The Peace of Fish
I’d like to begin by thanking Rev Bob for filling in for me last Sunday. Not only is it nice to share this ministry with him, but it’s also nice to have a friend who’s got your back.
Last week Bob said something to the effect that now has Easter Day has come and gone, it’s easier for us fall right back into our old ways and habits than it is to truly live as Christ, as resurrected people. That’s a powerful and troublesome thought.
As more people are becoming vaccinated and restrictions are being lifted around the country, we might be tempted to go back to the way things used to be instead of taking what we’ve learned over these last 14 months to make the world a better, safer, healthier place where everyone can live and thrive.
After witnessing his death, many of Jesus’ disciples went back to their old jobs. But it’s only a matter of time before they will come to see what God has done. And what God is calling them to do - move the kingdom of heaven forward. So it is at the end of Luke’s gospel.
Read: Luke 24:36-49
If you are a lover of zombie movies this passage could have your head spinning in all sorts of directions.
The last time the disciples saw Jesus, he was dead on a Roman cross. Now he’s standing in the room with them. And they are freaking out. Who could blame them? They are us. Imagine going to the funeral of a loved one only to come home and find that person in your kitchen eating a bowl of cereal like nothing ever happened.
Now, the first thing we learn in this story is - nobody expects Jesus to be here. But all of a sudden, he is. Zombie narrative aside, this is a subtle but important point. As the old saying goes, “It’s best to be good because you never know when Jesus is going to show up.” And trust me, he will.
Next, Jesus greets them. “Shalom!” which is loosely translated into English as, “Peace be with you.” A bit ironic don’t you think? It’s hard to find peace when you’re freaking out because the dead one is no longer dead. But in Hebrew, the word “shalom” means much more than “peace.” According to Kirk Kubicik It’s a word used to convey that all is well with the world; all is fair, all is just; all is the way God means it to be.
But it’s not well. Not now. Not then. Up until this point, all the disciples know is the bad guys won. They, who are us, watched their teacher be unjustly condemned and wrongfully murdered. Their fear is legit. As far as they know they’re next. But here comes Jesus – showing up to let them know that all is right in the world. This is the way God wants it to go down.
Jesus comes bearing God’s shalom. But our fears and worries make it hard to see, even when it’s right in front of us – close enough to touch. Nevertheless, the disciples are happy to see their teacher again; to embrace him in the flesh. And after their strange reunion is out of the way, Jesus becomes one of us again. He wants to know, “What’s there to eat?”
Christ is not only alive. He’s also hungry. And wants us, the disciples, to feed him. The disciples, us, give him some leftover fish. I suspect this isn’t what Jesus is hankering for. Because after he eats, Luke says Jesus opens their minds to understand the scriptures.
Jesus isn’t hungry for food. He’s hungry for our well-being. He wants to make sure that we understand the word of God, what the laws and the prophets speak of, because it’s in there we find all the ways to make everything is right in the world - the way God means it to be. Jesus takes the fish but feeds us scripture so we will always hunger for what is just and right.
This is important because this had not been the case with most of the religious teachers in Jesus’ day. Like Kubicek points out Jesus was upset with the ways his religious contemporaries were using scripture to their advantage. “Instead of bringing God’s people, all people, together, the administration and understanding of God’s 638 rules, beginning with the First Ten, was being used to separate people more than bring them together.”
Let’s be honest. What ticked off Jesus then ticks off Jesus today. Think about all the times you’ve heard Christians slice up Scripture to validate why it’s okay for them to discriminate and exclude others from worshiping God? To borrow from Jesus, they notice the speck in someone else’s eyes but cannot see the log that’s in their own.
As we have come to see in recent years, such behavior pushes people away from the church and from receiving God’s unconditional love. This is not the way to bring about God’s shalom in the world, is it?
Christ is alive. And Christ is hungry. Hungry for justice, fairness, and equality for all people – not some people, not most people, not lots of people. But all people. As churches are battling it out over “who’s in and who’s out,” the world is starving, literally and figuratively, for the way God means it to be. The way of peace, the way of love.
In everything Jesus did, he did to open our eyes and hearts to the way of God’s never-ending love. And now he’s calling us to use this love to satisfy the hunger of the world. He made that perfectly clear when he said that the hungry were to be fed; the naked clothed; the prisoner visited; the sick made well; the stranger welcomed.
This Jesus, the one who identified himself as the foreigner mother pleading for her child’s life, the one who saw his reflection in the eyes of the cheating tax collector, the leper cast out from society, the war vet begging on the street, and the hardened prostitute crying out for hope.
This Jesus who we have come to worship and glorify today – the one who took our pain and suffering as his own, the one who sat with the dying and wept with the bereft – never turned away from people. He turned towards them. He made sure everyone had their fill of God’s loving grace. Even as they killed him.
You see this Jesus – who is hungry for something more than a piece of broiled fish – actually meant it when he said, “What you do to them, you do also to me”?
Earlier I said, “you never know when Jesus is going to show up.” But here’s the truth. Jesus doesn’t show up unexpected. He shows up in the other. He comes to us every day – alive and hungry. But who’s going to feed him?
How will we respond when we see him? Afraid, in disbelief? We can pretend Easter was something that has come and gone, as if it is no longer relevant. Or we can feast on the words of Jesus who says, “Repentance and the forgiveness of sins are to be proclaimed …to all nations, all persons.”
Jesus tells the disciples, who are us, “You are a witnesses of these things.” But will we go out and feed the world as living witnesses to this Shalom he speaks of and died for? Or will we simply offer him a piece of leftover fish?
As you leave here today, I hope you will remember that Christ is here, offering you God’s shalom. This is not a greeting. It’s a call to participate in God’s kingdom. We are his church, a holy body broken for the world. He calls us to make our lives, our homes and churches, a place where all people are not only welcomed but fed, nourished, and satisfied with the redemptive love of God’s grace and mercy given to all through Christ Jesus.
St. Augustine said it like this. “You are the body of Christ. In you and through you the work of the incarnation must go forward. You are to be taken; you are to be blessed, broken, and distributed; that you may be the means of grace and the vehicles of the eternal love.”
For some reason Christ has made us a partner in his ministry. So it’s my hope for you, his beloved, that you will go out from here, fearlessly and faithful, to be who God has called you to be. A holy and sacred feast for a very hungry world.
Let us pray:
God of new life and of new beginnings, we give you thanks for this new day, and for opening our eyes to see you in the beauty that is springing from the ground. With each new bud and bloom we are reminded that Christ is always risen, and we are resurrection people. Just as Christ has opened our hearts to receive you, our minds to understand your ways - we pray that we will remain open to your call to serve you. In a world hungry for your shalom, may we remain a constant source of what they are seeking. May we be a body broken for them, so that you can work through us; providing what we cannot on our own. And so we pray that you will guide those who make decisions, and protect those who live under their rule. We pray for those who live in fear of violence, and for those who make them feel afraid. We pray for those who live in mansions and those who live in the streets. For those who have too much and those who have too little. We pray for those who are sick and in pain, and those who bring them relief. We pray for those who have asked us to pray and for those who cannot pray for themselves: We pray for this church, and all who come seeking to know you better and for those who have rejected you. May we forever be an open door for all to come and experience your love. By your Holy Spirit, send us out into the world as vessels of your love, as imitations of your Son in whose name we offer you these prayers. Amen.
Kubicek, Kirk Alan. Jesus Is Hungry. (April 19, 2015).
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has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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