The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r161.htm


s161g13   Third Sunday of Easter  14/4/2013

‘Come and have breakfast ..’  John 21.12

This is the only time that Jesus actually contributes to a meal.   The risen Lord built the fire and provided the bread and the fish.   By far the majority of the 153 large fish the disciples caught were for others.   Jesus not only feeds the disciples, but provides the wherewithal for them to feed others.

This whole passage is about communion, about feeding.   Peter is told three times that he demonstrates his love for Jesus by feeding others, and the risen Lord takes the lead.

I have been thinking about what makes us human.   This was inspired by the words: 'Although people may think of their body as a fairly permanent structure, most of it is in a state of constant flux as old cells are discarded and new ones generated in their place.   Each kind of tissue has its own turnover time, depending in part on the workload endured by its cells.   The cells lining the stomach .. last only five days.   The red blood cells, bruised and battered after traveling nearly 1,000 miles through the maze of the body's circulatory system, last only 120 days or so on average before being dispatched to their graveyard in the spleen .. The epidermis, or surface layer of the skin, is recycled every two weeks or so. .. As for the liver .. its life on the chemical-warfare front is quite short.   An adult human liver probably has a turnover time of 300 to 500 days .. Other tissues have lifetimes measured in years, not days, but are still far from permanent.   Even the bones endure nonstop makeover.   The entire human skeleton is thought to be replaced every 10 years or so in adults .. About the only pieces of the body that last a lifetime, on present evidence, seem to be the neurons of the cerebral cortex, the inner lens cells of the eye and perhaps the muscle cells of the heart.' (1)

We are indeed physical, and we need food to feed the physical things we do as well as providing the wherewithal for this constant regeneration happening all the time.

We are all rational, emotional, relational, spiritual as well as physical and each of these is interdependent on the others.   But despite all this change and renewal, the person we are stays the same.   The soul, that unique person we are, that hopefully matures, given appropriate sustenance, remains uniquely 'us'.   The soul is not just our bodies or our minds, our emotions, or our relationships with others or that which is beyond, but neither can a soul exist without all these others.

The soul may not be able to be weighed but we know its reality every conscious moment we live, every time we look into a mirror, as we use our minds and feel our emotions, as we relate to others and to that which is beyond.

And it is the soul that speaks to me of a very special creator, albeit I accept that the bible's six days is but one account inconsistent with the other placed straight after, so whose actual purpose is not history at all.   It is as we glimpse our own souls I acknowledge that I, along with every other human and sentient being have value and worth.  

The God I worship is the author of each and every soul, and the faith I have is that God wills that all souls be fed.   And there are many ways to feed souls.    To destroy the soul, be that quickly through conflict or slowly through poverty and starvation, is to destroy God in that person.   It is important that souls are fed physical food, for real hunger drives people to desperate actions.   But the physical body needs exercise too.   I have experienced the benefits of Yoga on my physical, emotional and spiritual well-being in times past.   Good intimate relationships also feed our souls.   Destroying another soul is not just to destroy something God made, but something God made for us and for society.

It is important here for me to say that we must be sure that the sacrifices we make to God are our own, and not someone else’s or else there will be hell to pay.   See here the prophet Nathan’s condemnation of king David. (2)   If the church denies safe and effective methods of contraception to millions of people, thereby condemning more and more people to lives of poverty, illness and premature death, and then complains that society doesn’t share the resources of the earth more effectively with these millions, whose sacrifice is this?   If I actually believed in hell and a day of judgement, then I am glad that at least I do not have this on my conscience – there are enough other things on my conscience, true enough.

And God wills all souls be fed, not that all souls become identical, as it seems some 'christians' believe.   In our post-Easter readings we have re-read the stories of the raising to life of the widow of Nain's son and the daughter of Jairus, and it struck me that these were raised to life, their souls unchanged, immediately identifiable as the persons they used to be.   (3)   They were not made religious, it was their humanity that was restored.

Jesus invites the disciples to come and have breakfast; they are invited into a community that is at its heart forgiving, affirming, inclusive and egalitarian.   Sitting around a charcoal fire, there is no ‘high table’, no especial protocols to observe other than common courtesies, no place to wash hands, no need to dress up.   They are not invited to a bible study or prayer meeting – to make them into something other than who they are.   They are not invited to withdraw from the world into some physical or metaphysical temple, but to see and accept the invitation to the feeding of the Lord in the midst of life as we live it.   They are invited to a meal, not an altar.   The risen Christ comes to them in the midst of ‘ordinary’ life, away from doctrines, scripture, and special places.   The risen Christ comes to them in the least religious of settings, and this is where the risen Christ is always found.   This is the import of the incarnation and the reason for the Cross.   Religion banishes the real God from their holy huddle because the real God includes others.   

One of the problems in the New Testament is that, as J L Houlden observes: 'for John the believer .. the new commandment .. is not that the neighbour is to be loved .. still less the enemy .. but rather the fellow Christian'. (4)   So John recalls Jesus saying: 'I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.   Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.   By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.' (5)   But the realisation that comes to me is that this is predicated on an inclusive church.   If the church has become exclusive, alienating and condemning of others - how is this different to any other selfish religion?   If the church is a monoculture, then our love, one for another reflects nothing of God.

The risen Christ invites us to 'come and have breakfast', to join in that simple meal that is at once forgiving, affirming, inclusive and egalitarian knowing that the Lord has already provided food enough ready for us to share with others, forgiving, affirming, including all others equally.   With the risen Christ, there is no restriction on or limit to forgiveness, affirmation, inclusion and equality.

(1) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/02/science/02cell.html
(2) 2 Samuel 12.1-6
(3) Luke 7.11-17 & Luke 8.41f
(4) 'Ethics and the New Testament.' Pelican p 36.
(5) John 13.34,35