The Church that Feeds People

Pentecost service


Not a Fishing Story

160410_coverJohn 21:1-19

Year C, 3rd Sunday of Easter

Last week we heard the story of Jesus’ first resurrection appearance. It was the first day of the week, the very day of the resurrection, and the disciples were hiding in a locked room because they were afraid that they might be arrested for their association with Jesus. Jesus appeared among them saying, “Peace be with you.” They were amazed and frightened, and Jesus said again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

This is both a resurrection story and a commissioning. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” The story goes on. Thomas was not there that first night and he does not believe the other disciples when they say they have seen the risen Christ. That brings us to the second resurrection story.

Now it is a week later and the disciples are still hiding, cowering, in that locked upper room. Did they just not understand when Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you?” Jesus appears again and Thomas is convinced. Jesus then doubles down on the sending, the commissioning, saying, “Have you loved me, trusted in me, because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet come to love, trust and follow me.”

Presumably, Thomas and all the disciples are convinced at this point. Who wouldn’t be? “Put your fingers in the wounds on my hands. Put your hand in the wound at my side!”

That brings us to the third resurrection story. At this point we can reasonably expect to find the disciples teaching the Good News, inviting others into the transforming, life giving abundance of God’s love, right?

Not really.

Another week has gone by, and Jesus comes again. At least they are not still locked in that upper room, but what are they doing? Have they set out on their missionary journeys? Have they gone into the public square or the synagogues to share the Good News?


They left Jerusalem and went back to their homes in Galilea. Seven of them were there, including Peter, James, and John. Peter said to them, “I’m going fishing.” Great idea, they replied. “We’ll go with you.”

Wait. What? Really? The great apostles, rather than going off to form the church decided to go fishing.

Jesus comes and finds them ignoring the commission he gave them. He calls to them from the shore, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” “No”, they answer. “Throw your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”

What is the right side of the boat? Anyone who has fished knows that this is not a fishing story. I guarantee you that those men did not fish all night, getting skunked the whole time, without casting their net every way they could. No, this is not about the right side of the boat or the left. This is about the correct work. This is about doing what God has called them to do.

Peter has gone back to his previous profession: fishing. Jesus has appeared to him twice, breathed the Holy Spirit on him, and he has gone fishing.

This is one of the important moments of scripture that should inspire us and give us hope. Have you ever worried that you are not doing enough as a faithful Christian? Maybe you read about Peter and think, “Well, that is fine for him. He is a saint. I can’t be expected to respond to Jesus by changing the way I live.”

These are pretty understandable and reasonable thoughts. After all, Peter actually met Jesus. Peter actually saw the risen Christ with his wounds in that upper room, right?

Here we are, together with Peter. He has decided to go fishing. Maybe you have too. You can forgive your neighbor later. You can serve the poor, or work for justice, some other time. Does Jesus really expect you to change the way you live, the way you act, or the way you treat others?

Peter took the reasonable course. He went back to what he knew. He went fishing. That is what we all tend to do. Even when we have a powerful experience of Christ, or of God’s love and forgiveness, we go back to what we know rather than living into that difficult, transforming life that Jesus calls us to embrace.

In his resurrection appearances Jesus embraces life. He eats with his disciples. He shows us again the abundance of God’s love. He calls us to live resurrection lives ourselves. Jesus calls us to love others as he has loved us. Jesus calls us to love, as a verb, as an action. He doesn’t want us to feel warm feelings towards him. He wants us to be loving.

Do you love me? Feed my lambs. Tend my flock. Feed my sheep. Participate in bringing forth the world God dreams of rather than the nightmare we so often experience. Feed my sheep. Come volunteer on Tuesday at our feeding program, or take a meal to a friend in need.

Tend my flock. Embrace life with an open heart and open hands. Savor life by loving, forgiving, reconciling, welcoming, opening, embracing, by being the person you were called to be.

“Do you love me? Feed my sheep.”

The Rev. David Marshall
St. Dunstan’s Church, Shoreline WA
April 10, 2016

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