Sermon 5th May 2019

ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET

SUN 05 MAY 2019, EASTER 3

Listen Here: https://soundcloud.com/user-942286720/sermon-5th-may-2019 

 

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach;

but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. John 21:4

A couple of weeks ago I sat in a barber’s chair having my hair cut.

The man with the scissors comes from Iran; over the years some interesting conversations.

This time, it emerged that I was due to go to a wedding.

“Where is the wedding?” he asked.

“Iona” I replied.

“What is Iona?”

“Iona is a small island on the West coast of Scotland – it takes two ferries to get there.”

“Who is getting married?”

“My niece; she’s an artist – and she’s marrying a local lad, a fisherman.”

There was a pause in the clipping; in the mirror (I could see)

this information being processed.

“Ah, this is everyone’s dream – to go to a small island and marry a fisherman!”

 

The gospel today is about fishermen and their dreams –

but because it is Easter gospel – it is about broken dreams,

before it is about unimaginable dreams.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach;

 

Back to the familiar, back to Galilee, where it all started.

Yet, now, without him; what else could they do?

After the atrocities of Jerusalem – Jesus put to death;

After the first strange, enigmatic re-encounters with their friend and master;

Where else could they go; how best could they forget him?

Peter, in particular: the fisher of men.

whose mother-in-law was healed by Jesus,

who proclaimed Jesus the Son of God before any other disciple dared to;

who walked on water and beheld Jesus transfigured on a mountain top;

who promised to add his own death to Jesus’, if required;

but whose courage failed so catastrophically,

that he would forever be haunted, by the light of a midnight fire

Peter – one who denied knowing the man – the Rock – who sank.

 

So that evening, they pushed the old keels across the shingle

and let the waters carry them to the fishing grounds.

But nothing came and the night was long.

Daybreak – instinctively, Peter shudders at the crow of dawn;

herald, re-announcing failure.

 

Then a figure on the beach, cupping his hands to shout:

“Try the nets another time, another way.”

Suddenly a huge, swarming catch of silver,

twisting and shimmering in the grey light.

Inexplicable. A sign. The Beloved Disciple: “It is the Lord.”

 

Peter, plunging overboard, half fleeing,

half drawn irresistibly, to the only one who can mend things.

The glow of charcoal a little way up from the water,

the curl of smoke in the morning chill, the aroma of the grill,

flaked fish breaking in their fingers.

And bringing this all together – re-membering – Jesus, with them once more.

Before any questions, before any explanations,

just friends, gathered for food and warmth – glad, at peace.

 

Later in that extraordinary hour,

The unfinished business; the difficult conversation.

Jesus doesn’t pretend that Peter’s denials didn’t happen, and didn’t wound.

But neither does he preach, condemn, accuse, or retaliate.

Instead, he feeds; first the body, then the soul.

 

 “Do you love me Peter?”

“Yes Lord, you know I do.”

“Do you love me Peter?”

“Yes Lord, you know I do.”

“Do you love me Peter?”

 

The thrice-repeated question – burning away the cancer of the three-fold denial.

Jesus knew Peter’s history better than anyone;

that Peter – all of us – are more than our worst failures and betrayals.

All he requires now, is the assurance of Peter/our love – imperfect as it may be.

 

In the light of the resurrection, Jesus doesn’t waste time on revenge.

He doesn’t go after Pilate, the High Priest, or the legion of his torturers.

His remaining time he spends strengthening his friends.

Calling Mary by name, in the garden;

revealing wounds to Thomas, behind locked doors;

keeping a lonely lakeside vigil, to breakfast with the fisher boys;

forgiving the failure and restoring relationship with Peter.

 

The priorities of resurrection – the same as before the Cross; reconciliation.

Reconciliation, and with it – re-commissioning; with each assurance, the command,

“Do you love me?” – “Feed my lambs.”

“Do you love me? – “Tend my sheep.”

“Do you love me?” – “Feed my sheep.”

As I have been your shepherd, now, go and do likewise.

 

There are many sheep to tend, and many ways to shepherd.

On this baptismal day, Beatrice and Harry remind us

of the joys and demands of human parenting;

they point towards the care of all young people –

at school, in the home and on our streets.

Think of the Young Lewisham Project – our chosen Lent Appeal –

whom you have given so generously –

finding ways to draw forth skills and aptitudes in children

who have been branded failures, pretty much everywhere else.

Think of the support groups that find a home here – Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and others; think of the responses led by the charities linked here to the care of the homeless – GlassDoor, Restart and Borderline.

A congregation like ourselves not solely responsible for these shepherdings

but playing a part, in collaboration with others.

 

And, today, Natasha will talk to us of Christian Aid

that coming together by communities of faith, out of the ashes of war, for the relief of need;

that has become advocate and champion of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable – regardless of creed or colour.

 

I think of the words that emerged from a meeting this week

from a gathering in the Kensington Town Hall – the Borough’s Inter Faith Partnership –

Bridges don’t fall from the sky – people build them.

 

“Peter, do you love me?” – “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

“Feed my sheep.”