The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at: http://users.bigpond.net.au/frsparky/r161.htm
s161g04 Lockleys 3rd Sunday of Easter 25/4/2004 and Anzac Day
"I am going fishing" John 21.3
For us, "Gone fishing" is I suppose a bit like playing a round of golf. The object of the exercise is not especially to catch fish or to win the round, but to escape, to have some "time out". Peter and his companions were originally fishermen, so Peter's decision was an indication that he was going to return to what was his "normal" existence before he met Jesus the first time. Even after witnessing the Cross and experiencing the risen Jesus, Peter and his companions are still "out on a limb" &endash; they are unsure of what they were suppose to do now.
They meet Jesus, not in the Temple, but by the lake. We too may find Jesus as we go about our ordinary existence, providing for ourselves and for those in our care, or even when we take some time out. We can take heart that we will find the risen Jesus in all sorts of circumstances in which we find ourselves. Peter was fishing naked &endash; I presume it wasn't a cold night :-) ! And the risen Jesus comes not to criticise or cajole, but to bless what we are doing and ourselves in the process. Why Peter put clothes on before he jumped into the water is beyond me.
Again, as always when Jesus provides sustenance, there is always much left over. The author lists 7 disciples, not counting Jesus. With the best will in the world and after a night's work when they had caught nothing, they couldn't eat all of the 153 fish themselves. If Jesus joined in, it would have been 19 each!
So when Jesus says to Peter "Feed my lambs" Jesus actually provides him with something with which to feed others &endash; the fish left over.
It would be quite unreasonable for Jesus to expect Peter to feed others out of Peter's own resources &endash; indeed of course &endash; left to his own devises - Peter would have had nothing with which to feed himself, let alone anyone else.
So Jesus does not expect us to be charitable out of our own resources. If Jesus does not expect us to be charitable out of our own resources, then it is inappropriate for us to expect others to be charitable out of their own resources or to assume that they have sufficient resources out of which they should be charitable.
When God acts, it is always for others as well as for us. There is always much more left over after we are blessed, so that many, many others can be blessed similarly. Inevitably these others will not think like us, worship like us, or live similar lifestyles to ourselves.
If God acted only to bless a subset of humanity, those who think like us, worship like us, or lead similar lifestyles to ourselves, then there would need to be no fish left over for others. Others would be condemned to starve for failing to think, worship or live like us &endash; and this seems an altogether disproportionate amount of suffering just for being different. So the lambs Jesus bids Peter to feed are all people regardless of who they are. But before we begin to be overwhelmed by the enormity of this task, we need to remember that this is what God wills and God will provide. We are not to do this out of our own resources &endash; it would simply be a waste of time to try.
Mind you, I suspect that the moment we do realise that it is God's will and begin looking for food to feed others, we will find an awful lot around just waiting to be distributed. The problem is often we assume that God doesn't care for others and our theology doesn't extend beyond ourselves and our own denominational concerns. We don't have anything left over - our theology doesn't permit it. And if such is the case then I suspect that it isn't the God of the whole creation from whom we are seeking a blessing.
When we feed others the food of God, we ourselves do not miss out, we are not left hungry.
So rather than focus on actual food, we might begin and perhaps more importantly anyway, decide to share our dignity. If our theology implies that God cares enough for other people, that they, as well as us, are fed, then there is a small possibility that people will realise that fighting others is essentially counter &endash; productive.
It is God's will that we feed our enemies rather than fight them, so if our "enemies" are actually those of a different denomination or faith to us, we are bidden to feed them, not fight them or criticise them.
Today is also Anzac Day, when Australians and New Zealanders remember the sacrifice of those who died in the World Wars and particularly those in the abortive attempt to land at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles in Turkey. There are few ex-service men and women who think that their fighting achieved much, though tyrants and megalomaniacs need to be stopped. I think that it is important not to criticise when someone does something. While I hate war, it is clear that the United States and Britain could not continue to keep the former Iraqi regime from further atrocities against the Shia and the Kurds, as they were doing for the 11 years before the invasion. It is sad that the United States is being criticised for the events in Iraq while not being praised for the pressure it is putting on the Sudanese government to come up with a peace agreement.
And like every year, the RSL has petitioned the authorities to stop shops from opening and trading on the morning of Anzac Day, in the light of its importance. While I won't touch on the appropriateness or otherwise of this proposal, it is interesting to me that "sacredness" is highlighted by others stopping what they normally do and focus on something else. On Good Friday too we expect that shops in Australia will be shut &endash; I'm not pointing the finger at the RSL here at all.
My father was a watchmaker and jeweller, and he considered that it was his ministry to be able to provide to others the means to express their love. And it does not require much thought to extend this principle to most every other activity.
Catherine, when she worked in a hospital, often chose to work on Christmass Eve, so that others, who might not normally have an opportunity to be in Church, could go.
Even if we come to be in a nursing home and require the assistance of others, we might usefully reason that we are giving someone else the opportunity to exercise their ministry of care, towards us. Our "Christian" ministry is when we "feed" others, and when old age comes as it will no doubt will to each and every one of us - it may be someone else's ministry to feed us. Blessed are we if we can accept this in this light, though no doubt I will find this as challenging as anyone else :-)!
The risen Christ is found when we are going about our day to day lives, and when we are taking time out, not just or even primarily when we are worshipping God here in Church. Like the disciples, it may be that we will not immediately recognise the risen Lord, and it may be that others may alert us to the Lord's presence, as Peter had to be informed that it was the risen Jesus &endash; over there.
We are blessed if we can find and appreciate that what we do in our day to day lives is actually all about feeding others. Everybody has to eat, so if we buy something we are simultaneously helping someone else provide for themselves and their family. So simply our participation in the world means that we are doing our bit for others as well as for ourselves. It is only when we withdraw into our own little world, digging a hole and hiding the master's talent there, that we refuse to "feed others".
I finish by quoting the Dalai Lama. "Whether I like it or not, I am on this planet, and it is far better to do something for humanity. É The topic of compassion is not at all religious business; it is very important to know that it is human business, that it is a question of human survival, that it is not a question of human luxury. I might say that religion is a kind of luxury. If you have religion, that is good. But it is clear that even without religion we can manage. However, without these basic human qualities we cannot survive. It is a question of our own peace and mental stability." (The Policy of Kindness &endash; quoted in "God in all Worlds" Lucinda Vardey p 432)
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