"All Kinds" April 14, 2013 (Easter 3C)
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, singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” 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 honour and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
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. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 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. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Saviour!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Saviour, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 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. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 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. 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 Saviour. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
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, Teacher; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Teacher; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to Simon Peter 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 Peter said to him, “Teacher, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you 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.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.) After this he said to Peter, “Follow me.”
Will you pray with me? Holy One, you have given us an abundance of good things. Teach us to recognise your generosity; may we receive your gifts with an open heart, and with an open hand may we share them with others. In all your names, amen.
Any Dr. Seuss fans here? "One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. Black fish, blue fish, old fish, new fish. This one has a little star. This one has a little car. Say, what a lot of fish there are!" All kinds of fish... A myriad, in fact, just like the angels in Revelation.
Peter and the other disciples catch a lot of fish...153, to be exact. That is a lot more than 8 or 9 people needed for breakfast! There was an abundance of fish. Now, there are a couple of things we could take from this. One is that there were 153 kinds of fish known to the world in Jesus' day, so it is as if the disciples caught one of each. On the other hand, there is the simple fact of more fish than they needed, an abundance.
What is abundance? It is having more than you need--not more than you want, but more than you need. If I had two cars, I would have an abundance of cars--I can only drive one at a time. If I had six TVs, I would have an abundance of TVs, there isn`t that much room in my apartment!
The disciples had an abundance of fish. 153 shared among 9 people is more than 15 fish per person! Unless they were very small fish, that is a great deal more than any one person could eat at breakfast.
And what does Jesus say to Peter after this generous meal? He asks Peter if he loves him--and of course Peter says yes; and Jesus tells him to care for his lambs, his sheep. I don't think it is a stretch of the imagination to say that Peter has been shown what Jesus wants from him. "If you love me," Jesus is saying to Peter, "then be as generous to them as I have been with you."
You know, we come across this sort of image all the time in the Bible's conversations about God. There is the cup that runs over the brim in the 23rd Psalm; the huge catches of fish, the riches of Solomon, the land flowing with milk and honey, the manna from heaven...you get the idea. God is not stingy: God gives with an open hand.
It is something very basic about who God is, and how God is; giving, sharing, overflowing, more than we simple humans know what to do with. God does not measure things out, but simply gives, and gives generously.
God has given us many people, too, to share the world with. Tall people, women, black people, gay people, Canadian people, strong people, Turkish people, men, funny people, smart people, people who eat meat and people who don't... so many different kinds of people in the world. Each one is special and unique, like the 153 fish that were each counted. And yet we are all part of God's abundance, too, part of the "myriad of myriad," most clearly when we are gathered as community.
And when we, the church, gather at God"s table, we share in that abundance. Just as Jesus spread a meal of abundance for the disciples on the beach, we share in Christ's feast with the church at the Communion Table. We have more than enough, and we share. As I say every week--"This is not my table, or MCC Windsor's table; it is God's table, and all are welcome here. Everyone here is invited to share at God's table of grace."
Everyone means all. As there were many kinds of fish, and many many angels, we humans are varied and many too. Ourselves, who we are, is part of God's abundance; by being who we truly are, we share God's bounty with others. Unique and special, part of God's overflowing provision for the world--we are both. And as Jesus asked Peter, so God asks us: "Do you love me? Feed my lambs." From the plenty that we have--of love, of understanding, of compassion, of simple presence, of ourselves, of possessions, of wisdom, of hope--share, feed, care for, provide for, each other, the lambs of God. In all God names, amen .