There is a funny irony here. The disciples have gone back to fishing, back to what they were called from by Jesus and all night they fail. The language of the bible is staccato – telling it like a transcript. Peter is impulsive and says he is going fishing and his friends go. But all night they fail. Meanwhile Jesus has brought fish and bread – a breakfast picnic. He has planned this out. My beloved children will be hungry after their failures. He plans and bring a gift for them. After his torture, after their hiding, after Peter’s three betrayals in that courtyard around that last fire. Jesus brings the tools he needs and in this Resurrection morning they are bread and fish.
In this resurrection scene, Jesus is crouched on the beach, nail-pierced hands extended over the hot coals to test the heat for grilling fish and soft bread for his friends after a night of fishless fishing. Jesus smiles, as I imagine it – face free of the dried blood, snaught and salty sweat of Holy Week. The disciples are unable to see him because, like Mary of Magdala, the scene change on this divine stage-set shifted too fast. Only the Beloved Disciple sees the Risen Christ. I imagine disciples biting down on roasted fish and hot bread, famished, staring up at this man as they ate, heads low, warm fish oil soaking into the bread – the taste of roasted fish and bread from an open fire seems a sacrament.
Jesus would have called fish “nun” in Arameic. It’s hard to know if Jesus was roasting tilapia, or the massive Biny, or the Sardines which were processed for pickling in Magdala. In any event the fish would have been roasted on a stick, one end grounded in Jesus’s armpit; the fish’s edges oily and crispy, dangling from a forked stick.
The red and black coals of this beach-resurrection fire were hot in the cold morning air. The last time we saw a coal fire it was the one by which Peter was warming himself, determinedly denying once, twice, thrice. And here, now, Jesus asks Peter (for whom that was his last searing memory of Jesus) if he loves him – once, twice, thrice – undoing the three denials caught in Peter’s psyche like three tumors- healing them – one at a time. Some say that this is the symbolism of the three circles and one reverse circle of the incense over the bread and the wine. Jesus does not just fix what hurts us. Jesus undoes, rolls back, reverses, our sins -of any and all kinds. Mine. Yours. Peter’s.
I, like Peter, wonder why Jesus asks anything at all. I see how peter is confused by these questions. Is Jesus not all knowing? Is it just a denial-undoing or is it something even more? Peter seems hurt by these questions about love. Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me? God knows all things. Why must he ask? Much has been preached on the different words for love, but I am wondering something different.
When I read psalm 139 I see God using conversation just like this. We read the psalmist saying that God knows everything:
“You know my rising up and my lying down, before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely.”
But then there are these other words:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts” (Psalm 139:23).
Remember that in Genesis God tests Abraham in order to know him in this same dialogue between intimacy and wonder.
What does it mean to stride into this Easter-life? What does it mean that God would so desire our friendship and speak that desire in Jesus’ words and life? Does it change us? What does it mean for God to show up and give us all we have?
I think it means that we show up too and that like Jesus, walking that beach with his fish and bread, having given his very life – we too walk the beach of life and we too bring gifts for the community of friends in our life just as Jesus did. I am, I realize, an odd duck in thc church. I love being a priest and I love being a fundraiser. I love helping people to see their gifts – the bread and fish they bring to their friends. Philanthropy means “loving people.” And like Jesus, we use real things as our offerings. Maybe not bread and fish but resources for the building up of this little parish, right here, on the beaches of Colfax, Boulevard and Colorado. We bring our gifts to a God who has forgiven us and to a god who is trying to reach out to us and to gather us together into a family.
What did it mean for the Thompsons who gave that window, the ___ family who gave that widow? What does it mean to emerge from Holy Week’s Last Supper – friends, bread, wine, olives, sardines – locked up in an upper room, fearful in darkness only to emerge now into a new communion- a sundrenched morning – a beach breakfast of friends, bread, tilapia, perhaps wine? The resurrection is about the gift God gives – the meaning-making of Jesus’s choices.
On a carpet in the upper Room Jesus told a story using bread and wine and asked us to re-tell it.
On the cross, Jesus formed the Church by joining Mary and John.
On the beach, Jesus undid betrayal, affirmed love and asked questions as a way to be with rather than over humanity.
What does all this – a new sound system, a new antiphonal organ, a new teaching system in Dagwell, a new home for 50 homeless people – what does all of it mean? Why bother? Why did families bother to build this church 100 years ago? Why did they sacrifice to give this to us? Why should we sacrifice for the congregation of 2116?
On Sunday after the Evensong at 3:00 we will launch the final phase of the fundraising we need to do to install our new Antiphonal Organ. I hope you will come. It will be a turning point in our life. The Fullenwiders and Janet Thompson will be remembered by its presence here – and many more. It will be our gift to the future congregation. It will be our bread, our fish. Our Philanthropy. Our loving of humans.
This building is our beach. This church is the laboratory in which we experiment with God-connection and the hospital in which God’s reversals heal us. We have no other. This is what we have inherited from generous ancestors and now we are the ancestors. We bring fish and bread to a hungry city, tired from a night of result less hard work and a life of betrayals.
I guess fish will roast faster their climate. I guess they will have their wildernesses to pray through here. Perhaps new addictions. Probably old ones.
Jesus roasted fish. Romans roasted fish. Celts roasted fish. We do too and we all love hot bread.
1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. 15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”