First Reading: Acts 9: 1-6(7-20)
9 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision[a] a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul[b] and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.
8 To you, O Lord, I cried,
and to the Lord I made supplication:
9 “What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”
11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
Second Reading: Revelation 5:11-14
11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 singing with full voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
GOSPEL READING: John 21:1-19
21 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 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. 3 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.
4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
CHILDREN’S SERMON: Today we want to talk about “the Twilight Zone” called “liminal space” today. Those inbetween times. Turn to your neighbor and share something about an experience in the airport lobby, or perhaps the doctor’s lobby, or some other transitional space where you were waiting to go from one place to another. What did you do during that time?
Let us pray. Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Today is the third Sunday in the Easter Season, and John says it is the third time the disciples saw the risen Christ. Time has passed and they are still figuring this “resurrection thing” out. Conversion is a decision that is made that changes the direction of our lives and changes our allegiances and values as our first reading relates about Saul on the road to Damascus when he become Paul. But resurrection implies a process of growth as we live into the meaning of the empty tomb and having a risen Savior. It might be compared to a tadpole become a frog or a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.
Today’s text shows the disciples returning to Galilee to the Sea of Tiberias also known as the Sea of Galilee and they are “waiting” for Jesus to show them the next step. He has always been there in their presence before and they have been his “followers” but things have changed. Sometimes those times in our lives, those liminal times or twilight zones, when we are waiting for Jesus to show us the next step, when he appears silent or distant, are times when we are going through great growth. They are times when we are being challenged to re-envision our situation, consider new methods and heal old scars.
“I am going fishing.”
Re-envisioning our situation
The term, “Twilight Zone,” became a popular TV series but originally
Was a phrase coined in the early1900s to describe the liminal space between fantasy and reality. The term ultimately became the title of an award winning TV series. Today we use the word “liminal” to talk about our times when we feel between events, when we feel somehow undefined, not quite sure what’s happening. We may not be caught between fact and fantasy but we may be between past and future that somehow leaves us at loose ends, not feeling quite real. The disciples were in a liminal space like this.
After the shock of the crucifixion and the empty tomb, Jesus had appeared Easter evening when they were huddled behind locked doors, scared. He had invited them into his resurrected reality, touch and feel, and told them to wait for him in Galilee. They were waiting. What did this all mean? We have experiences that deeply impact our lives and then we have to figure out how to move forward. We get married or perhaps have a child or get a new job or we move to a new place but that is just the beginning. We are the same person but life has changed and actually we are changing too. Jesus told the disciples to wait for him in Galilee and so they had traveled to northern Israel and are waiting for him to arrive. Perhaps appear.
Peter suggests that the group go out fishing. This is logical as many of them are fishermen and a return to the familiar sounds comforting after all they had been through. The familiar routines help us reconnect with who we are, help us get in touch with our selves. We stood in the Los Angeles airport, bags packed, first son in arms, saying goodbye to my parents. I had never been to Kenya and my husband had left 12 years earlier to come to the States for college. I had no idea that plains were not p-l-a-n-e-s. I thought I was going to live with Tarzan and be Jane. Similarly our family came home from our first four years working in a former famine relief camp in the northern dessert of Kenya with starving people at my door all day. I stood in the supermarket in Pasadena, CA, and looked at the multitude of containers of milk and was totally overwhelmed. I had changed. I couldn’t even buy milk.
The disciples have changed. Seven of them go fishing but it is just not the same. AND they catch nothing having fished all night. Perhaps the weather was not good. Perhaps their bait was not right. Perhaps their hearts were just not into fishing anymore. It was not a good experience. That which had driven their life before now is not satisfying in the same way, but the future is unclear.
Churches in transition know this challenge. Bethany knows this challenge. The pastor leaves and it is not clear what the future should look like. Carrying on doing what is known is definitely necessary. The disciples had to eat. But during the liminal time until the next event happens, there is an evaluation of goals, values, and context. This is natural. The disciples were doing it. Bethany is doing it. We all do it when we change to a new phase. We are figuring out retirement. Others figure out life after the death of a spouse, after a move, after graduation, after… you name it and it will be a liminal time of learning to live into a new context. We are looking at life with new eyes and figuring out the next step.
Peter was not alone, though. His friends went with him to fish. AND, though Peter did not realize it, Jesus was on the shore watching and throwing out suggestions that helped the fishermen to move to success. Jesus is there with Bethany, leading, guiding and throwing out suggestions. We are in the boat together and that “creative thinker” might be an asset. New phases of life require re-envisioning who we are.
