John 21:1-14 – Breakfast in the Liminal Space

BreakfastAtDawn MikeMoyers
“Breakfast at Dawn” by Mike Moyers

Later, Jesus himself appeared again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. This is how it happened: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter told them, “I’m going fishing.”

They said, “We’ll go with you.” They set out in a boat, but throughout the night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’t realize it was Jesus.

Jesus called to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”

They answered him, “No.”

He said, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

So, they did, and there were so many fish that they couldn’t haul in the net. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they weren’t far from shore, only about one hundred yards.

When they landed, they saw a fire there, with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you’ve just caught.” Simon Peter got up and pulled the net to shore. It was full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three of them. Yet the net hadn’t torn, even with so many fish. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples could bring themselves to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (CEB)

Sometimes, maybe oftentimes, it takes a bit of time to wrap our heads and our hearts around a new reality. After all, if you’ve been used to operating a particular way for a long time, it can be hard to come around to embracing difference – even if that change is really good.

Good ol’ Peter, you’ve got to love him. Bless his heart, the Lord Jesus is risen from death and he, along with some of the other disciple fishermen, are not quite up to speed on resurrection. Christ is alive, the disciples have already seen him on two separate occasions, yet they seem like a dog who has chased a rabbit and now don’t know what to do with it once they’ve surprisingly gotten it.

So, Peter goes fishing. Yep, when all else seems upside-down and topsy-turvy, just go fishing. The problem is: Peter and the boys are going back to a life that doesn’t exist anymore. And that’s pretty much what we all tend to do when we are stuck in a liminal space, caught in a situation of uncertainty without much of a clue what to do. We simply go back to what we’ve always done and hope we catch some fish.

But we can’t catch fish. It isn’t the same anymore. The resurrection of Jesus has completely upended the world. There’s no going back to any sort of pre-resurrection days. All has changed. I’m not sure if the disciples believed they were going to catch any fish, or not. Seems they just had to go do something familiar.

Unknown to them, the rules changed. The old way of fishing won’t work. While they’re off trying to live from the old life, Jesus shows up on shore. The disciples don’t realize its him. So, they don’t anticipate that when Jesus calls out and encourages them that they’ll end up with a nice haul of fish. While the old life yields nothing, the new life with Christ brings abundance, blessing, and fellowship. After the big catch of fish, here are the disciples now eating breakfast with the King of Kings, yet they’re still scratching their heads. What’s going on? Who is it? Well, of course, it’s Jesus, but is it? What’s the plan? I’m so confused.

In the passage and the journey from one reality to another, from a place of familiarity to a place of a future we’ve never seen, from an old life to a new life, there is both the shadow of doubt which makes everything feel so uncertain and the confidence of faith which keeps us going forward. In this middle space there is a continual vacillating between doubt and faith. Rarely is there ever a black-and-white existence. No, instead its wise to become friends with the gray because most lessons we learn come while inhabiting this weird in-between space.

When the disciples encountered Jesus in today’s Gospel story, it was an experience of Jesus in the middle – a six-week time between resurrection and ascension. It was also an experience of the disciples in the middle. There was no going back to a pre-resurrection time of walking and talking with Jesus as they had done before. And there is also no future where they can live in the past or pick up the fishing business just like before.

Although we have the advantage of knowing how the story shakes-out with Christ’s ascension, the giving of the Spirit, and a robustly bold group of disciples going out to change the world – the disciples cannot picture that future in their liminal space on the beach.

We, too, inhabit a middle space. We are in-between the two advents of Christ. This truly is an awkward time in which we, along with disciples, experience a mix of belief and doubt because we aren’t at the end of the story. So, a combination of worship and wondering exists in the here-and-now. Jesus doesn’t chide the disciples for sometimes believing and sometimes not; and, our Lord isn’t exasperated with us because one of the certainties for the Christian is that grace overcomes everything. Sitting down with Word and Meal creates a new space where we can begin to make sense of our sometimes very nonsensical lives.

Great God of Resurrection, help me to embrace both the meaning and the mystery of faith as I negotiate and interpret every situation in my life through the light of Jesus Christ, your Son, my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Click There Is a Hope by Stuart Townsend for encouragement through your liminal space.

Isaiah 25:6-9 – Celebrate!

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Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
    a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
    the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
    the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken. 

In that day they will say, 

“Surely this is our God;
    we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
    let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” (NIV) 

Mountains are a prominent and symbolic part of Holy Scripture. Abraham sojourned to a mountain where the pinnacle of faith was exhibited. The Law was given on a mountain. Elijah met God on a mountain. Jesus preached the most famous sermon ever on a mountain. From such references, and more, we routinely refer to extraordinary events as “mountaintop experiences.”  

