Tuesday, April 16, 2013

153 cold slimy fish

ASK: Have you ever felt ‘emotional overload’?
    (Congregation answers)
if yes, When? Describe those feelings...

Think about the disciples at the point of today’s scripture. They have been thru some incredible emotions.

Gary Jones described it like this,
    “For the disciples, the general landscape of life over the last week of Jesus’ life had been overwhelming. The tension-filled, emotional high of their entry into Jerusalem was followed by extraordinary events in the temple, a Passover meal unlike any other, an intense experience in the Garden of Gethesmane, an unexpected betrayal, an armed arrest, a series of denials, a mock trial, a jeering mob, and a bloody execution. Surely in the hours following Jesus’ death, the disciples were crushed and numb. The human spirit can take only so much.          Then came the events that brought an emotional overload of another sort altogether--news of the empty tomb and resurrection appearances that had to be seen to be believed.     These events would not only overwhelm and change the lives of the disciples forever; these events would change the entire world forever.”1

After all this, Peter says, “I’m going fishing!” and several guys respond with, “We're with you!”. They attempt a return to ordinary life; the trade they know, to find some normalcy EVEN as they process all the NOT-normal events that have happened. But they find that the ordinary is no longer ordinary because out on the shoreline, is Jesus!

We could talk debate what they saw:
    A man on the shoreline
    Heard someone call to them.
 Peter responds rather strangely (it seems to us) by first clothing himself, THEN jumping into the water.
 The beloved disciple again, ‘sees and believes’
 And there’s the 153 cold slimy fish. . .that certainly must have some meaning?
. . .
Yet I think we should look closer at what WE see in this story, not just what the disciples saw. We know this story, because in many ways it echoes the whole story of Jesus’ ministry.
Let’s Investigate a bit: What other stories have ‘fish’ in them?
   (Congregation answers) Calling disciples in Luke,  a large catch of fish in Luke,  Feeding 5,000,
  this story has 153 large, cold slimy fish, and what does Jesus’ cook for breakfast? Fish!

Multi-voice: Questions to probe.
 Knowing what you know about the miracle of feeding, how do you see that miraculous feeding reflected here?
    Why is it important for Jesus to serve breakfast?
        What is important about the menu?
Now, what do you think is the take away for disciples?
    For us?

There’s an ABUNDANCE of fish. #153 may only be there to show volume. . Just as there was an abundance of wine at Jesus’ very first miracle in John.
It seems wherever Jesus is, there is plenty! And we are to project this understanding forward into the early church AND into our lives.

There’s even more reflected in this story that reaches back into John’s gospel and forward into our lives.
Jesus says, ‘cast your nets’ or DRAW your nets. It’s the same word he used when he spoke about ‘drawing’ all people to himself.
The disciples ONLY catch fish AFTER Jesus is present and commands them to ‘draw’ their nets on the other side. It’s his final in-person lesson for them.

    “Without Jesus the disciples can’t catch fish no matter how hard they try, but with his direction, they bring in an enormous, ABUNDANT catch of fish. . .anticipating their future catches..of people.”2
    *** If the disciples needed Jesus in order for them to be able to tell the story that ‘catches’ peoples’ lives, certainly we do too! ***

It took hard work to pull in that net full of fish. And the gospel doesn’t begin to tell us about the work of cleaning 153 large, cold, slimy fish. How do you feel about cleaning fish?   

There are times when ‘fishing for people’ seems to be more than we can do. Whether we feel inadequate, or we are dealing with our own Emotional Overloads that seem to come with life,
    We can find help in this story. (of calling, abundant gifts, and lots of work)

  • When the abundant gift we receive means the hard work of exercising our muscles to pull the nets into the boat.
  • And when the abundant gift we receive gives us a whole lot more messy work (like that of cleaning 153 cold, slimy fish).

We discover what the disciples discovered, that Jesus is HERE, - right here with us, waiting to serve and nourish us with all that we need to go out and invite others to the mission of serving the world.

This story is not just about fish, it’s a story of commissioning for the ministry of making disciples. (Even here Jesus says, 'Follow me'.)  It’s hard work AND it’s the work we are called to.

Through these beloved stories that we tell again and again, we recall that we have the abundant gift we need to accomplish the work we are given. - the very real presence of Jesus, with us!

So even when we are overwhelmed with life,
    when our emotions are on overload,
         when we can’t even THINK past the mess in front of us,
we too can look up to see Jesus on the shore,
         there to feed and nourish us until we are ready to go out and ‘fish’ again.

1 Gary D. Jones Feasting on the Word Pastoral (Louisville:WJK,2009)422
2 paraphrased Craig R. Koester (Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel Minn:Fortress, 1995) 119
3 Gary Jones Feasting on the Word - Pastoral (Louis:WJK,2009)422

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