Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter, April 10, 2016, by the Rev. Karen Joy Kelly

 Sermon Year C Easter 3
Go Fish

          My father was an avid fisherman. In fact, whenever it was possible to go fishing, he did (often much to my mother’s chagrin)! We always lived near water. First it was Loon Lake … a very small Scandinavian complex about 45 miles outside of Pontiac, Michigan. A small lake, to be sure, but the lake in which I caught a five-pound bass when fishing with my dad. I was about five years old when it happened. It was such a big deal that he had the head mounted.
          We then moved to “bigger waters”, so to speak, to Algonac, Michigan, which is situated on the St. Clair River. The River also acts at that point as the boundary between Michigan and Canada. (Algonac is home to Gar Wood and Chris Craft for those of you who are boaters.)
          The strong currents of the river, its international shipping importance and the sheer depth of it meant a bigger boat. Of course, we ended up with a 26 foot Chris Craft, fully equipped with outriggers, trolling lines and sonar so we could more quickly find the schools of pickerel for which the river was known. (I might add that this didn’t always result in more fish caught!)#
          Jesus became the sonar for Peter, James and John that day, didn’t he? They didn’t know, at first, who he was and certainly not the deeper meaning of what he was asking them to do. He simply seemed to be a concerned person offering advice. 
The catch here is not described as a miracle and not intended as one.
H.V. Morton tells us that it is not at all unusual for fishermen casting nets to rely on someone on shore to tell them which way to cast their nets. It is a common occurrence. The man on land can often see fish invisible to the man in the water. Jesus was acting a guide to his fishermen friends, just as people still do today.

Yet, John recognized him immediately by his act fulfilled. Peter then, at John’s acknowledgement did the same.
          So they got to shore, counted the fish and encountered, for the third time, the risen Lord.
          A bit of a side track here about the number of fish. Of course they needed to be counted in order to divide them among the people. More importantly, numbers in the Bible have specific significance.
This is the case in the Gospel of John.
The number 153 consists of 3 separate numbers
100 – “fullness of the Gentiles”, shepherd’s flock, seed’s full fertility is 100-fold. Therefore, the 100 stands for the fullness of the Gentiles who will be gathered into the “net” of Christ. (according to Cyril of Alexandra).
50 – stands for the remnant of Israel who will be gathered in.
3 – stands for the Trinity to whose glory all things are to be done.
Yet Jerome offers yet another and the simplest explanation: in the sea there are 153 different kinds of fishes; and that the catch is one which includes every kind of fish; and that therefore the number symbolizes the fact that someday all men of all nations will be gathered together to Jesus Christ.
Also, it is noted that the great catch of fish held them all and did not break. The net stands for the Church; and there is room in the Church for all men of all nations. Even if they all come in, she is big enough to hold them all. Therefore, the universality of the Church leads to no kind of color bar or selectiveness. The embrace of the Church is as universal as the love of God in Jesus Christ.
And so, dear ones, on this Third Sunday of Easter, when there is so much to think about in the words of the Gospel of John, I invite you to think about yourself as a fisherperson. How will you “Go Fish” for Jesus in the next several months?
As Jesus, the now-risen Christ asks Peter, “Do you love me?” three times, consider that he is asking you the same question. “Do you love me enough to go feed my sheep, go tend my sheep, go out into the world in mission to show the love of Christ through this missional outpost known as our small church?” If so, how will you use your gifts, talents and skills to make God’s love known in this community? How will it reflect back on you and on the church? Are you willing to listen to Jesus’ suggestion of casting the net elsewhere?
Are you willing to be trained for special ministry that will be needed for future sustainability? Are you willing to do all in your power to sustain the work of Jesus through this place?
Are you ready, once again as you recall your baptismal vows, to be able to say, “I will, with God’s help”? And then, are you willing to step out and commit yourself to the future?
If so, then, go fish, in Jesus’ name!
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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