The mountain is a great contrast and antithesis to the valley of death below. It signifies God’s power and reign over all earthly rulersOn the mountain we enjoy a great feast of the soul, not to mention an actual meal full of celebration. After all, food and celebration always go together in God’s kingdom. 

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Whenever healing and/or emancipation happen, it is time for celebration. To celebrate significant events, and even to ritualize them so we remember them, is not only wise – it is much needed and vital to how we are wired as humans. The lack of celebration creates spiritual amnesia. When we need support in the future, we don’t recall the mighty acts of God. Yet, if we consistently practice celebration, the redemption experienced in the past is constantly fresh, like a sumptuous meal which is always before us. We can eat of it anytime we want. 

Banquets are rightly associated with hospitality, generosity, and fellowship. Meals in the ancient Near East culture were much more than utilitarian; eating together was (and, frankly, still is in most parts of the world) a deeply spiritual event which communicates acceptance, encouragement, and love to one another.  

God is the ultimate host. He throws the best parties. God ensures that there is plenty of food, fellowship, and fun. God’s joy knows no bounds. In the middle of a world beset with sadness, loss, and grief, God’s boundless generosity swallows up people’s disgrace and mourning. At God’s Table, no one cries alone; everyone is comforted; nobody walks away hungry; and, every person is waited upon, no matter who they are or where they have come from. Indeed, there is always room at the Table. 

Through Christ’s resurrection, “death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Death no longer has any power to control, humiliate, or shame us into submission. Death’s threats are emptyThe Grim Reaper’s teeth have been pulled and his scythe has been broken. He is the party-pooper who is barred from entry. Conversely, there is life and abundance for all who ascend the mountain and feast with God at his Table. The invitation has gone out. The Table is spread. We need only to come. 

In the joy of your Son, Jesus Christ, through his mighty resurrection and in expectation of his coming again, we offer ourselves to you, Almighty God, as holy and living sacrifices. Together with all your people everywhere and in every age, we proclaim the mystery of the faith: 

Christ has died! 

Christ is risen! 

Christ will come again! 

Send your Holy Spirit upon us, we pray, that the bread which we break and the cup which we bless may be to us a sacred communion, a holy celebration of Christ’s body, blood, and victory over death. We declare: 

God has spoken! 

God has acted! 

God has provided! 

May you gather all into your hospitable and abundant kingdom; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy SpiritOne benevolent God, now and forever. Amen. 

Click Celebrate Jesus to keep the Easter songs coming in this season of celebrating new life.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20 – Why Is Resurrection Important?

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So, if the message that is preached says that Christ has been raised from the dead, then how can some of you say, “There’s no resurrection of the dead”? If there’s no resurrection of the dead, then Christ hasn’t been raised either.  If Christ hasn’t been raised, then our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. We are found to be false witnesses about God because we testified against God that he raised Christ, when he didn’t raise him if it’s the case that the dead aren’t raised. If the dead aren’t raised, then Christ hasn’t been raised either.  If Christ hasn’t been raised, then your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins, and what’s more, those who have died in Christ are gone forever. If we have a hope in Christ only in this life, then we deserve to be pitied more than anyone else. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He’s the first crop of the harvest of those who have died. (CEB)

Christ’s resurrection is at the very heart and soul of what it means to be Christian. For followers of Jesus, the risen Christ is at the center of life. New life means freedom from sin, death, and hell. It means experiencing life without the shackles of our past indiscretions, present failures, and future anxieties. Christianity is grounded and dependent upon a very real physical rising from death. To put it another way, the new spiritual life which Christians experience in the here and now as a result of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is a foretaste of our own bodily resurrection.

If you are asking yourself, “Does this guy believe we are going to walk out of our graves like Jesus did?” the answer is a rollicking, “Yes!”  Although Christians have been granted deliverance, our salvation is not yet here in its fullness. We still need to deal with systemic evil in the world, our old habits of sin which occasionally rear their ugly heads, and an Adversary who seeks to exploit it all to undermine God’s redemptive work in us. There is a time coming when Christ will return and the dead will be raised; and, this will not be merely an ethereal going into the clouds to strum on a harp. It will be a bona fide physical resurrection with a new body. Thus, just as we have been given a new spirit within us, a new body will follow at the end of the age.

