The risen Christ appears again to his disciples by the sea where they were first called. After echoes of the fishing and feeding miracles, he gives a final reminder of the cost of a disciple’s love and obedience. The Holy Gospel according to St John the twenty-first chapter. After [he appeared to his followers in Jerusalem,] 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 Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, 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 Lord. 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, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 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.” 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 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 he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Velma Dinkley. Velma always brought it all together. I know not too long ago, I mentioned that my absolute favorite meal was fish for breakfast, but I don’t think that I mentioned the circumstances. We would get fried flounder on friday nights and there were always leftovers in the fridge on saturday morning. So I would get up, grab the box of fish, a glass of milk and have breakfast with Velma and a whole host of other cartoon characters. Velma Dinkley is a fictional character from the Scooby-Doo television series. Her typical outfit actually, her only outfit, consists of an orange turtleneck sweater and a red pleated skirt and thick rimmed black glasses. I think some of Velma’s character traits rubbed off on me as a kid. I love exploring mysteries, and examining clues and I have a hard time giving up on them or letting them go, AND as I write this, I realized that I’m doing so wearing an orange shirt, my glasses, digging deep into a mystery, next to my huge dog and thinking, “ I’m one red skirt away from losing my glasses and stumbling through a trapdoor, but then solving a mystery!. I initially get excited about this gospel because Jesus’ menu choice for breakfast is a hearty amount of roasted fish, but THEN you come to find that this passage is filled with mysteries and clues. If you don’t believe me, Google the number 153. That’s the amount of fish that it says were caught. Centuries of effort have gone into the significance of that number, but we are not going to get bogged down there but dig into and investigate the clues that lead to a deeper understanding of what Jesus desired for his disciples and for us and discover the neat ending twist in a proclamation of grace that is often overlooked. I think we will come to the place in our investigation where we see the truth and grace and it will be like the mask getting pulled off and the Law that tries to conceal it and that binds us will be like, “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit and you meddling kids.” So first things first, our little pastors’ study group we call “Wading in the Word ” should change its name to Mystery Inc. after Scooby-doo’s team because I got to witness some awesome revelations and investigation this week. Big questions. Why were the disciples fishing? And why did Jesus keep repeating himself to Peter? And while we are at it, What’s with the Occupational/Physical therapy reminder as a conclusion, and right out of the blue at that. The first problem. The disciples are fishing…For fish….As an occupation… And with “and on this rock I will build my church” Peter. Peter is 200 yards from shore and buck naked. He’s not fishing for people and they sure aren’t catching any fish. So Jesus offers a not so subtle reminder. Hey guys, y’all need to try something different. I’m sure the vibe on the boat was the same as the reactions Ive witnessed to the advice of armchair fishermen. “OK guys, let’s humor Mr Know-it-all and then row in. Tell me how to fish! ‘Landlubber loudmouth. Cast on the other side of the boat. Been fishin’ all my….. Then that slow motion realization as they all look back toward the beach. Busted. Do we find ourselves as individuals and as the church clinging to what we “know”? To our security? Back to our nets. Longing for the “Good old days” and the way it used to be? What happens then but Jesus draws them in and feeds them once again. Then there’s that very curious interaction. Thanks to our friend Victor, our language “go to guy” for the heads up on this clue. We adjust our Velma glasses and realize that it makes absolutely no sense in the English translation. It’s like closing your eyes, feeling an elephant’s leg, and proclaiming it’s a tree. You’re missing something important and the translators don’t give you a heads up on this. Jesus and Peter are using two totally different words here! Here’s the Velma Dinkly knowledge nugget of the week. There are eight different words for or kinds of love in ancient Greek. “Eros” is a passionate and intense form of love that arouses romantic and sexual feelings. There’s “Philia” or friendship. Plato felt that physical attraction was not a necessary part of love, hence the use of the word platonic to mean, “without physical attraction.” Philia is a type of love that is felt among friends who’ve endured hard times together. Then there’s “Storge”. Storge closely resembles philia in that it is a love without physical attraction, but it is primarily about kinship and familiarity. It’s the kind of love between parents and children. Then there’s “Ludus”. Ludus describes the early stages of falling in love with someone. It borders on eros but has to do with flirting, teasing, and that first excitement of holding hands and hoping for a first kiss. Then there’s “mania”. It’s characterized by possessiveness, jealousy and the need to be loved by the person of your desire in order to have self-value. Then “pragma”. It’s a love that has endured and matured and has been maintained over time. Then there is “Philautia” or Self Love. Aristotle said, “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.“ This isn’t Narcissism but a healthy understanding and appreciation of ourselves. And lastly there is “agape”. This is unconditional love. Agape is free of desires, selfishness, and expectations. It is accepting and forgiving despite the imperfections and shortcomings of others. Agape is the word used when describing God’s love for us. Jesus asks Peter using agape. Peter, do you love me unconditionally and sacrificially? Peter responds twice with philia. Something like, Jesus, dude you know you’re my bro. You know we’re like this X. We don’t see it in English, but there is a step that Pete’s just not willing to take. It’s Jesus that makes the change of language in the end. He tries to get a confession of the deepest unconditional love, but Peter is obviously not ready, so Jesus settles and asks Peter to take care of his people. There they are, on the beach again. The disciples have witnessed the resurrection and they are overcome by something. It’s probably something different for each one of them, but here they are, back to the security of fishing for fish. We see Peter’s struggle. As Lutherans, we see the struggle in moving to the next level. The fancy name for it is sanctification. Sanctification is being set apart for a special purpose, that is being made holy. The Holy Spirit creates faith in us that propels us to good works and loving our neighbor. The good things we do are not earning God’s love for us, but they flow directly from justification, that is that by God’s love and grace our relationship with God is made right, renewed and all transgressions are forgiven. So we see Peter hanging on the edge of a pivotal moment here. This is at the very end of the Gospel of John, so I think it’s pointing to us, the readers and we here Jesus asking us if we have an agape, sacrificial, all in love for him, and are we willing to walk away from the security of the past to follow him and feed and serve his people. If we stop here, it sounds like the ball is in our court and it is within our power and dominion, that it is ultimately our choice or Peter’s choice, but Jesus says this next thing that has always deeply puzzled me. 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.” In Scooby-Doo 2, Monsters Unleashed, Velma says, “Mystery is my mistress. I must heed her sweet call.” It’s the last thing! I felt it had to be important, so I kept going over it and realized that it illustrated for Peter and the reader the undeniable driving force behind sanctification. Within this interaction, Jesus completes the circle of faith and God’s will. Though we may not be completely on board, though we can’t make the agape leap, we must turn back the pages of John, way on back to chapter 3, you know the discussion with Nicodemus, the lead up to John 3:1… For God so loved the world? Jesus is speaking of being born again, being born of the Spirit and he says, “”The wind blows where it wishes. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” It was an insurmountable decision for Peter. Too many variables, too much uncertainty, too much fear, but the good news is that Jesus loved him nonetheless and the Spirit fastened a belt around him” so to speak and led him and propelled him on to Follow Jesus and feed his sheep. And as we Lutherans say, And also with you!