Minister’s Reflection – May 16, 2019
Rev. Dave Crawford
(in this Easter season we look at a post-Resurrection story from John 21:1-19. We also examined it May 5th. Please read prior to reading this revised sermon from a few years back).
Nothing like fresh fish, especially if you caught it! Some of us like to fish, to go fishing! It’s a great hobby, a pastime, for some a way to relax, get away from the duties of life for a while. For some fishing can be a sort of spiritual exercise. For example, one of my all-time favorite movies, “A River Runs Through it”, based on the novel, draws a strong connection between the art of fly-fishing and life!
You like to fish? What if that’s how you survived, made your living – fishing? Not a pastime at all, but how you feed your family. Likely some of the more relaxing aspects of it would be replaced by a sense of urgency and responsibility.
I’m struck by something in this story: not a great deal has changed for the disciples or the world they live in after the whole Jesus adventure! They still have to work, still have to get up before dawn and hall out the nets and get busy! Further still, the Romans continue to occupy the country, and are still in charge of things. They continue to oppress, collect taxes, still crucify criminals and dissidents. Easter has come and gone but it seems not so much has changed. No wonder they don’t recognize Jesus at first, when he calls out from shore. Life goes on, hard life goes on for them. They have to fish, it is their work, and they have to be successful in their work. The hard facts of life after Easter! And yet, even amid the harshness of real life, the daily grind, the risen Christ does come to them, does feed them, does make himself known! Things have changed! Could it be the same for us?
Television often gets a bad rap, but it can be highly educational, beneficial. In the 1980s, PBS offered a documentary series on the Civil Rights movement in the US, titled, “Eyes on the Prize”, and that’s how I learned about Martin Luther King Jr. When King gave his most famous sermon or speech in a hot August day in 1963, before the Lincoln Memorial, his immortal “I have a dream” speech, it wasn’t at the end of the Movement, sort of a consummation of all that had been achieved. King had five more years of crusading ahead of him before an assassin’s bullet took his life, and in those five years, and following, the battle for basic rights continued. At the time of that tremendous speech things were not going well for the Movement at all. It was a dark, perilous time. The march that day, and the gathering at the Memorial, was meant to infuse new life into the Movement, to give new energy to it, even as huge obstacles still lay ahead. And how did King hope to do that? By offering a vision to the assembled masses, a dream of a world in which all would someday be treated as children of God. It’s no surprise that King was first and foremost a Christian preacher. For in the Easter event we witness none other than the in-breaking of a new vision for humankind in Christ, a song to sing in the darkness, God’s dream for the human condition unleashed upon us, not yet fully present but clearly present, real and inspiring.
For the world Easter is over, and life returns to normal, normal being not always fantastic! We gotta suck-it-up, and get up before dawn perhaps, and go fishing, and pay our bills, and deal with our relationships, sometimes fish are evasive and work is tough or even hard to find, and the pressure builds, and tempers flare, and maybe we hear a shout from the shoreline, “cast your nets to the other side of the boat”, and we pay no attention to the voice because we’re busy, stressed, …. and who is that shouting anyway?!!
Yet for we in the Church, if we are disciplined, and believe the promise, trust the story, we know that Easter has not ended, and it inspires us, strengthens us, keeps us going no matter the present circumstances, and maybe we are able to see this Christ who comes seeking us, or we hear him, or faintly recognize his footprints in the sand.
If you haven’t yet seen the 1994 movie “The Shawshank Redemption”, well, you should. It’s a story of hope, patient, painful hope. I personally think it’s a metaphor for Jesus’ life. Andy Dufresne is sentenced to two back to back life terms at Shawshank Prison for crimes he didn’t commit: the murder of his wife and her lover. Everything about the prison conspires to destroy humanity. Yet Andy clings to hope, to the better side of human nature, to life.
One scene is especially memorable. After 2 years of unanswered weekly letters to the state legislature requesting books and educational materials for the prison library, finally a huge shipment of used books and old records arrives for Andy, dumped in the warden’s office. Left alone for a few moments, Andy does something risky yet wonderful!
He has access to the prison loudspeaker, turns it on, locks the warden out, and plays over the sound system a beautiful aria from Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”, one of the records which has just arrived. The inmates all over the prison are stopped dead in their tracks, stunned for a few minutes as their dark world is illuminated by this musical ray of light. When finally one of the guards breaks down the door and hauls Andy off to solitary confinement for a month, he clings to an air of satisfaction.
Thirty days later, let back in the general Shawshank population, he’s questioned about how he survived solitary. His answer: “Easiest time I ever did. I had Mr. Mozart to keep me company. It’s in here (pointing to his head and heart). That’s the beauty of music… so you don’t forget that there are places in the world not made of stone, that there’s something inside that they can’t get to, they can’t touch.”
After the resurrection, the world went back again to doing what it had always done, disciples went back, for a while, to what they had done. Yet something indeed had changed. Death and despair and darkness no longer held the final cards. Life and hope, light and love won out, and Jesus returned, appeared mysteriously, yet sought out the world again with a message of triumph and the promise of a whole new kind of hope!
“Hey, cast the nets over there! Are you hungry…. Have some fish! Feed my sheep. Follow me.”
Grace and Peace