Sermon Transcript: 10.30.22 "Fish Stories: Breakfast provided"
May my meditations be pleasing to the Lord for I rejoice in him.
we have been telling some fish stories and thinking about our stewardship. How we give of our time, our talent, and our treasure. We've been guided by the theme of Psalm 50:14. “Offer unto God a sacrifice of Thanksgiving. Make good your vows to the Most High”. And we've been thinking about how we and how many people from the scriptures, made and kept vows, made and fell short, made and fell short….and were given new opportunities.
The ways that God reveals God's self and provides for his creation We just sang today's story. I don't know that I need to recap a great deal. It's another story of a night of empty nets. A night of frustration, a night of not being quite sure what to do. Peter says, I'm going fishing Jesus has lived. He's been crucified. He has been raised and still Peter and the other disciples don't seem quite sure what it is they are to do. And so, they returned to what they know, at least these seven of them, presumably the fishermen, they returned to the Sea of Galilee, and they either still have or able to obtain boats. And they go back to doing things the way they know how to do them. but it's not going very well. The Nets, just as they were in the story from Luke, at the beginning of Jesus ministry, the nets are empty and then Jesus appears, he says, cast the notes, the nets to the other side, these seven disciples do. According to John, they don't yet know that it's the Lord but somehow, they listened, they respond, and again, the nets are overflowing.
A minute ago, we sang the Gloria Patri It is a piece of literature that has been in use since at least the fifth century probably back to the third. Quite possibly longer than that. One of the interesting things about church history is we have lots of documentation of what we do as Christians from about the third century on. We only have bits and pieces from earlier than that. And much of what we have this earlier than that is in scripture. Paul writing about communion that he passed on what he had received that the Lord blessed bread, broke it, gave it. A lot of it is embedded in the stories that are so familiar. This particular doxology, this piece of liturgy emerged because the early Christian church was using the Hebrew scriptures, the Psalms in worship. The Psalms were written for the Jewish people and so displaced them in a Christian context after the reading of the Psalm, we would sing glory be to the father, and to the son, and to the Holy Ghost. We would Christianize those texts. We would affirm that we are worth worshiping the one true God revealed through Christ and the Holy Spirit. I talked last week about the lectionary and how useful it a tool, a tool it is, and some of the reasons I don't currently use it. Liturgy is like that too. We can do all kinds of things. We choose to do specific things and after I got here, I don't know the whole history here, but after I got here, I was asking for some feedback on worship and intentional changes I made and perhaps some unintentional changes I made and one of the suggestions I got from several different people was let's sing the Gloria Patri and there were suggestions for different points in worship but we added it in. And finally, last week, I had somebody asked me what it means…
and it's an interesting thing because when you go to research the Gloria Patri, there's lots and lots of commentary about what I just said. A response after Psalms to make clear that we are stating those words in a Christian context. There's very, very little commentary on the rest of the Gloria Patri “as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen.” Amen. I was asked what that means. I don't definitively no but I have sung this from my childhood in the Episcopal Church. Certainly, in the time I spent studying Roman Catholicism, and I have been blessed in Lutheran and Methodist context to be in congregations that are just high enough liturgically to use things like this and I'll tell you what I think it means. It's a celebration of creation. It's a celebration of God's yielding that we might exist.
We don't know how the world ends or even if it does. There are lots and lots of people who will tell you. My Christian brothers and sisters that will give you a scenario, an Armageddon, an end times, and usually their theology is filled with quite a bit of violence. Victory over the sinners, casting out the others, Occasionally, those folks will give you a date and at least so far, every time they've come up with a date, they've been wrong. My favorite all-time date was October October 25, 2009, I believe it was, was going to be the end of the world and the guy that was pushing that, I was in seminary at the time. So, it was a topic of conversation. For one thing, we had midterms on the 26th and we wanted to know if we really needed to study or not.
But the guy that was pushing that on the twenty-fourth announced that he was wrong and he was revising his date because he quote “had not taken into account the prophet Jeremiah.” You're making predictions based on biblical prophecy and you have not yet taken into account one of the greatest prophets?! the prophet of exile? Really!?
Too we read the Bible to find what we want. Very often we read the Bible to clobber those others. And to assure ourselves that we're okay. And the great irony of it is that we don't need to assure ourselves that we're okay. And we especially don't need to clobber others to prove we are in - because Christ has already done the work! We are okay because of the faith of Christ. This reformation Sunday, we talk about Martin Luther and his insight that we are justified by grace through faith. and we twist that and we make it about our faith, something we have accomplished, that we do. We think if we believe hard enough… we’ll be okay.
