15. April 2018

Gone fishing

Service Type:

’…I am going fishing…’ (John 21, 3a)

It isn’t easy to make sense of what was happening between the time when Jesus was raised from the dead, and first appeared in the garden to Mary, and then to the Disciples, and the time of His ascension some 40 days later. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus was a constant companion of the disciples for the whole of that period, but the New Testament suggests not. We have recorded just a few occasions when Jesus appeared to them; otherwise one imagines they were on their own. They had been told to go to Galilee, ‘There they would see Him’, and in chapter 21 of His Gospel John describes for us what happened (Tiberias was a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee). We don’t know how long after the resurrection this was – days, weeks, even a month or so – but it does seem to have been a sufficiently long time for some of the disciples at least to have begun contemplating what to do next; to go back to what they knew best, what they had been brought up to, that from which Jesus had called them away from just a few years previously, fishing. The risen Christ can encounter us wherever, whenever. All of us has our ‘going fishing’ moment. That moment when we have to re-engage with the ordinariness of life; the routine that might be thought of as stifling us when it reality it provides us with a structure for living, the routine that might be thought of as restricting us but nevertheless ensures that what needs to be done gets done, the routine that might be thought of as limiting us yet which guarantees that we do not lose our discipline approach to living in the face of every temptation to do otherwise. Life mat be boring, may appear to be boring, may seem to be nothing bit boring, but that is how it is. Resurrection doesn’t necessarily demand of us that we forsake our everyday way of living, doesn’t necessarily require of us that we give up on what we do, doesn’t necessarily result in our having to change everything for no other good reason. Resurrection is not about living a different life, it is about living life differently. The challenge with which resurrection confronts us is one that we ignore at our peril: it may not be about living a different life, but we need to take care lest we allow ourselves the ‘luxury’ of living the same life, not in a different way, but in the same way we lived it before; living as if the resurrection never did happen…

“We simply forget all this—so busy are we, so immersed in our daily preoccupations—and because we forget, we fail. And through this forgetfulness, failure, and sin, our life becomes "old"again—petty, dark and ultimately meaningless—a meaninglessjourney toward a meaningless end. We manage to forget even death and then, all of a sudden, in the midst of our "enjoying life" it comes to us: horrible, inescapable, senseless.” (Alexander Schmemann, ‘Great Lent…’).

Hence the Church, from the very beginning, put in place the means by which we would never forget, perhaps the most of which was to change the day upon which believers gathered to worship. Originally, Christians worshipped on Saturday, the 7thday, the day God rested, following the tradition established by their Jewish forebears – not surprisingly given that the overwhelming proportion of the earliest Christians would have been converts from Judaism, but soon it was changed to Sunday, the 1stday of the week, the day of resurrection: every Sunday when we gather to worship we do so in the light of the resurrection so as to be reminded that whilst life is life, it can be lived differently. But then to temper any ‘over enthusiasm’, to constrain any ‘over exuberance’, to counter any ‘over emphasis’ the early Christians introduced the regular celebration of the Last Supper, but in the light of the resurrection, now to be understood as the Lord’s Supper at which the enduring significance of Jesus’ death was to be called to mind, a significance that is made apparent precisely because of the resurrection. And so, the Calendar of the Church began to take shape, the means by which believers might be made to realise that life, an otherwise ordinary life can be lived differently as a consequence of the death and resurrection of Jesus…

“...the liturgical traditions of the Church, all its cycles and services, exist, first of all, in order to help us recover the vision and the taste of that new life which we so easily lose and betray, so that we may repent and return to it. ... It is through her liturgical life that the Church reveals to us something of that which "the ear has not heard, the eye has not seen, and what has not yet entered the heart of man, but which God has prepared for those who love Him." And in the centre of that liturgical life, as its heart and climax, as the sun whose rays penetrate everywhere, stands[the Risen Christ]...” (Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent…’).

This is why it is so important that everyone of us makes being at church on a Sunday a 1stpriority. It is the most important aspect of what it means to live the Christian life – Can you be a Christian without going to church? – in theory yes, but in practice I very much doubt it. But don’t fall for the flip-side of such an argument: I only need to go to church for me to be a Christian, because resurrection reminds us that the risen Christ will seek us out wherever…and that if we are consciously striving to live life differently, He will be there with us, and often in the most unexpected andsurprising ways…

“There is a fragrance in the air, a certain passage of a song, an old photograph falling out from the pages of a book, the sound of somebody's voice in the hall that makes your heart leap and fills your eyes with tears. Who can say when or how it will be that something Easters up out of the dimness to remind us of a time before we were born and after we will die?(Frederick Buechner, ‘Telling the Truth…’)

It is the Risen Christ who meets us, whose origins are to be found in a time before we were born, and whose destiny lies in a time after we die. Born to die, as are all of us, in resurrection, Jesus consecrates every living moment of ours to Himself.