Ezekiel 36:22-28, John 21:1-14
April 14, 2013
I was thinking this week that there’s a difference between making a commitment and making a change. A commitment is a decision. And of course, decisions are important. We make them all the time. But making a change once the commitment is made is another thing altogether. It’s easier to say we believe in something, than it is to have it change our lives. Think about that. It’s easier to say we believe in something, than it is to have it change our lives.
The disciples were committed to the cause of Jesus, and yes, it had changed their lives for the past three years. But all that had changed in the last days. Their leader had been brutally executed. They were in hiding. Then they had heard that he was alive again! And they saw him!! They had been part of this, the greatest miracle ever, but they had yet to see how it would change their lives forever.
As we said on Easter, they had the expectation that this man they followed for three years would always be their leader. It’s easy to see how they would think that. But that all changed. Now, he wasn’t with them any more not in the same way. And it seems as though they were ready now to go back. That’s what this story of the disciples going fishing always represents to me. These men were fishermen, most of them, and they were going back to that life. But Jesus met them by the lake that day and said, No. You’ve only just begun to do what I’ve called you to do! If we read on in this chapter, we would find this little vignette about “feeding the sheep,” and about “going where you don’t want to go,” giving Peter and the rest of them an idea of just how serious all this would become.
I read a book years ago called 13 Men who Changed the World by H.S Vigeveno. Anybody ever read that? It wasn’t a very well known book. But it was a good attempt at filling in some of the stories of these 13 men chosen by Jesus to be his disciples. (Remember Paul was the 13th) It was a very good book for me because it gave me a good overview, not only of what we know about these guys from the scriptures, but also about what tradition has to say about their later lives. It was pretty amazing stuff!
The one we know the most about was Saint Paul. We know a lot about his Missionary Journeys from the book of Acts. We know he went all over Asia Minor and Greece, preaching the Gospel and starting Churches. But tradition holds that so did the others. We don’t have the same kind of records about them. But tradition tells us that some of them went up into Europe, while others went as far as India, and maybe even into China. And tradition also holds that almost every one of them died a martyrs death for their faith. Only John lived to an old age.
I often think of that book when I read the Gospels, and I see the actions and hear the words of these men. Because in the Gospels, they often don’t get it. Often they are seen as timid, and sometimes clueless, men. At one point they pledged to go and die with Jesus in Jerusalem, but when the time came, they bolted and ran in fear. (Im not sure we give enough attention to that moment!)
But then something happened! Something happened that changed them. We know that something was Pentecost, and well talk about that in a couple of weeks. But I believe that change started here in this story. For here, they seemed to have had the next in our series of expectations They expected that things in their lives would get back to normal. They expected that they would go back to life as it was before. But that expectation didn’t happen, either! Instead, they would go out to turn the world upside down! (Or right side up! Depending on how you look at it!) After this day, they were no longer disciples – ones who follow. They were Apostles – ones who are sent! And I think it’s safe to say that they didn’t expect any of that when Jesus first said “follow me” and they said “yes.”
Life for the disciples would never be the same again. But what about us? What are the expectations we have about our lives in relationship with this Jesus? We can easily find ourselves in the same boat with those disciples, fishing. We can easily find ourselves thinking our lives will always be the same as they have always been. As I said when I started, it’s easy to get excited about the Good News and make a decision, but then it can be yet another thing altogether for that Good News to make a change in our lives!
We are now in the Season of Easter. But we used to have a different name for it growing up. My friends used to like to call this the time of the “post Easter let-down.” And it wasn’t just us. Do you know what the Sunday after Easter is called in all the old liturgy books? Its called “Low Sunday.” All you have to do is look at church attendance and you know there’s something to that!
So, do you ever feel that way after Easter? Have you ever had “post Easter let-down?” Have you felt that way this year? All year long there’s this build-up. It starts in the fall with Advent. But in the Winter and Spring, there is an increasing anticipation and preparation for that great celebration. And then when its over you find yourself breathing a big sigh of relief, relaxing, and saying, “Ok now its over. Now life can get back to normal.” Do you ever feel that way? And do you feel that way about your faith?
There was a great old movie I saw years ago called The Candidate. It’s an early Robert Redford movie where Redford plays a young lawyer who decides to run for political office. And the whole movie is about the election. It’s about all the things he did to campaign, and to persuade people to vote for him. And the climax of the movie comes on election night. Everyone is gathered in his campaign headquarters, and the numbers begin to show that hes going to win. But when the time of his acceptance speech nears, they can’t find him anywhere! Finally, his campaign manager goes up to his room and finds him sitting on the edge of his bed, just staring into space. And when he sees him, Redford looks up and says, “What do we do now?” In all the buildup, he hadn’t given any thought as to what he would do if he won!
Sometimes weddings are like that. When people come to me, they’ve usually made a switchover in their lives. Months before, they had been talking about their life together, their dreams, their plans. They had been talking about their marriage. But then, after the engagement, it seems all they’re talking about is the wedding day! They’ve stopped talking about their future! And I often wonder if, after the wedding, some have had a moment like that candidate. What do we do now?
Sometimes Easter is like that! We’ve done all the things were supposed to throughout the season of Lent. We’ve thought about our faith and all that it means to us. We’ve considered where we’ve fallen short and how we need to grow closer to God. But then Easter day finally comes. So we go to church, we celebrate, we eat the ham, and then we go back to life as it was before. And we wonder if it has made any difference at all! Like I said at the beginning, the commitment is one thing, but making a change is quite another!
I want you to think about that change today. Because there already has been a change in your life, otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting here. At some point recently or long ago you got involved in Church. You became a follower of Jesus Christ. (Or you said you did!) What if you hadn’t? What would life have been like if you had never been involved with the Church? What changes have you made because you are involved?
Here in the Season of Easter, here in the time of the Post Easter let-down, I want you to consider that life will never be the same again. The disciples were discovering it that day by the lake, as they talked with the risen Christ. And isn’t it amazing that he didn’t grab their attention and inspire their new life by having them catch nothing. He didn’t do that and then say, “Sorry, boys, you’re not going to be doing that any more.” He didn’t reveal himself by having them catch nothing. He did it by having them catch everything! He was saying, Look at the life I’m going to give you!
Thats the life he wants for us. He wants that abundance. He wants no let-down. But he wants us to know that it’s not just a commitment, it’s a change! What will that change look like in your life? And what changes do you think you need to make?
Eternal God, we know you call us, but we don’t always answer. Or we answer you, but only on our own terms. We hang on to life as it has always been, and we miss the abundance and joy and peace of your kingdom. Help us, Lord, to know we are yours, and to seek to follow you, “looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Show us how life in him is never the same again. For we pray in his name, Amen.