The Apostle Paul insisted that if there was no bodily resurrection, then our faith is a sham and its worthless. One of the simple observations to make about today’s New Testament reading is that our faith and life are inextricably linked to the life of Jesus. Christ has purposefully joined himself to us. That link is so strong and vital that, in other places, Paul uses the metaphor of a head and a body – Christ is the head and we the body. Just as one cannot separate head from body and expect to have life, so nobody can separate Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection. We will have a new body to go with our new life because of Jesus Christ’s redemptive events. That new body will be as much real as the one you have right now – just without the residual effects of the curse which so stubbornly cling to it.

So, what does this mean for us? Glad you asked. Christian spirituality is also very much sacramental, that is, we inhabit a bodily faith which is firmly grounded in material reality. God’s grace is communicated to us both spiritually through the unseen world and sacramentally by means of the physical creation. We are to be reminded of that sacramental nature of our faith each time we approach the Lord’s Table and ingest the very real bread and imbibe from the tangible cup. Touch and taste help us to know our faith is meant for the creation of our five senses, as well as to impel us to labor in this world for real causes of alleviating poverty, disease, social injustice, and a myriad of ailments that bog this old fallen earth. In short, both body and soul are of great value to our God, and so, ought to be for us, as well.

What’s more, we have both a spiritual and a sacramental inheritance which awaits us at the end of the age when Christ returns to judge both the living and the dead. For the Christian, this is the basis of our hope – a confident expectation that God will make good on his promises.

Almighty God, through your Son, Jesus, death has been conquered and new life unlocked for us. We pray that all who hold to his bodily resurrection may, through the renewal brought by your Spirit, rise up both spiritually and sacramentally; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

In this season of Eastertide, click Christ Arose and we’ll keep the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection coming.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 – Good News

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Brothers and sisters, I want to call your attention to the good news that I preached to you, which you also received and in which you stand. You are being saved through it, if you hold on to the message which I preached to you, unless somehow you believed it for nothing. I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures. He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve, and then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once—most of them are still alive to this day, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me, as if I were born at the wrong time.  I’m the least important of the apostles. I don’t deserve to be called an apostle, because I harassed God’s church. I am what I am by God’s grace, and God’s grace hasn’t been for nothing. In fact, I have worked harder than all the others—that is, it wasn’t me but the grace of God that is with me. So then, whether you heard the message from me or them, this is what we preach, and this is what you have believed. (CEB)

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from death isn’t just a doctrine for Christians to believe; it is a powerful reality to live into. 

Christianity is not a checklist of right beliefs to hold; it is a spirituality deeply concerned with the integration of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection into the believer’s daily life – affecting everything she says and does.

Belief and action are to be a seamless whole.  Christianity “works” when faith in the redemptive events of Jesus are woven into the daily fabric of our lives.  Where there is a disparity between verbal confession and daily actions, there is need for integration.

To hold to the message of Christianity is to allow and actively practice applying and integrating Christ’s redemption into all of life.

The greatest tool in this work of integrity is grace.  In Christianity, God graciously delivers people of all kinds from sin, death, and hell through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  God graciously gives us the gift of faith, to believe.  And God works throughout the duration of the Christian’s earthly life to graciously and patiently sew together a solid spirituality within the believer that effects holiness of life.

The Apostle Paul stated that “you are being saved through [the good news of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection] if you hold on to the message.”  That’s Paul’s way of expressing the need for this integrating work of belief throughout a person’s life.

Far too often, in many places of evangelical Christianity, salvation is looked upon as something static – a mere belief to possess.  Again, I will say: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from death involves belief and much more; it is a powerful reality to live into.  Salvation is more expansive than a first glance can perceive.  Three statements of salvation are true:

  • We have been saved (past historical redemptive events of Jesus).
  • We are being saved (present integration of Christ’s redemption into daily life).
  • We will be saved (future event of Christ coming again to bring salvation in its complete fullness).

In other words, faith is dynamic.  It can be strengthened or weakened, has ability to grow or wither, and rarely sits idle.

Faith needs attention and exercise to develop a strong spiritual life.

Christianity is a practical boots-on-the-ground divine/human cooperative.  When we put ourselves in a position to receive, then grace has no obstacles to generously give.  And that’s not a one-time thing – it is to be a constant and healthy dynamic of receiving from God and giving to others.  The bedrock belief for this to happen, according to Christianity, is that Jesus is alive.  Because he lives, we live.  He has ability to graciously and lovingly help those coming to God.  That is some incredibly good news!

Lord God Almighty, the resurrection of your Son has given us new life and renewed hope.  Help us to live as new people in pursuit of the Christian ideal.  Grant us wisdom to know what we must do, the will to want to do it, the courage to undertake it, the perseverance to continue to do it, and the strength to complete it; through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.