But it's not about us! It's about the faith of Christ and I read this doxology - and I might be wrong and someday, I'll have an opportunity to ask some more questions and be shown just how wrong I've been as I'm held in the divine hand - but what I take this to mean is that God isn't about arbitrary in dates. God is about making the world new … as it was in the beginning. God is about relationship - inviting us, creating space that we exist at all, holding us together and inviting us to be and become what God intended! And God doesn't do it coercively.
God does it with grace and invitation and the faith of Christ. That we might know God that we might say yes to God, that we might be together the beloved kingdom into eternity. My finite human mind really can't get my head around what that looks like… but that to me is the promise. That's even the promise of revelation Ultimately, it's not about destruction and outcasst. It's about people of all races and nations. A multitude too great to count. Gathering in worship. Singing holy, holy, holy, to eternal one, to the Alpha, and the Omega. Even that book that is so twisted in our time, is about hope and renewal. A new Jerusalem that doesn't destroy the old but refines it. A world made new.
So, I want to think about that breakfast on the beach. If you look at your Bibles, there's an interesting thing. In John 20. At the end of John 20, the gospel ends. I says… Jesus replied to Thomas. You might remember Thomas. This is the scene where he has doubted. He won't believe in the risen Christ until he touches the wounds. Jesus appears before him and invites him to do just that. The gospel doesn't say whether he does or not. He says, my Lord and my God. “And Jesus replied, do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who have not yet seen me but still believe. Then, Jesus did many other miraculous signs in his Disciples presence. Signs that aren't recorded in this scroll but these are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God's son, and that believing, you will have life in his name.”
(continues reading chapter 21…) “Later, Jesus appeared again to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberius…” There's more to tell. The story hasn't ended yet even though the author of the Gospel of John had wrapped it up. There's still more to tell. We are called to tell the story. We are called to come to breakfast, to recognize that when we do things through our own effort, the nets usually come up empty. When we do things by the word of Christ, in the spirit of Christ, well then, things are overflowing. God's abundance is made manifest. So, he says, cast your nets to the other side. They catch 153 fish. It's a very specific number. Nobody quite knows what it means. There are all kinds theories out there. Some of them are quite persuasive but ultimately, we're just grasping at straws. The theories I like best are that is a symbol of wholeness that through some sort of numerology and there is numerology in the Hebrew scriptures but you can go way astray if you start dabbling in that too much, I think. but it's a sign of wholeness. A sign of all of creation being brought before Christ… but in that, I want you to notice something. He says, “bring your catch ashore, come and have breakfast.” There's already fish cooking. Christ doesn't need what they just caught. What they just caught apparently isn't for them. It must be for others. Because Christ is already providing for them. There is already enough for this meal. The catch must be for others.
How do we cast our nets How do we use what God has given us Do we offer our boats our lives, our obedience to Christ? Even when we're not quite sure who it is speaking to us from the shore. Do we accept the gift of faith and respond? The story in John is not just a retelling of the story in Luke. There are numerous differences you might notice. For one thing, the story in Luke, the nets are about to break. They have to call for help. The catch is so large. The nets are breaking. In John, the nets do not break even though the catch is so large.
There's similarities but this is a different scene just as the feeding of the fourth thousand is a different scene from the feeding of the five thousand different times, different places, different people present a message of God's abundance, and God's provision not just for us but also for them. A message of grace and renewal even when we fall short, even when we don't do it quite right. A message that our little can be made into a lot. Not because we deserve it but because of who God is, because of the faith of Christ, God is made manifest in the world and we are invited to breakfast. We are invited to partake of that abundance. We are invited to share that abundance with others. To become fishers of people. Not to capture them to our ways but that their nets might overflow too. That they might experience the same grace and presence that we are experiencing.
We talked about this a little bit last week with another fish story Attacks a temple tax that Jesus makes the theological point that the children the king are not obligated to pay and yet for the good of others to avoid offense, to highlight what is good, we will pay and Jesus provides, not because Peter didn't have the coin, he apparently has enough resources to obtain a fishing boat after Jesus’ resurrection. But to demonstrate that ultimately, all that we have comes from God. We are blessed to be stewards of that, not for ourselves elves but for others.
Come, have breakfast, Jesus says. Come partake in the abundance that has already been provided. Come immerse yourself in the faith of Christ. Being obedient unto God the way Jesus demonstrates humanity can be.
