Easter 3C, 2022 – Dawn’s the ground where love has come
Rev. Doug Floyd
Acts 9:1-19, Psalm 33, Revelation 5:1–14, John 21:1-14
At the front of our bulletin, I put a poem by the Welsh writer Bobi Jones. I’m going to start out reading it if you want to follow along in your bulletin or just listen. After These Things, it’s the name of the poem.
“After These Things…”
There’s someone down on the beach,
Walking around, after our nightmare.
His stars are pure, and the cloud is milk,
Filling the morning with the joy of walking.
And yet, he’s motionless. The one
Who enjoys the pebbles and the waves awakening.
Who is it covers the glory of man,
Putting the scent of God’s feet on the beach?
The night’s incessant work is weaving
Like a worm in the soil of my veins;
And yet, I remember only the firm hands
That created me, and the wondrous day.
Were he to open his mouth, I’d swear
That his singing would swaddle the angels:
“Agape!” And a million million
Of the waves would respond from within.
“It is the Lord.” We were held captive,
But now, into an air of light
We’re welcomed. Dawn’s the ground where love has come
To gather a fire of coals.
Simon Peter decides to go fishing and some of the disciples go fishing with him. We’re told they fish all night and they caught nothing. Now is this fishing a sign they returning to the pre-Jesus life? Or is it really just a picture of a group of guys going fishing? Now I know many a fishermen who would not consider the time spent on a boat a waste of time, even if they caught no fish. So fishing is obviously a lot more than fishing. For most of our contemporary fishermen it could be a time of reflection, good conversation with friends. So let’s imagine these disciples fishing through the night. And even if they’re working hard at points, they’re talking to one another.
And what would they be talking about? Well, they might be considering what’s next. They have already encountered the risen Christ, but they don’t know what life is going to be like now. They really don’t know what is ahead for them. It does not appear that Jesus will resume an itinerary teaching ministry where they follow him around. And where they assumed that was their function was to follow him, be his disciples, serve him, help facilitate his meetings.
But that ministry’s over. So what do they do now? They wonder what’s next. If he’s truly come back from the dead, why hasn’t we started some kind of ministry? Something’s different. Life changed. And as they’re fishing through the watches of the night, suddenly there is a hint of light at the edge of the horizon. And someone is walking on the beach. Dawns the ground where love has come. He calls out, “Have you caught anything?”
“No,” echoes across the water.
“Cast your net on the right side, you will find some.” They heed the call and suddenly there are more fish than they can haul. And in that moment of obedience, in that a moment of an abundant catch, John recognizes the figure. Turning to Peter he says, “It’s the Lord.” Peter’s passion takes hold. Soon he’s running through the waters to the shore. The disciples followed him. Jesus has already begun grilling a fish and bread. He invites them to bring their fish. And soon they’re eating breakfast with the risen Lord. He’s doing what he always did. He’s feeding them. He’s serving them. He’s gathering them together. Dawns the ground where love has come.
All through the New Testament. We see pictures of people eating together. I like to do unusual Bible studies. I haven’t done this one yet, but sometimes I’ve done a let’s see what the Bible says about water. We just look up everything about water and just see what we discover. Let’s see how many creation stories there are in the Bible, which it turns out there are quite a few. Let’s look up these unusual things. So here’s one. Let’s let’s look at all the way people eat in the Bible.
If you remember the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, they don’t recognize Jesus until he breaks the bread and they begin to eat together. The Lord uses the vision of food in Acts to compel Peter to go preach to the Gentiles. He’s told to eat the unclean foods. And our story today of Saul’s conversion, he has a traumatic encounter with the Lord, which blinds him. And he’s had to be led by hand to the house of Ananias. And how does the story end? He’s eating. So there’s something about eating together where the eyes are open. It happens again and again in scripture. When the eyes are opened, people can behold. Certainly the Eucharist is a meal of revelation that feeds us and opens our eyes to receive the Lord.
But actually eating an ordinary meal together is also potentially a time of revelation. We offer thanks to the Lord who’s blessed a us and provided the food and made provision. Even if we’re the ones who are earning and working, nonetheless, we consider he’s the one who provided. That certainly would be true in many parts of the world where people are working and they don’t have food. So he makes a way for us.
