This pattern of reflection is designed to encourage us to deepen our understanding of what it means to be an Easter people.
The reflection was used as part of our Morning Prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Easter which you can view on our Facebook page of on this YouTube video.
- What are you most looking forward to when things “get back to normal?”
- Read this week’s passage.
- Keep a few moments of silence
- Read the passage through a second time
- What word or phrase strikes you or stands out for you?
- Read the passage a third time
- Think about what that phrase might mean to you and what questions it raises.
Breakfast on the beach – John 21: 1-14
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 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. 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.
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ 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. 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 lake. 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.
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 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. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
But of course, it didn’t work. Everything was familiar, but it just didn’t ring true anymore. We were all a little older and little less energetic. The places that seemed edgy or glamorous just seemed a little tired and boring. The people we knew and who remembered us were perfectly kind, but just not that interested in us being there. So, we left, a little sad but perhaps a little wiser.
Never go back say, but of course we always want to. At times of uncertainty and change there is, inevitably, a draw back to the old, to the familiar, to the known. That is where we find ourselves at the beginning of our Gospel reading. Despite the vivid and physical reality of Jesus’ resurrection his disciples return to what they know, they return to their old jobs, they return to their fishing boats. Like me and my friends returning to our old University, looking for familiarity amongst the disorientation they did what we all do, they went back.
This is of course such a natural thing to want to do. We are living in a time of disorientation and many of us are getting fatigued by it. We want it to end, we want it to stop, we want to go back. But the reality is that whatever we go back to it won’t be the same as it was before.
Right now, none of us are in a situation to say how long we will remain in this time of disorientation. But already we are beginning to think about what it might be to go back. Returning to the image of the wilderness that I have used more than once during this crisis; we find in the Bible that experiences of the wilderness tempt is to want to go back. Even with the memories of their slavery and servitude fresh in their minds, the people of Israel openly talked of returning to Egypt as the strictures and disorientation of the wilderness began to bite. But then, as now, the reality sets in that we can’t ever really go back to how things were.
So as we begin to think about what the future might look like, and what returning to some sort of normality might hold for us, what does our Easter experience tell us about what this will feel like?
Well our reading today offers us some clues.
The first is that as we go back and discover that things are not quite as we expected them to be, we need to remember that God will still be there with us. In our reading it is not that the disciples return to their old tasks, then realise the error of their ways, and leave to find Jesus somewhere else. No, Jesus is present with them, even if they can’t see it immediately. In our future world we might not at first recognise Jesus’ presence with us, but we need to have the Easter-confidence to know that our risen Lord will be with us.
The second is that in recognising God’s presence with us we might be like Peter and do something reckless and foolish. I somehow doubt this will involve falling naked out of a boat – but I wouldn’t bet against it. The reality of this comic-turn in our story is to remind us that we will all respond to the new reality that we find in different ways, and so we need to be charitable and understanding and caring with each other as we do this.
The third is that as we come to make sense of our new reality the risen Lord will be the one to guide us. For me the heart of this story is the meal that Jesus provides for the tired and disorientated fishermen at the end. What stands out for me about this meal is that Jesus does not bring something new to this changed reality. Instead Jesus takes something from their old experience – the fish they would catch day by day – and use this to feed them in this new reality.
As we move towards a “new normal” – not just in our church life, but in every part of our lives – there will be a disorientation and sadness that this is not how it used to be. But through the early morning haze of this new world we need to, like those disciples on their familiar boat, strain our eyes and recognise that God will be with us in the new normal. We will, inevitably, all respond in different ways to this reality, but we will know that God will be at the heart of it. And as we make this new reality together, Jesus will take the things that have informed and defined our past experience and feed us as he fed those disciples on the beach with the gifts of the old as we make together the possibilities of a new world.
- How might we look for God’s presence with us as we look to the new?
- How do you think you will react to the new normal we will find ourselves in (in either church or wider life)?
- What from the “old” do you want to be at the heart of the “new normal”?
- You might like to gather this time of personal or collective reflection in prayer by saying the prayer for the Parishes by the Wall or your own prayers.
- We finish by saying the Lord’s Prayer