“Bless the Lord, oh my soul. “Oh, my Lord God, you are very great. You are clothed with honor and majesty, wrapped in light as with a garment. You stretch out the heavens like a tent. You set the beams of your chamber on the waters. You make the clouds your chariot. You ride on the wings of the wind. You make the winds your messenger. Fire and flame your ministers.” Psalm 104 is a hymn of creation. The celebration of the one God made manifest in the creation of the world. Psalm 104 has remarkable parallels and similarity to hymn of Akhenaten, an Egyptian Pharoah hundreds of years before. It's one of the best literary pieces of evidence of a connection between ancient Egypt and the Hebrew people of Israel. A hymn of celebration, of creation, of light, of provision.
“You set the earth on its foundation so that it shall never be shaken. You cover it with the deep as with the garment. The waters stood above the mountain at your rebuke, they flee. At the sound of your thunder, they take to flight. They rose up the mountains, ran down to the valleys, to the places that you appointed for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass. So that they may never again cover the earth.” Renewal. Chaos, the life-giving sustenance of water, the destructive power of flood.
We gather this morning giving thanks for a light rain that soaks the earth. So desperately needed in our time of drought. Yet, we know that other parts of the world are experiencing floods… that destruction comes from too much water. Water has always been a symbol of chaos. And a symbol of life.
“You make the springs gush forth in the valleys. They flow between the hills giving drink to every wild animal. The wild asses quench their thirst. By streams the bird of the air have their habitation. They sing among the branches. From your lofty abode you water the mountains. The earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. You cause a grass to grow for the cattle. The plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart.” God provides. Humanity works with what God provides. Humanity co-creates. They take what God has provided. The wheat of the field, they make bread The grapes of the vine, they make drink. We are participants in what God is doing.
“You've made the moon to mark the seasons. The sun knows it's time for setting. You make darkness and it is night when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.”
Light and darkness day and night. Dawn and twilight. All of the cycle of nature is of God. It's created by God.
“The young roar for their prey, seeking their food from God. When the sun rises, they withdraw and lie down in their tents. People go out to work to their labor until the evening.” This cycle of life of participating in God's abundance.
“Oh Lord, how manifold are your works? In wisdom, you have made them all. The earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide. Creeping things innumerable are there. Living things so both small and great. There go the ships and Leviathan that you formed a sport in it.”
I will never forget the day that I was reading through the Psalms and this line struck me. See, the line earlier about bread and wine. Well, of course, we use the materials of the earth to make food. Like the lions, we seek our prey. That is how we eat. but I could see that as all a natural part of God's creation… but this line, there go the ships There go the ships. Ships are man-made. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with ships. Maybe grow up in Kansas. I just wanted to experience something different but I drew them. I studied them. I read books about them.
About all the ingenious ways humanity has learned to tame the sea (most of the time.) the Psalm of creation celebrates ships as part of God's creation. As part of God's intention. God created us to be creative! God created us to explore, to imagine, to go beyond what is just given. and Leviathan that you formed a sport in it. Every other reference of Leviathan in Scripture and beyond scripture depicts Leviathan as a sea monster. As the great and chaotic unknown. Here, Leviathan is God's pet. Leviathan too, is part of God's creation. That which I don't understand. That which I even fear is part of God's creation. And all of creation can be redeemed… even Leviathan, even me, even my labor when I thought I was doing it by myself.
And it's revealed that it's really about all of us in cooperation that is made possible by God. “These all look to you to give them their food in due season. When you give them, they gather it up. When you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed. When you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created, you renew the face of the ground. May the glory of the Lord endure forever. May the Lord rejoice in his works. Who looks at the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountain and they smoke.”
Earlier, it said, you set the earth on its foundations that it shall never be shaken. Here, it reminds us that the world trembles if God just looks upon it. The mountains may shake. The hills turn to dust, yet the love of the Lord stands. Sometimes, humans have gotten too dogmatic. A scientific understanding began to evolve. This was one of the verses that they used to reject Copernicus. The Earth can't possibly rotate around the sun. See, God put it on its foundationsa!
And yet we don't know everything. The earth trembles if God merely looks at it. We are on the third rock orbiting a minor star in a fairly small galaxy among the billions of God's creation. Our sun and our moon marked the time… and God desires us. God wills us to be. Not that we might know everything and control everything, but we might that we might glory in God's presence and share it with others.
“I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditations be pleasing to him for I rejoice in the Lord. Let sinners be consumed from the earth and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, oh my soul. Praise the Lord.”
When I think about the end and the end times and what happens next And I've said before I see images of purification, not images of destruction. A refining fire that purifies I read this line in the midst of this glorious Psalm. Very often we want to excise that line out. It's been so joyful up till now and now we're talking about sinners and sinners of course are those others people? No, they're not. Sinners are that part of me that falls short. Let it be consumed, let it be refined, let it be purified let me be all that you have intended me to be. Let me come and have breakfast. Let me share what you have given with others. Thanks be to God. Amen.