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In the gospel reading appointed for this upcoming Sunday (John 21:1-19), we hear the story of one of Jesus' Easter appearances.

It's early one morning after Peter and the other disciples had been working (fishing) all night. They'd worked all night, but caught nothing.

Yes, worked: keep in mind this isn't recreational, out-with-a-buddy-and-a-six-pack type of fishing.

Fishing was Peter's (and James' and John's) occupation. It was their job, the way they made a living.

So they've worked all night, but caught nothing. It's been a fruitless, unproductive time.

Then, at daybreak, as they're pulling into shore, something strange and unexpected happens.

A "stranger-whom-they-later-realize- is-Jesus" (I'll say more about that dynamic in Sunday's sermon) tells them to try something new (I'll say more about that in Sunday's sermon, too) and so they cast their nets on the other side of their boats.

This results in a miraculous catch of so many large fish they have trouble hauling it all in.

All of a sudden one of the disciples does realize it is Jesus on the shore and yells out "it is the Lord!"

When Simon Peter hears this, he puts on some clothes, because he was naked (no, I don't think I'll be saying much more about that in Sunday's sermon!) and jumps in the sea while the other disciples pull into shore dragging the net full of fish.

Now all of a sudden there's a charcoal fire with fish on it (fish were already on it - before they've come to shore) and some bread.

Jesus asks them to add some of the fish they've just caught. They bring the fish. Jesus says, "Come and have breakfast."

They have breakfast.

And then we get to the even more interesting part!

When they finished breakfast, Jesus turns to Peter and asks him three separate times in three slightly different ways, "do you love me?"

Each time Peter answers "yes, Lord, you know that I love you."

And each time Peter says, "you know I love you," Jesus says the same thing: "feed my sheep."

(Well, apparently, if you really get into the Greek, Peter and Jesus say what they say in different ways with different meanings or nuances, so Peter would be saying "you know-as-a-fact and you know-in-a-feeling/ intimate way" that I "love-you-with-my-heart/love-you-with-my-will" and Jesus would be saying "well then, feed -tend-pasture my sheep -lambs-young sheep-whole flock" but no more about that either here, or in Sunday's sermon, because let's face it, I have enough trouble following my own train of thought when I stick to the English translation, let along the tangents of thought that happen when I allow myself to explore nuances of the original language).

And I have a very simple point to make.

Which is that I think one of the most important words in Sunday morning worship is a word said at the end of the service.

And the word is "go."
 
As in,

"Let us GO forth in the name of Christ."

"GO in peace to love and serve the Lord."

"Let us GO forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit."

The point of Sunday's passage, I think (and lots more about this in my sermon!) is quite simple:

Peter - "St. Peter," the rock - has long represented, or been a metaphor, for the church.

So maybe the point of this passage is that Jesus is saying, "church...Christianity...religion: despite your failings, despite your denials and fruitless labors...here's a new way, here's a new approach I want to show you - coming from an unlikely source you don't even recognize as ME - that will result in wild abundance. I don't need that abundance - I have my own, thanks - but you do, and I want you to have it, so here, eat; enjoy. (And so that would be worship; the sacraments, especially Eucharist -- that'd be fellowship and breaking of bread and what we do when we gather as church.)

Then we hear Jesus saying, "let me ask you: Do you love me more than these? Do you love your founder, your convener, your provider?"

And if your answer is "yes, Lord, you know we love you," then show it. Prove it. Put it into action.

Go.

Go do something about it.

Go feed my sheep; go pasture my people.

As my favorite prayer puts it - a prayer we'll use at The Falls Church Episcopal this, and perhaps the next few Sundays just before the dismissal -

We are simply asked
to make gentle our bruised world
to tame its savageness
to be compassionate of all (including ourselves)
then, in the time left over,
to repeat the Ancient Tale
and go the way of God's foolish ones.
--Peter Byrne, S.J.

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