“I am going fishing.” In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Peter is with a group of the disciples. They are in a weird state. They are now more than a week from Jesus’s death, but probably not anymore than two weeks have passed. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus has appeared to them twice. That was our Gospel last week. Jesus appeared to the disciples and Thomas wasn’t there. Then Jesus returned, seemingly for Thomas. Now, what are the disciples to do? I mean Jesus died on a cross. That was enough of a shock, until God resurrected him. The disciples are trying to make sense of it all. So, all is not lost, as it was when Jesus died. He is risen. They have seen him. But the disciples don’t seem to know what to do next. So, Peter is going fishing. That is something he knows. When we are trying to make sense of it all, we, humans, often turn to something familiar, something comfortable. Peter knows how to fish. Remember? That is what he was doing for a living when he was side-tracked by an itinerant preacher.
Mary Davis preached last Sunday. She shared that it seemed rather remarkable that God resurrected Jesus scars and all. Why not make him perfect? Or even better than perfect, Arnold Schwartzenagger Terminator style? But God resurrects Jesus with all the marks: hands, feet, side. There will be no glossing over the cross he had to bear. Jesus keeps those marks. That Jesus was vulnerable, subject to suffering and death, will not be forgotten. I appreciate Mary pointing that out. It is an interesting and somewhat surprising truth of creation: death is at the very heart of new life.
The other thing of importance in last week’s gospel is that Jesus came back for Thomas. “Do not doubt but believe.” Now, let’s not be too hard on Thomas. He just wanted what all the other disciples already had, a real encounter with the Risen Lord. A sacrament of their savior. A sacrament is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. The other disciples had seen that outward and visible sign. Jesus returns to make Thomas whole.
In Jerusalem, just outside the old city wall is a church, St Peter in Gallicantu. Gallicantu is Latin for cock’s crow. The location is thought to be the ancient site of the High Priest’s Palace. So this is the site of Peter’s denials, and where he was when he heard the cock crow. We are told when Peter heard the cock crow, he went outside and wept bitterly. This church has some wonderful art and mosaics that depict the denials. But there is also a mosaic that depicts this story from today’s gospel. You see commentators and scholars have viewed Jesus’s conversation with Peter, when Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” not as Jesus doubting Peter’s love or conviction, not as Jesus rubbing Peter’s nose in it, but rather Jesus healing each of those denials. Jesus returns here to heal Peter and make him whole. Jesus needs Peter whole if Peter is going to be the leader Jesus needs for him to be.
Jesus appears to the disciples. Thomas is not there. Jesus returns to make Thomas whole. Peter has denied Jesus, not once, but three times. Jesus returns to make Peter whole. Jesus needs for Peter to lead, to establish this thing called the church. He doesn’t need Peter to return to fishing. Jesus returns to make Peter whole. Peter needed to be made whole to lead the church. Did it save him from a death similar to Jesus? No. But judging by the several billion Christians walking the earth today, I’d say he was at least somewhat successful.
Of course, Peter didn’t do all that by himself. Paul had a big part in getting the Word out. We heard Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus today. Jesus returns to make Paul whole. Now in Paul’s case, this seems an even bigger task than rehabilitating Peter from his denials. Paul needs a complete 180*. Jesus’ job on this day was to turn Paul from persecuting the church to growing the church. No small task, especially given that we are talking about Paul!
Jesus returns to make us whole. Will we carry the scars of this life? Why wouldn’t we? Afterall, Jesus still has his scars. But Jesus desires to make us whole. Being whole doesn’t always mean everything will be alright. Peter and Paul gave their lives following Jesus. Being whole doesn’t always mean a physical cure. We all have to leave this life. Becoming whole can be hard work. Being whole means we are best able to do what God put us here to do. Being whole usually comes with peace. Remember Jesus’s first words to the disciples after his resurrection: “Peace be with you.” If you know you are doing what God put you here to do, you are likely to be at peace, even when things don’t look so good for you.
You received an email from me last week. A few months ago, you all filled out a survey and participated in a listening exercise. From that work we identified or re-identified our Core Values. As someone on the Vestry said, “well, this isn’t much of a surprise.” Thank God! The consultants working with us said we were surprisingly of one mind on our responses. She described another church with whom they had worked, the results were, as someone on their Vestry commented, like spaghetti thrown on the wall. Thankfully, that was not us.
Our Core Values were identified as Love, Active Caring, and Servanthood. Mother Elizabeth did a wonderful job defining those values for this community in the context of the parable of the Good Samaritan. We have another survey just released. Please take that survey and help us as we continue to take care of this building and grounds with which we have been gifted and are charged with taking care of for a time.
What are you going to do next? Are you going fishing? Or are you going to do what God put you here to do? Jesus desires to make you whole. That does not mean you will be perfect or not carry the scars of your journey. Not sure what you were put here to do? Start with our community values: Love, Active Caring, and Servanthood. Maybe that will help give you some direction. It wasn’t easy or obvious to Peter or Paul. So, be patient with yourself. Who knows, God may have put you here to fish. But God may have put you here for something else. Peace be with you. Amen.