Today is the third Sunday in the season of Easter. The season of Easter is important, as it reminds us that the resurrection isn’t just about one day in the Christian calendar, nor is it about endlessly praising God for raising Jesus week after week.
This season is about the new life that resurrection opens up for all who are part of the body of Christ. It is about the ongoing mission which the risen Jesus sends us as his disciples. Mission wasn’t just for the people in the stories we are hearing at the moment. Mission is for all of us here and now, in the communities where we live, work and worship. Mission is about transforming everywhere and everyone that our influence and resources can reach, including ourselves.
Our readings for this Sunday have this at their hearts. In the gospel, there are two stories – a miraculous catch of fish leading to a breakfast by the Sea of Galilee, and the commissioning of Peter.
Peter, not knowing what else to do after the miraculous appearance of Jesus after his crucifixion, has gone fishing. Maybe Peter was yearning for a time when his world was simpler, a time before Jesus called him out of his ordinary life and to a journey he could not have imagined for himself. After all, in times of trouble, we tend to default to old habits and ways. He and the other disciples have been fishing through the night, but as the dawn breaks, they have nothing to show for their efforts. An apparent stranger appears on the shore. He shouts at them to fish differently, to throw their nets on the other, less used side of the boat. Despite the fact they do not recognise this stranger, they do as he suggests, and that’s when they find what they are looking for.
The questions this raises for me are: do we recognise the risen Jesus when he is front of us, or beckoning to us from a place nearby? Or are we like the disciples, and fail to discern his presence? Are we more inclined to doubt than we are to believe that God is calling us to do something? What is it we need to do to be more receptive, more discerning, to the call of God on our lives?
Perhaps the first thing we need to do is actually be actively looking for where new life is happening in our communities. Like Mary, we need to go searching for the Lord, and be prepared to be surprised where and in what form we find him. Secondly, John’s gospel is suggesting that we need to make adjustments to our practices in order to be the disciples we are called to be.
Have we become accustomed to fishing in the ‘accepted’ ways that no longer result in us catching much? Do we keep doing the same things because we think they work best, even if they no longer serve us well, because we believe they are the accepted normality?
The characters in John’s story have learnt that Jesus will be found in unexpected places and in unexpected people, and that changing their normal habits leads to abundance of life lived out by serving and working together.
God’s love, set loose in the world through the resurrection, needs our hands, our feet, our voices and our hearts to make it known and understood and to be transformative in our place and time. Like Peter, God is issuing us an invitation to change our perspective and cast our nets in different and unexpected places in order to feed the flock.
Are we are willing to have our lives changed, transformed, especially if it means disrupting familiar and comfortable patterns? Are we able to continue to encounter the risen Jesus?
When we make resurrection nothing more than a past miracle, or mythological story, or a hope for a future life after death, we take from it its power to impact our lives, and the lives of others, now. When we embrace resurrection as a calling to live daily in the power of God’s life, we discover that everything we do is filled with a sense of meaning, purpose and life. And that is the point where we can begin to transform ourselves, our churches, our communities and our world.
Rev Elizabeth Raine
Written by Rev Elizabeth Raine
Elizabeth is minister at Tuggeranong Uniting, beginning her ministry here in December 2018.
Over the years, she has had a number of diverse and interesting placements, such as a school chaplaincy, a tenancy worker with UnitingCare, a congregational minister, a lecturer at UTC, a Presbytery minister, and as an Intentional Interim minister.More from Rev Elizabeth Raine