to is simply to come. To come with our fish and his fish and feed the physically hungry and the spiritually hungry. To come with our talents and the talents God sees in us to be Christ with those who can’t get there heads and hearts around an invisible risen, death defeating God.
In essence we are caught in an embrace of love and life for the world we find ourselves in, for the people that we are around, to address the needs we see and can’t yet perceive around us, Amen.
Eternal God, grant us to see the space we are in and quiet our fears and anxiety..
Loving God, let your compassion restore our empty love with openness and hope…
Gracious God, restore to us a sense of praise and promise in these days…
Let your love and healing work in those who are sick and those who are alone…