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.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter, April 3, 2016, by the Rev. Karen Joy Kelly

Sermon Year C Easter 2
Alleluia! The Lord is Risen!
          Yes, alleluias have once again returned to our liturgical language and the presence of the Paschal candle is seen and will continue to be lit through Pentecost. You may have also noticed that, in our scripture selections during the Easter season, we read from the Book of Acts rather than from the Old Testament. We are in the season of becoming new … re-membering the resurrected Jesus as our companion on the way.  We will continue in the Easter season of the church year for the next 50 days.
Today, on the second Sunday of Easter we hear many things in our scripture readings, and, mostly, we think about doubting Thomas on this day, because there is a little doubt in each of us. And, if we have not wrestled with this doubt, we have missed one of the gifts God has given us … that of free will. We are here this morning because we believe what has been told to us through scripture and acknowledge that the Word of God gives us life and the tools to survive in an alien world.
I was reminded this week of what the Gospel does for us this morning … beyond being “doubting Thomas Sunday.”
I had not realized what was involved until I became intrigued by the phrase, “‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’”.[1]
My quest began with the final phrase, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” I have wondered about this for years, and this week had the luxury of time to research it further.
My discovery is that, in the Gospel of John, this is John’s way of telling us that Jesus, the new Adam, is actually commissioning the disciples for their work in the world from this point on, much like the end of Matthew give us the commission to go preach to the ends of the world. It was Jesus’ way of telling this room full of frightened followers, who had really seen Jesus as the Messiah for the first time, that they were ready to go forth and do and be the Word of God for the world to see.
So my question, not only to myself, but my invitation to you is just how are we going to live out (or into) our own commissioning over the 50 days of Easter. How is our story going to be linked to the story? How can we show the world that we, too, are part of that story in our being and in our doing? Just how will we show others that the community within the very walls of this beloved community not only talks its walk but walks its talk?
          This is a question that we must answer individually and corporately. #
          Three years ago I read a reflection written by a Laurie Brock in the Forward Movement Website called 50 Days of Fabulous a few years back. She tells us …
          “I had taken my college students to San Francisco to attend the conference for Episcopal college ministries, and we were attending an interfaith remembrance for Archbishop Oscar Romero at Grace Cathedral. The parade of speakers, combined with the general college ministry schedule of sleep-is-for-the-weak led to my attention soon drifting off. Suddenly, I snapped back to focus. On the dais was a local Hindu monk, speaking in a thoughtful, even lilt.
          ‘Last week I received this box of bullets,’ he mused.
          Fantastic, I thought, inwardly cringing. It’s a death threat. Some loony fundamentalist sent this nice guy a box of bullets to scare him.
          As I carried on a cynical monologue in my head, about the awfulness of humanity, the monk explained that certainly he had canvassed his neighbors, and figured out that the bullet box was, in fact, a mis-delivery. It had been intended for his downstairs neighbor – a federal agent of some variety.
          ‘But he had already received a replacement, so I thought What can I do with these? What would bring peace, what would resurrect these weapons?
          “He held up a bowl filled with golden pebbles. ‘So I melted them down, and I made them into prayer beads. Because, I thought, you would like to have them. So take one, please, everyone. We canb ring some resurrection together.’         
          “I still have mine,” Brock continued. “It lives in my jacket pocket, and it reminds me that resurrection isn’t just a singular act, once-and-boom! event. It’s a repeated, habitual transformational re-making of the world in which we participate.”[2]
          It’s a repeated, habitual transformational re-making of the world in which we participate. #
          How will you choose to live into the resurrection between now and May 15? How will your turning bullets into prayer beads change you and change the world, individually and as a member of this dear small church family?
What are the bullets that you can turn into prayer beads? With God’s help I know you will find them and change someone’s life … just as our collect for this second Sunday of Easter suggests:
“Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established a new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show for their lives what they profess by their faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.”
Alleluia, the Lord is risen!
Thanks be to God.

[1] NRSV John 20.21-23
[2] Brock, Laurie, 50 Days of Fabulous, Forward Day by Day website, April 4, 2013 meditation