Now what happens in the breaking of bread together? Well, hopefully we’re not just looking at our cell phones and sitting in silence. Hopefully when we break bread together, we’re telling stories. I grew up in a household of storytelling. My dad told stories. He was so good at it that I feel diminished. I’ve never felt I could tell stories because he was so good. But we told stories. We relaxed. We laughed. When I meet with someone, when you get to know someone new, you usually want to have a cup of coffee or a meal with them. And that’s the time when you, in one sense food and sometimes wine can have the same effect. It lowers our veils that we guard ourselves with so we can talk to people more directly. We can relax, we can laugh, enjoy one another. It binds people together. I tell students in the literature class, if you’re reading a novel and people are eating a meal, it is almost always indicative of the relationship. And if that meal’s broken off for some reason and it’s not completed, that’s usually not a good sign. Okay. It happens in movies a lot. So eating together binds us together.
And there’s a sense of revelation where we see one another more clearly. We see one another through fresh eyes. So you might say if anybody has, well, I’ll forget the name of this movie, but I did. Food is you might call it a taste of love. It can be a taste of love with another person or another group. Dawns the ground where love has come. In the resurrection of the Lord, the world has changed. It’s a new day, a new dawn. So as we read the gospel stories in the resurrection, we realize we’ve stepped into the dawn of a new day.
And in fact, you see this very explicitly in Paul. What is this new day? It’s the day of salvation. Again and again Paul tells us today is the day of salvation. That’s the day we are in. When people try to figure out if we’re in the end times, the early times, we’re in the day of salvation. That’s the day we’re in from scripture. Today is the day of salvation.
So the resurrection points to a new day for all creation. And as we follow the images in the New Testament, there is a sense that this new day is growing ever brighter till the full light of day, which will be the full revelation of Christ, the end of revelation. He’s fully revealed to all the world, all creation will confess he is Lord. We’re told we shall see him face to face and we shall be like him. So as this new day is dawning, as he is serving and feeding us, he is transforming us.
So at the dawn of this glorious day, Christ serves the disciples. He prepares a feast of love. Now he may not address any of their burning questions. He may simply gather them, feed them, love them. Now if we kept reading this morning, we would see that even as he’s serving the disciples, he pulls Peter to the side and he has that exchange with Peter where he ends up telling Peter to feed my sheep. So here’s an interesting picture. Jesus is feeding the disciples, turning to Peter saying, “Feed my sheep.” Here’s the continued idea of eating, eating revelation, spiritual truth. So Peter’s love for the Lord will not be revealed following Jesus through the back roads of Galilee. Jesus is calling him to bear witness to Christ in word and deed. And in fact, if you’re following the story of Peter in Acts, Peter is becoming a living icon of Jesus Christ. We are seeing the risen one in Peter and in all the disciples, as they gather his sheep, feed his sheep, care for his sheep. All the disciples will become images of Jesus as they speak, serve, pray, love.
So in this simple story of a handful disciples, not even all the disciples, just a handful of them gathering at the beach to eat breakfast with Jesus, we’re seeing a image, the beginnings of the glorious church. The disciples will continue this pattern of gathering. If you look through Acts, you see the church eating a lot. Eating together is fundamentally important to the church. They’re becoming a community. So it’s more than just doing a thing. It’s more than just doing a service or having a prayer. It’s becoming a communion. And I particularly love that Eastern word they use for this is [foreign language 00:13:51]. And it is an image of the communion of all things in Christ. We are becoming a living communion as we anticipate the communion of everything in all creation being restored in Christ. And in the midst of their communion in Acts 2, what happens? They’re eating together, fellowship and praying, and in the midst of it, the Holy Spirit descends. And what we have is the birth of the church at Pentecost. So this is traditionally the birthday of the church.
Eugene Peterson has commented there are multiple parallels all through the gospels and Acts of the birth of Christ and the birth of the church. So many things are happening in parallel. The Holy Spirit overshadows and prepares the way in both instances. So in early June, we’re at the end of Eastertide, we celebrate Pentecost, the birthday of the church. All through the year, I’ve tried this. We’ve tried, the vestry wanted us to organize our church membership. And I’m not always good at all these kind of organizing things. And so I’ve tried to try to do it and it’s following through, but I’m committed to Pentecost. Membership is not a commitment to a structure. I guess it is in some form or fashion, but it’s really a commitment to a group of people. It is a formalizing way of committing ourselves in a community. We are part of one another. We are bound together. And so it is a commitment to the giving of the peace to one another, the breaking of the bread together.
Now these disciples that gather around the fire are very different. Peter is passionate, almost to a fault. We see that all through the gospels. He’s getting ready. He’s more likely to get rebuked because he runs ahead. He’s ready to run ahead. He makes mistakes, makes lots of mistakes.
