The promise of the resurrection is that the risen Christ will make an appearance in our lives. God lurks on the edges of joy, boredom, loneliness, and despair. And whatever your ordinary looks like, resurrection is just around the corner.
Vicar Anna Helgen
The Third Sunday of Easter, year C
text: John 21:1-19
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you and peace, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I have a confession to make: I’m experiencing a post-Easter Sunday letdown. There is so much build-up to this important day, so much waiting and watching and witnessing as the events of Holy Week unfold, and then suddenly the big Easter Sunday arrives. We come together to worship, to sing our Alleluias, to enjoy the beautiful flowers, and to celebrate the risen Christ. And then the church empties, as people leave to visit family, have brunch, or in my case, go home to take a long nap on the couch with two cats by my side.
Then Monday morning arrives and I hear echos of the day before: Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia. It is still Easter, of course, but my life remains unchanged. Everything seems the same.
So I press on, because that’s what I do. I return to a more normal work schedule. Catch up on household chores I’ve neglected. Mail a birthday card to a relative. Renew my driver’s license. Check in on a friend who is hurting. And then, one day, all of a sudden, the joy of the resurrection appears out of nowhere, and I am overcome with the power of God.
I was driving to work on this particularly dreary morning. It had rained and rained the day before and the sidewalks and streets were still damp. As I followed the twists and turns of Mississippi River Blvd, I was struck by the greenness of the grass. Lawn after lawn seemed to levitate, popping out from the earth like an image from a Magic Eye book. I noticed tulips and daffodils budding all over the place, pushing their way through old leaves and debris. They were unstoppable! There was new life exploding all around me!
In many ways, it was a completely ordinary day. Just another day…driving the same route to work. But this ordinary day was transformed when I noticed the power of the resurrection at work. I witnessed the power of God, the power of life over death, the power of promise. God was acting in the world to transform a dreary day in my ordinary life into a moment of joy, wonder, and awe. Everything looked different that day because I was oriented again to the newness that God brings to us through resurrection.
I often wonder if the disciples experienced something like a post-Easter letdown. We heard last week that they rejoiced when they encountered the risen Christ. But then what? Did they continue in their celebrations? Were they confused about what to do next? Were they scared of what might happen to them?
The Gospel doesn’t tell us. But Peter gets the idea to go fishing, and the disciples follow. It makes sense that they would do this. After all, they are fishermen and this is the trade that they know and understand. But for experienced fishermen, they have some terrible luck. An entire night of fishing and not one fish to prove it! I can’t imagine what that felt like. I don’t fish, but I’ve watched my friends fish up at the cabin, and they get discouraged within an hour of not catching a walleye! It must have been a lot worse for the disciples, experienced as they were. Even so, the story seems believable. We all know what it’s like to have a bad day at work!
But then at daybreak, a mysterious figure on the beach encourages them to cast the net on the other side of the boat. And suddenly, out of nowhere, they haul in an abundance of fish—one-hundred and fifty-three of them to be exact.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. And it was there—in the ordinariness of that moment of fishing—that Jesus shows up. The disciples’ discouragement is transformed into joy. Their lack into abundance. The ordinary is made holy. This is the power of the risen Christ. For the disciples, life on the other side of the resurrection is rife with opportunities for transformation, for new life, for abundance.
It takes the disciples some time to figure out that this mysterious figure is Jesus, but once they do they race to shore with their catch, and their friend Jesus invites them to a meal. “Come and have breakfast…and bring some of the fish that you have just caught,” he says. The disciples do as they’re told. And together they share in a seaside potluck.
The promise of the resurrection is that the risen Christ will make an appearance in our lives. We can’t predict when and where, but we can trust that it will happen. In an ordinary moment, God will show up and suddenly everything will be changed. We might see it happening in the lives of others before we see it in ourselves. We might wonder how it will happen or when it will be our turn. But God is with us in those moments of waiting and wondering and in the moments when we recognize clearly God’s resurrection presence. Because God lurks on the edges of joy, boredom, loneliness, and despair. And whatever your ordinary looks like, resurrection is just around the corner.
Our invitation during this Easter season and beyond is to hear what Jesus says to Peter: “Follow me.” We, too, are disciples and are called to follow Jesus. And following him means going to the cross, to the places where there is pain and brokenness. But to follow Jesus also means to follow the risen Christ. It means to bring light and love to ordinary places. It means to celebrate the resurrection joy in the lives of our family, friends, and neighbors. It means to listen for and recognize when Jesus has broken forth in our own lives as well. To follow means to be gathered by the Spirit on Sunday mornings, and then to be sent out to be the hands and feet of Christ for the sake of the world that God loves so much.
John’s Gospel ends shortly after this story with these words: “But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” The books continue to be written, my friends! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!