After these things

Worship Matters

John 21: 1-14 (NRSV)

21 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin,a]">[a] Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yardsb]">[b] off.

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

“After these things.”

 After Jesus had appeared in a room filled with fear and his friends, after Jesus had offered his wounds to Thomas, after Jesus disappeared as mysteriously as he had arrived, Peter wants to go fishing. Makes sense, right? He was a fisherman. That’s who he was, that’s what he did. There’s nothing wrong with a fisherman going fishing.

We can relate to his oh, so common default mode of returning to what is familiar, to what he is skilled and comfortable doing, to what feels normal. Mary, we remember, wanted to cling to Jesus when she recognized him at the empty tomb, but no, everything has changed. And Peter wanted to cling to fishing after he witnessed his friend Thomas touching Jesus’ wounds, but no, everything has changed.

And it took a night of waiting, waiting, waiting to prepare Peter to accept the advice of a stranger to try the other side. How difficult it is for us to accept help! Meanwhile, Peter is so busy hauling in the huge catch he doesn’t recognize Jesus’ voice, Jesus’ presence. But John does. And says so. Peter, like a flash, puts on his clothes, jumps out of the boat (once again, Peter is jumping out of a boat for love) and swims to shore. And there Jesus is prepared to make breakfast for them (once again, Jesus is offering sustenance for his friends).

Imagine how the story might have ended if Peter and his fisherman friends had been successful, had caught 153 fish straight away. Imagine if they hadn’t been forced by circumstances to take the advice of “a stranger” and try the other side. Our modern-day prophets have been trying to get our attention for decades, but we’ve been too busy being “successful” in what we are familiar with, comfortable with, secure with. Calgary has been successful, Foothills has been successful, our families have been successful.

And now Covid19 is forcing us to try the other side because we have to. Our community worship space has been taken away, our community singing, Sunday School for our kids. We’ve had no choice. And we, both as individuals and as a community, have the option of waiting, waiting, waiting for the predictable catch of fish to return to our nets, of waiting for the day when our worship rosters and worship teams and children’s focus and community announcements and singing from our hymn books and singing from the screen return to a full church service; waiting for the day when we have a new Lead Pastor.

Or we can try the other side. Now.

We can accept conditions as they are, we can let go of the familiar, the comfortable, the tried and true. Let it go. Even if it is good, life-giving, loved, especially if it is good, life-giving and loved. Let it go and trust that there is more abundance, more goodness, more life, on the other side than we can begin to imagine.

We can trust that this mysterious Christ will not leave us alone, will keep showing up, especially in our fear, especially in our dead ends, especially when we are tired and hungry and discouraged, will encourage us to try the other side, and then will offer us breakfast on the beach with the fish that we will pull on board, that we will count, that we will labour for, but that he led us to, that we discovered with his guidance.

May it be so. I encourage you to read the story again listening specifically for the voice of  Jesus to you, to Foothills.


John 21, 1-14 (MSG)

21 1-3 After this, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.”

3-4 The rest of them replied, “We’re going with you.” They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the beach, but they didn’t recognize him. Jesus spoke to them: “Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?” They answered, “No.” He said, “Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens.” They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in. 7-9 Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Master!” When Simon Peter realized that it was the Master, he threw on some clothes, for he was stripped for work, and dove into the sea. The other disciples came in by boat for they weren’t far from land, a hundred yards or so, pulling along the net full of fish. When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it.

10-11 Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.” Simon Peter joined them and pulled the net to shore—153 big fish! And even with all those fish, the net didn’t rip. 12 Jesus said, “Breakfast is ready.” Not one of the disciples dared ask, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Master. 13-14 Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus had shown himself alive to the disciples since being raised from the dead.