John 21 1-19
There is a saying that goes something like this. Without vision, the people die. Without vision, each of us dies. You know what it's like. The ultra-mundane of life. The thud of the bills. The meetings. The same thoughts and emotions you have each day. Ah, it's that one again. Now it's that one again. The same arguments and conflicts you have with particular people. Ah, it's that one again, and that one again. Days like one damn thing after another. Life like one damn thing after another.
Have you noticed that when we are outside, under the sky, we can start to feel that sense of possibility and promise? And if you walk along a beach and stop and look out into that wide horizon, well, the Spirit can start to stir in us, like a person groping their way out of the dark.
Today in the Gospel we are on the beach, by the sea of Tiberius. And the vision is dying for the disciples. That marvellous possibility that Jesus seemed to open up in them, that promise of a richness which we half-glimpse but never fully see, all that seems to be falling back to earth and the ultra-mundane is taking over. '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.' The depths you see are not yielding their treasure. This is us when our spiritual lives start to lose contact with the sense of God's richness and possibility: we go fishing but we catch nothing. We pray but it feels like nothing. And meanwhile there is that difficult thing to deal with and there is that worry you have worried about for only the hundredth time.
'Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus sad to them, 'Children, you have no fish, have you?' This is the call of the Spirit to us when we are lost, when we catch nothing in our nets. Notice that day is breaking. Daybreak is another time when we can sense new horizons, the beauty of a different way of living calling to us. But we have to first acknowledge our lack, what we know is missing in our lives. 'Children,' Jesus says to them, 'you have no fish, have you?' They answered him, 'No.'' It's when we know that we are lacking, that our lives are not really connected to the riches of the Spirit, that new possibilities can be drawn up out of the depths. 'So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.'
Let's say that there are at least two ways to live our lives. There is one way where we get totally caught in the ultra-mundane, where it is one damn thing after another, where we drown under the weight of it all, can't see the wood from the trees, where we fish in the depths but the depths don't yield their treasure. Now, in a way, this is the way we can all live. This is life without a vision and it is a locked-in life, life without a view. But, God is always calling us to wake up, again and again. Wake up to what it is like to live at a new level of depth and meaning. And this is the spiritual adventure. And coming to Church can be a re-awakening to the sheer delight of the spiritual adventure, or a re-setting, if you like, of your inner compass, set to the wider horizons of God rather than those diminished horizons of self which never actually lead to anything new.
'Come and have breakfast.' Can you sense the new spirit of delight and purpose in that invitation to the disciples? Jesus is always inviting us too take up the offer of the spiritual adventure. Earlier in John's Gospel he says to two of the disciples, 'Come and see.' In other words, come and see a richer way. And now he says, at the end of the Gospel, 'Come and have breakfast.' He's inviting us to the feast and we have been living on takeaways (yes, I know, I love takeaways too but you know what I mean). When we take time to pray, when we come and receive at Holy Communion, we are always being invited to the feast, to that which we cannot create for ourselves, but which calls us to come and participate.
But what does this participation in God's life look like? Jesus has a conversation with 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.'' First there is a question to us. Do you love me? This is the strange truth of the spiritual life. It is built on a personal, intimate relationship with God. Remember Mary in the garden with the risen Christ. God meets us face to face, heart to heart. And Simon Peter declares the reality of his love. Love calling us to become lovers of the world. Because that is the result of the conversation. After Simon Peter declares his love Jesus tells him to 'Feed my lambs.' He also tells him to 'Tend my sheep' and 'Feed my ship.'
Awakening then to a new dimension of spiritual vision and experience is not for our own sakes. When our sleeping love awakens inside us we find we are called to become lovers of the world. Love calls us to transcend the limits of our self. There is nothing more meaningful than living your life consciously connected to the wellspring of love, which is God. The simplest action acquires depth, meaning and purpose when it becomes a declaration of love to God and to the world. Your care of another. That difficult meeting. That work you must do. Once it is rooted in that inner vision of God the action finds its true place, its true harmony. And love, of course, takes you to dangerous places. A heart that is open and loving in a Christlike way is a vulnerable heart. Christ tells Simon Peter that as well. '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.'
The spiritual adventure is an adventure full of risk. Leaving yourself behind as you journey into God makes you vulnerable, but it also makes you alive at a new level of intensity and purpose. Never forget that the spiritual adventure is also a delight. Today is a good day to re-kindle that sense of inner-direction, which is the great gift God gives to us as we heed that call to follow. On shore the disciples find 'a charcoal fire… with fish on it, and bread.' That re-kindling of our spiritual senses, our spiritual awareness; that re-kindling of our inner fire of love. That vision of what is possible, no longer the enclosed self but open to God's horizon.
"While I accept your humiliation as part of the proceedings, there has been no humility."
Reverend Ben Brown
1st May 2022