But then we have John, the beloved disciple. He’s soft spoken. We have those who ask questions like Thomas. And as we read the stories and letters of the New Testament, we find very different people. Both people in the church, Paul is addressing very different people in Corinthians, people of different economic classes, people of different giftings, people that even think they’re competing with one another because they’re so different. Very different kinds of people. And so what the Lord is doing in the New Testament, in the gospels, and then later we see in the letters, he is creating a new family and it’s restructuring everything that in the world as it is, so that the Mediterranean family, the Jewish family, or the Greco-Roman family, they’re both very different than the family the Lord has created. And this family is not based on a common economic origin. It’s not based on a common set of interests. It is based on people from different races, from competing social classes, varying giftings, and it is a recipe for conflict and problems. And yet this is the very way the Lord is creating a new family.
So the community of Christ is compelled by Christ himself to gather and sit down, to share a meal. And while we’re still waking up to this new day, his spirit is leading us, calling us, shaping us. Eugene Peterson also said if you want to see how the spirit forms us in a community, it’s about like looking at paint dry. It’s not impressive. To most people it’s not impressive enough, so we have to add something to it, but that’s not going to make it anymore real. And it’s not going to speed it up any because the Lord is the one who’s shaping us as a people in a family.
If we get this in our heads, this answers a mystical question that I often had in the past. This people would speak of beholding the Lord or seeing the Lord. Some people talk about having angelic encounters. I didn’t know what they were talking about. If I want to see the risen Lord and when we use the language, the risen Lord walks among us even now, which is proper theological way of understanding, if I want to behold him, I behold him in the community of God’s people. That’s where I will see, through others as they speak. We interact with one another. He will reveal himself. Each week our men’s group gathers in Vienna. Last Thursday, we were sitting there and part of the men are just men in the community who come. And then some men from the church. We drink coffee, share stories. One of the men is Judge Dugan, he’s a historian. He’s telling us stories of the history about Alcoa community. We’re sharing stories, laughing, listening to one another. And in some sense, this informal gathering is a gathering around Christ. It is the same gathering as the disciples on the seashore, Christ feeding them breakfast. Only this is coffee with Jesus.
But in the midst of it, Christ is revealing himself. This week one of the men shared a story how the Lord had provided him and that sort of created a ripple effect and went around the circle, and suddenly Christ was revealing the way he meets the needs of his people. It was quite beautiful. A time of encouragement. Some of you know Ash Cramer. He was sharing how the Lord answered a simple prayer that he didn’t even think of as a prayer for some collector comic books. A supernatural answer to the prayer where he was thinking about it and said, “Lord, I know I shouldn’t pray for that.” He thought, well, I couldn’t even buy these companies. They’re too expensive. But the only way I could get them is if an older lady somehow maybe had a box of comics from her son or husband in her closet. And she gave them to me. He gets to work the next day and there’s a box of comics sitting on the table there where they eat together at his work. And one of the men at his work said, “I take care of this woman at a senior citizen’s home. And she pulled this of her closet. She said, ‘I didn’t know if you wanted to see what it’s worth’.”
And to make a long story short, Ash did and eventually the man gave… Ash said, “I can give the man some money.” And the man gave him the comics and Ash gave him $200. And he’s like this is crazy. I just prayed this, thought about it last night. Came out of a woman’s closet. These are the collector comics I was praying about. He took the collecting ones he wanted. He gave the rest to a comic bookstore and they gave him exactly $200.
So these are wild stories. We don’t try to create them. But it’s funny when people start sharing their life, suddenly things come to mind. That’s the only time I really share stories very good, in that sudden moment. Because suddenly something comes to mind. You say, “Hey, the Lord has also been good to me.” And then the sharing of testimonies. All of a sudden, we begin to see the risen Lord speaking and working in his people.
Dawns the ground where love has come. Today is the day of salvation. We come to behold the Lord as we gather in worship. We also expect to see him in the community of his people. He promises to be in our midst actually, where two or three are gathered, in times of prayer, joyous laughter, sharing stories, eating food.
So during this Eastertide and even as we move past Eastertide to Pentecost and beyond, let us look for him. Let us look him in the midst of God’s people. Look for opportunities where we can love and care for one another. We’ve been raised together in Christ and we are growing up into the image of Christ. We are together becoming a sacred temple where he reveals his glorious love. So we pray that we would have eyes to see him in our midst, that he would strengthen us and encourage us that we, like the early disciples, might become living icons of Christ, revealing his love to the world around us. The name of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Spirit.