“Throw your net on the other side”
In the disciple’s exhaustion, Jesus calls from the shore for them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. This sounds very familiar to an earlier encounter with Jesus when he challenged them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat after a night of failed fishing. This time there was no arguing, no “but”s. They obeyed. Twilight zones, liminal times, call us into spaces where we might be challenged to do things a little differently. We need to be open to casting our net on the “wrong” side of the boat.
Somehow I thought that if I found Prince Charming, I would live happily ever after. We can all laugh at that youthful dream because we know it’s not true. Somehow I thought retirement meant being able to “rest” and savor whatever life and strength I had left. I did not envision my husband being challenged by hospice to use a wheelchair. We are struggling to get the net to the other side of the boat. We can all name a challenge to changing our ways of coping with life. The pandemic, closing churches, masks, pastors retiring and the reorganizing of church today is challenging all churches to re-envision what being the body of Christ in our context means. Perhaps we read sermons from Deacon Barbara until God opens the next door. Church may mean making some major adjustments in the future for Bethany. We may need to cast our net on the other side of the boat.
I find it comforting that the suggestion, in our text anyway, comes from a loving Savior standing on the shore watching. It may feel like a government mandate or a CDC guideline or a financial interest hike but the truth is that there is a loving Savior standing on the shore helping us to be successful.
When the disciples obeyed and did the necessary, John recognized Jesus. Peter put on his clothes to swim to shore. They experienced a huge catch of fish. I do not want to sound health, wealth and prosperity gospel. Many martyrs would agree that obedience to the voice of God led to martyrdom. I’m sure the people in Ukraine are not feeling blessed right now. Being between pastors is not a comfortable place but knowing there is a God who sees, who cares, and who is leading and guiding during the uncertainty is comforting. Trying new methods is counter intuitive but not necessarily “wrong.”
Feed my lambs and sheep
Peter and the disciples were the walking wounded. Peter had denied Christ at the trial. The disciples had fled. All were too aware of their own failures. They had to get over themselves and hear God’s voice. We all carry wounds from the failures of our past. It is the topic the evil ones loves to sit on our shoulder and whisper about into our ears. Remember when you…, remember your failure….., remember how that person rejected you….. Satan has such good hindsight and very poor foresight.
Jesus feeds the disciples first. Some of us are running on fumes and just need to feed our souls with the Word, with music, with rest, or with fellowship. Then we can tune in to the conversation with God. We need to sit around a fire, early in the morning and meet with the Lord. Jesus does not bring up the past but starts by asking Peter. “Peter, do you love me more these?” Jesus does not start with accusation and confrontation asking Peter to sit and “review” a failure to learn from mistakes. Jesus goes to a core question. Do we love God more than the glitter of this world? What are our priorities? The question is not about our deeds, our qualifications, or our accomplishments. He does not ask how big a church we have generated or how many times we have read through the Bible. Jesus asked Peter and he asks us today, “Do we love him more than all those things dear to our heart?”
Jesus asked a second time. “Do you love me?” Sit in the question and don’t let your mind wander to the past! The third time Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” Peter responds with an open heart. “Lord, you know all!” God knows all about us. God knows all about Bethany. God knows the past, the present challenges and the future that is a fog. When we come to church and to communion, we confess our failures we know and the sins we do not even know because God knows all. We do not come as successes because we have “accepted Jesus as our Savior.” We come as failures and God knows all.
God asks and we confess. The story of the twilight zone, liminal times, is a story of grace. We face the challenges of reorientation, the fears of the future, the uncertainties of those foggy places in life with the grace of a God. He calls us into the Galilees of life where we sort through our context and our call. He stands on the shore urging us into new methods for new times, times of tackling tasks of the future. He tells us to try something new. As we trust, we are called to fellowship with him and he heals the wounds that would hold us back. He renews our call and commissions us to feed others.
So what does this mean today for us. Perhaps you are a disciple out fishing but catching nothing. Perhaps you are the exhausted person needing to get to shore to breakfast. Perhaps you are the walking wounded who needs healing. We are somewhere in this story today, the story of resurrection. There is a future and Jesus is standing on our shores, watching, guiding, and forgiving us as we walk into the future with him.
Let the people of God say, “Amen!” May it be so!