St Bride's: Sermons

The Reality of Easter

John 21: 1-19

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21 After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.

There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.

And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.

As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.

10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.

13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.

14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

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There is a temptation to push away the reality of the events we have been celebrating over the past few weeks.

It is understandable, simply because the Christian mystery is of deep and enduring significance. It can cause us discomfort. We can reduce a world-transforming, life-threatening, divine intervention in human affairs to the level of a children's game.There is more to Easter than an Easter egg hunt.

Maybe sometimes, faced with the reality of the Christian religion we have to trivialise it in order to cope.We all do it.But face to face with the Gospel there is no escape.

Almost without exception the first, closest followers of Jesus died because of their allegiance to him. Peter, the chief, we are reliably told, was crucified upside down on the Vatican Hill in Rome, too humble to reproduce precisely the manner in which Christ died.The last words of Jesus to Peter, 'follow me' initiated a process that ended in death.

No wonder the disciples, gathered by the lake, though bored, were quite relieved that the challenges of life with Jesus had lessened since his death.Yet here was the very man on the shore, unrecognised as yet, telling them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. The miraculous catch triggered the recognition and Peter, naked at this point, dressed and made for the shore.

Events unfolded as they had before: the Lord himself, all of them together, a meal.Back with him, but somehow he was changed.

Yes, they recalled his promise when he first called them, that from now on it was people they would catch. But they never expected that they would spearhead the mission. A hundred and fifty three. A large number of fish. Jerome said that this represented the Greeks' estimate of the total number of species of fish in the world.

Well, that's how it began.

They followed, they changed the world, they died for it. Depending which way you look at it that story might seem heroic or full of folly. But the fact remains that we are the successors of these people.The risen Christ calls us to follow, and in our own time the mission of the Church, a universal mission, is in our hands.

Today, as ever, a sacred meal together, and the joyful admission of a new member of the universal Church, and in the Gospel a reiteration of the awesome responsibilities of those who belong to the Church, of the dangers and the privileges.

The victory of Christ over sin and death wasn't won easily, but by blood, sweat and tears.Through Jesus it is God himself who has opened his heart, who pleads for our hearts in return. And for all the baptised, a pause to consider how we're doing.

How serious we are as disciples.

How are we all as christian disciples?

How focused, how committed?

How conscious that Christ lives and invites us, personally and collectively, to share in his life?

How centred on the worship of God, which is the stuff of Church life?

How keen to feed on Christ, who offers himself again and again to us in the eucharistic feast?

It does no harm to take stock, and to make the profession of faith, uttered in the Creed, our own again, and to reflect on the reality and demands of Christian life in the 21st century.

The first disciples could so easily have shrivelled into a frightened group of people too scared to face the world. They could have spent the rest of their lives looking back fondly to the time when Jesus was with them. But this man was not simply a teacher whose message eventually brought him suffering and death. He was and is the embodiment of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the one who brought the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land.

That scene on the sea shore placed them in the enduring presence of Jesus, who had conquered death and offered them eternal life too. The miraculous catch was not simply a generous breakfast for the hungry fishermen. It was a reminder that in this new community there was room for everyone.The net was unbroken.

Jesus took bread and gave it to them, and the grilled fish too. And then, in a touching encounter, the Lord asks Peter if he loves him. Three times he protests that he does.

Feed my sheep.

It is a poignant moment as Jesus goes on to tell Peter that he will die for his Lord. It is very unlikely that any of us will be expected to die for our convictions.But those convictions will be challenged. They already are.

There are serious attacks on the integrity of the deposit of faith, and a deepening secularism, in our country especially. The heart of our faith is not self-evident to most people, and it is not good enough to say that something is true or that we should avoid doing something just because God is alleged to have said so.

Serious apologetic is needed but that will not be possible unless the lives of those in the Church are sustained by a deep and serious common life and spirituality like that of the first Christians.

But where there is tremendous hunger around us for truth, for love, to encounter people at that level we have to be articulate, well-informed, and, above all, committed ourselves. Ready as Peter and the others were to follow Christ, simply because he, in human form is the love of the God who made us and sustains us in being.

A Saviour, a lover, who calls us now.

 

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