Third Sunday of Easter: May 5, 2019
Year C, Acts Acts 9:1-20; Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19
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In our Collect for this Third Sunday of Easter, we read, “Open the eyes of our faith that we may behold him in all his redeeming work.”
If we could neatly summarize all of God’s salvation into easy sentences, this would be at the top of my list, especially the end phrase “in all his redeeming work.”
We are at the end of John’s gospel, a gospel where all Christ’s redeeming work is made manifest, just as it is in our readings today.
In our first reading from Acts, we hear of Saint Paul’s experience with the resurrected Jesus who appears to Saul on the road to Damascus. A voice says to Saul: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul’s response? “Who ARE you, Lord?” Saul knows he is being called – but he doesn’t know that Jesus is doing the calling. Put another way: he knows he is being called, but he does not see.
Why doesn’t he see Jesus? Well, there is that blinding flash from heaven, but I think the key is the very beginning of our reading: “Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord…”
Saul’s anger, his hatred, so overcame him—he was already not seeing—he was not seeing at whom he was angry, just the self-righteousness of his anger.
And in the gospel of John, once again the eyes of their faith have been opened for Peter and a group of other disciples when they have an experience of the resurrected Jesus on the beach of the lake of Tiberius, also known as the Sea of Galilee.
The disciples have had several of these experiences. In a previous chapter, John tells us how Jesus first appeared to the disciples when they were gathered in the Upper Room. Last Sunday we heard about how Thomas, who had missed the first appearance but not the second, learned a great lesson about faith and about how Jesus always reassured them, first saying, “Peace be to you.” We would think that after these appearances, proof of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the disciples would immediately have “hit the road” to preach and teach and tell the world about this wonderful thing that had happened; that they would have been so charged with the Great Commission that they could not have waited to begin their new lives.
Well, it doesn’t seem so today. In this last chapter of John’s Gospel, and only a short time after the resurrection, we find the disciples gathered again on the shore of the Sea of Tiberius. Gathered once again where they had been found by Jesus three years before-at the shore, back with their boats and nets and, once again, fishing. It seems like a strange sort of déjà vu experience, doesn’t it? A strange sort of flashback? Haven’t we seen them here before? Shouldn’t they be doing something different with their lives after spending three years with Jesus?
Jesus is still with the disciples as he has been for the past three years, providing for them as he promised. He is still providing support and nourishment for them. In fact, they are learning a great lesson.
The heart and soul of all Jesus did for them and taught them has not changed. This is the resurrected Christ appearing to the disciples, to Paul. It is Christ who has been crucified, and Christ who has risen.
Christ’s resurrection is not a matter of words for the disciples, but the reality of faith. Although its full promise has not yet been realized, Christ’s resurrection is the basis of our hope. As we stand in the middle of God’s plan, we often question what is to come. We often question the reality of resurrection when we experience the pain of the world around us.
This was the truth of the disciples. How could they take the pain of the death of their friend, the leader, their great hope and use it for good? What they do is take this legacy, this resurrected Christ with them as they begin spreading the Good News. They take their brokenness and respond to God’s call, the call that Paul heard, and bring the resilience and vitality of God’s word to the world.
The disciples had a long road ahead of them. They couldn’t begin to imagine how their preaching and teaching would continue through the centuries to our time. They couldn’t imagine how society would change and how people would have to change with it – while still keeping the message of God’s love constant and true.
The message is the same for us. We, too, are charged with the same commission he gave the disciples: continue the work begun by Jesus. Remember, last week Jesus said to the disciples, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” We are part of that body of people who have not seen Jesus in the flesh, and yet we do believe and want others to believe, too.
We have just been through the season of Lent and have celebrated the great feast of Easter.
We have many opportunities to keep the Christian message alive today in our church and many things to distract us from it as well. In this time of great disagreement and discord, we need to remember what we are called to do by our Baptismal Covenant. We are called to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to persevere in resisting evil, to proclaim by word and example the Good News, to serve Christ in all people, to strive for justice and peace, and to respect the dignity of every human being. It is a hard task, but we are in good company. Jesus invited the disciples to add their fish to his. He invites us to do the same.
When Peter and Paul finally see the risen Lord, they are changed. But they aren’t changed in who they are in the core of their being. The change is they are called to serve – to reach out, to proclaim the life of the risen Christ in a world where there is too much death, hate, anger, and fear. Christ comes to us as we are, however, that may be. We are called out of our fear. We are called forth to lift up the most basic qualification for Christian service: love. Christ calls us forward to be transformed to tend and heal one another. When others try to hate in the name of Christ, we are called to love in the name of Christ. And extend a true welcome to all God’s children.
Christ’s resurrection is not a matter of words but of reality. Although its full promise has not yet been realized, its occurrence is the basis of our hope. As we stand in the middle of God’s plan, we look forward to what is to come, to that day when God will be all in all. But we know already that since Christ has been raised up then God’s will cannot be deterred. What has happened will invariably lead to what is promised. This is why Jesus’ resurrection is the gospel—good news for our lives – and redeeming work for the world around us in need of redemption.
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