It was nice to be back in the pulpit after a week off, even if I was a little under the weather and doing it with not much of a voice! Here is my sermon …
Rehoboth Congregational Church
April 10, 2016
Experiencing Resurrection In Not-So-Subtle Ways
Bruce and I were in Connecticut last weekend and worshipped at my mom’s church; the church that I was raised in, the church that Bruce and I were married in and the church that I was ordained in.
With so much history between us, a visit to the First Congregational Church of Kent is never really a subtle thing for me. People are excited to see Bruce and me and we are always thrilled not only to see them, but also have the opportunity to worship with them.
That being said, I always hate when the excitement of a visit to my home church gets in the way of the actual worship that we are all there to do. And so, with that in mind, I suggested to Bruce that we grab a cup of coffee on our way to church that morning so we could sneak in after worship was already underway and not make a big scene.
We walked into church around 10:02 and I could hear announcements happening in the sanctuary. We snuck in the side door and said a quiet “hi” to the ushers in the back while we waited for my mom to finish. My plan, at that point, was to find a pew once everyone was standing for the first hymn.
Unfortunately, my plan came to a crashing halt when my mom stopped what she was doing to say, “And I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Rev. Sarah Weaver and Bruce! I’m sorry, I like to show you guys off.”
So much for being subtle.
Jesus was not exactly subtle when, after his resurrection, he appeared to the disciples on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias in this story from the Gospel of John. He not only yelled out to the disciples in their boat from the beach, but he also did something that I have learned in six years of marriage never to do – pointed out the fact that the guys had not caught any fish.
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.”
And yet, insulting the disciples’ fishing skills was not the reason Jesus appeared to the disciples that morning. For all intents and purposes, Jesus appeared to the disciples that morning so he could welcome them into his midst, make them breakfast and share a meal with them.
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread … Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”
This story comes from the end of the Gospel of John, the very last chapter. This is the third and final time that Jesus appears to the disciples and when you read this story, there is something very familiar about it all. Jesus’ actions in these moments with the disciples remind us of stories from his life, poignant pieces of his ministry. When Jesus takes empty fishing nets and yet cooks an abundant breakfast of fish and bread for the disciples, we are reminded of the story of the loaves and the fishes. When Jesus says to one of his disciples, “Follow me,” we are brought back to the first chapter of the Gospel of John, where Jesus called his disciples into ministry with him and said those exact same words. Jesus asking Simon Peter, “Do you love me?” three times draws a striking resemblance to the Passion Narrative, where Simon Peter denied Jesus three times.
It is almost as if these verses, this interaction between Jesus and the disciples, are a flashback to what had happened in the Gospel of John and in Jesus’ life and ministry; like when a musician runs offstage at the end of a show and then runs back on for an encore medley of the best songs of the night to give the audience just a little bit more. Here it is in living color: A not-so-subtle appearance of the resurrected Christ, showing off his best stuff, giving his audience just a little bit more.
Some scholars believe that these verses were not actually in the original version of the Gospel, that they were written by an anonymous author and added later as an epilogue. I have no idea whether that theory is true or not, but regardless, it kind of begs the question: What is the point? What is the point of Jesus, not simply appearing to the disciples, but reenacting pieces of his life? There are so many things that Jesus could do when he appears to the disciples. Why does he recreate things that have already happened?
Perhaps this was intentional. Perhaps this was meant to show us that Jesus’ grace and blessings were not just intended to be showered upon those in the past, those that lived and dwelled with Jesus, but also those in the present and future. Perhaps this was meant to assure us that the resurrected Christ appears to all of us – even those of us reading and believing 2,000 years later. Perhaps this was meant to open our eyes to the possibility that these stories are more than simply words on paper for us, that they actually do give us light, hope and meaning to our lives.
We are in the midst of the Easter season, which is the season between Easter Sunday and Pentecost; a season marked with white vestments and themes of resurrection and new life. We celebrate Easter as a season and not just as a one day holiday to remind us that the resurrection of Jesus was not something that happened once, but something that is continuously happening. The resurrection of Jesus is not something that happened simply for the disciples then, but also something that happens for us now. This scripture brings light to the mysterious, but amazing truth that Jesus’ life can be lived in all of us. We see the Risen Christ in our midst; we experience resurrection in our lives.
And there is nothing subtle about it.
If you really look for it, resurrection happens all around us. Resurrection happens when we find a community of faith that loves us, cares for us and supports us. Resurrection happens when we have the opportunity to worship in a way that is alive and vibrant and interesting. Resurrection happens when we see grace in unexpected ways and places.
Resurrection happens when light shines boldly in the midst of a dark place even when we have no idea where that light came from. Resurrection happens when we serve others and also allow others to serve us.
Resurrection happens when we read ancient words of scripture and find ways for them to be meaningful, relevant and accessible in our lives. Resurrection happens when we pray in big and daring and courage ways.
Resurrection happens when we learn something; when we learn something about ourselves, about our faith and about others. Resurrection happens when we make faith a priority in our lives, even if that means making sacrifices.
Resurrection happens when we learn how to care for ourselves; to quiet the noise in our lives so that we can finally hear God speaking to us. Resurrection happens when – against all odds – we see the face of Christ in others and let others see the face of Christ in us.
Resurrection happens when, like the disciples hauling in their nets full of fish and going ashore for an abundant meal, we recognize the Resurrected Christ in our midst.
The Resurrected Christ is not supposed to come into our lives in a subtle way. The Resurrected Christ is, in fact, supposed to come into our lives in a way that inspires us, teaches us, heals us and transforms us. The Resurrected Christ is supposed to come into our lives in a way that will change our lives; in a way that will take the pieces of us and find a way to make us whole. The Resurrected Christ is supposed to come into our lives in a way that will move us to go out into the world and make it a better place.
We need to open our eyes to the bold and radical truth that God’s work is not done yet, that these words of scripture are still speaking and that we are part of a story that is still being written.
So don’t be subtle. Don’t let your faith be subtle. Don’t let God’s work in your life be subtle. Let yourself be transformed by it all. Let you faith help you change the world and make it better. Don’t sell yourself short; do the impossible and see what it means to truly live out the gospel.
Just like Bruce and I were last weekend when we tried to sneak into church late and were anything but subtle, Jesus was anything but subtle when he appeared to the disciples on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias. But it was real, it was powerful and it was holy.
So may your moments with the Resurrected Christ be just as real, just as powerful and just as holy.
Thanks be to God!