4-4-16 - No Going Back

This week we get to explore the must fun of all of Jesus’ recorded resurrection appearances – his beach-side fishing advice and breakfast combo. And it starts out low-key – Peter decides to go fishing, and six of his fellow disciples join him (two unnamed… I don’t know why the evangelist John, who later tells us exactly how many fish were in the nets, couldn’t be bothered to find out who those two were...)

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.

Why did Simon Peter decide to go fishing? Well, let’s review the tape: Jesus has risen from the dead. He has appeared at least twice in the locked room where the disciples have been holing up. He has spoken peace to them, breathed the Spirit upon them and commissioned them to bring forgiveness and release to the world – only, they haven’t gone. He did that on his first visit, and a week later they are still in the same room. He has also appeared to a few on the road to Emmaus, and in Galilee, and a few other times not spelled out in the gospels. But no one seems to know what to do next.

From what we know of Peter, he did not do well with inaction. He is a man of strength and impulse. Thomas, too, is shown in the story of Lazarus to be action-oriented and brave. Yet they don’t seem to know how to move forward in the climate in which they find themselves. Jesus is risen; that’s incomprehensible, and wonderful, all at once. It also raises the risk levels –the authorities who executed Jesus might well want to stamp out his following. It’s not safe outside, yet they can’t stay in that room forever.

So Peter and his buddies go back to what they know. At least they can get out of Jerusalem, get out on the water they know and love, maybe even make a few bucks if they get a good catch. But they can’t catch a damn thing. Jesus had promised to make them fishers of men, and now they didn’t seem to know how to catch fish anymore! The movement of God is always forward, not back.

Have you ever tried going back to an old pastime, habit, relationship, milieu when things feel stagnant or blocked? It never works. The pull of the familiar is strong, but we worship the One who said, “I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5) Yes, we all need to get out of the locked rooms of our fear and distress, but before we go back to the last place we felt comfortable, it is good to ask God, “Where are you inviting me to join you next?” We can look around to see where we believe God is at work, doing the things we know God does – healing, feeding, restoring, renewing, reconciling – and join God there. We can discern where our energy seems to rise, where we feel the winds of the Spirit blowing us.

Peter and his friends thought they were killing time, waiting for God to summon them. Little did they know that God was right there, inviting them to see the familiar in a whole new light. God is always up to something new – what is it in your neighborhood?

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