April 26, 2015
When I was in High School, I went on many youth retreats – mostly to (where?) Kirkwood! And I remember in those days, how we used to talk about what we called the “post retreat let-down.” Retreats were very exciting times! They were very spiritual events. They were our “spiritual mountaintops!” But when they were over, when we went back to our homes and then our schools, life seemed “just as it always was.” And there was a “let-down,” almost a “depression.” Have you ever felt anything like that?
Sometimes that happens with our Easter celebration, doesn’t it? Easter is a special time of year. It’s a spiritual time. We read the stories of Jesus and his passion. We consider the dark events of Good Friday, and the despair of that Saturday. And hopefully, we then feel the thrill of Easter morning, and the realization that Easter was such an important event that the world started counting the years all over again. But then, when it’s past, we sometimes feel a little bit of a “post Easter let-down.”
As I’ve often pointed out, in the old liturgy books, the Sundays immediately following Christmas and Easter were actually called “Low Sundays.” And that’s kind of sad, if you think about it. But it’s more than just a matter of “low attendance.” It’s more than just people “taking a break” after a long, busy Lenten season. Sometimes there is a “spiritual low,” isn’t there? There can be a real “post Easter let-down.” Maybe you’ve felt it.
At the very least, we feel an “energetic” let-down! There are a lot of activities going on during Lent and Holy Week. And many of us have been to many of them. We’ve been part of the Ash Wednesday and Lenten services. We were part of the Agape celebration on Maundy Thursday. (That was an amazing event this year, by the way!) We were part of the Good Friday experience. And we’ve done our personal preparations of prayer and Bible reading. We’ve prepared for family celebrations. We may even have dyed some Easter Eggs! And then, when Easter is past, and all that activity is over, we give a big “exhale.” But after all that activity, we get a feeling that somehow we should still be doing something. But no, it’s all over…
Well, the thought for today is that it’s not over. The Easter “Adventure continues.” And I think our story from John tells us that. I want you to think about these disciples. They had been on a “roller coaster” of emotions. They had experienced great excitement. They had seen the huge crowds that came to hear their Master speak. They were there when the people hailed him king! But they had also known worry and fear, especially that final week! Jesus seemed to be going down a road to destruction, and they weren’t sure what to do about it. Then, they had felt utter devastation when it all went so bad. But then, Easter morning dawned! And they had felt the disbelief, the wonder, the joy! Now they had even seen the risen Lord – on a number of occasions. They had just begun to understand what it all meant. But they weren’t sure where they fit in.
Yes, it would now seem that the ministry of Jesus was continuing. But the only way they had been part of that ministry before, was following Jesus around watching him conduct that ministry. Now they were realizing that he wasn’t going to be around to follow like that any more. So what would they be doing. Well, we know what they didn’t know. We know that them “going back to life as it had always been” was not to be! We know that they were now going to be the leaders!
This story today is about them trying to go back to “life as it always had been.” And they weren’t doing it in any kind of rebellious way. They weren’t saying “No, Jesus. We’re not going to lead this ongoing movement.” No. They were just not sure what life was going to be like, so they went back to the only life they had previously known. They went fishing. In other words, they went back to their fishing trade! They were fishermen. So this wasn’t a matter of them “taking a break” and going out to “drown a few worms.”
This then is the story how Jesus meets them at the sea, and how he tells them that “the adventure” would continue. And I love how he does this. He uses images and memories from powerful events in their past. The disciples we’re out fishing and they’d caught nothing. And Jesus calls to them from the shore, and he tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. And I wonder if they thought about objecting. They did that before, you know. The last time this happened, they said, “Teacher,” (because they knew who he was that time!) “Teacher, we have worked all night and caught nothing.” No, this time there are no words of protest here. There are no thoughts of “Hey, we’re the fishermen here!” They cast the nets, and of course for the second time they catch a “plethora” of fish! I think there’s no doubt that they remembered the first time that had happened! And I’m sure, at that moment, when John said, “It’s the Lord!” he didn’t need to see his face to know! Only Jesus could cause this to happen… Again!
Well, they drag the nets and the fish to shore – without Peter’s help, of course, because he jumped in and swam to the shore! They pull in the fish and the nets and the boats, and they sit and have breakfast. And we can only imagine the emotion, the anticipation, the excitement they all felt. Well, maybe not all of them! Because at a certain point, Jesus turns to Peter. There is still some unfinished business with him! Jesus asks him, “Simon, do you love me?” And notice he uses his “old name!” Not his new name, the name Jesus gave him in the good time, the time when he said that he was Peter, the rock – the rock upon which he would build his church. (“Petros” in Greek literally means “Rock.”) This is a moment of redemption for Peter. He’s asked three times to acknowledge his love for Jesus, which I’m sure he knew was all about the three times he denied Jesus that Thursday night.
Then Jesus tells him what’s in store for him. “When you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will carry you where you do not want to go.” And John tells us that this was a prediction about Peter’s death. And in hearing it, we can’t forget another prediction Jesus made about Peter – a prediction that came true – a prediction Peter would surely have remembered at that moment! In the Upper Room, when Peter said he would never abandon Jesus, even if he had to die, Jesus said “before the cock crows you will deny three times that you ever knew me.”
So, this was a moment of redemption for Peter. And that was a big thing! But there’s more here. Because, if you think about it, Peter wasn’t the only one who had denied Jesus. All of the disciples ran! They all abandoned him. They were all being redeemed here! And I’m sure they were all feeling it. Jesus was telling all of them that their lives would be changed forever.. The Easter adventure was to continue. And they would be a big part of it!
They would soon find that out. And we’ll be reading some of the stories about that in the very next book of the New Testament, the book of Acts. No, they wouldn’t be following him around like the past three years any more. That time was over. But the Easter adventure would continue, because Jesus’ ministry would continue. And it would continue through them!
It is my hope that we we can see ourselves the same way. I hope we too feel that redemption. I hope we know that the day of Easter is past, but the adventure of Easter continues, because the ministry of Jesus continues! The disciples weren’t sure about that, but eventually they would be. They would be slowly transformed, as we too are being slowly transformed. We would see Jesus’ ministry continue through them, in the books of the New Testament, and in the history of the world since. And I hope that we can see how that same ministry continues – through us!
So let me just say, in all of this, that yes, we might be feeling like Easter is over. We might be feeling like it’s time for life to get back to “just as it always was.” We might be feeling a little of that “post Easter let-down.” We might even be feeling a need for that redemption. But may we know that Easter isn’t over! The day might be past, but the adventure continues!
Eternal God, help us to live as your “Easter People.” Help us to know that we are part of the story. Help us to follow Jesus, and in following, to be more like him every day. May we grow in our ability to be the light of the world as he himself called us to be. And we give you thanks and praise in his name, Amen.