"Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation" is the title of a book by my beloved theology professor and friend, the late William C. Placher. It is also now the title of this blog, a place where I hope to add a Christian voice -- God knows, not "the" Christian voice, but "a" Christian voice and not just any old voice, but a distinctly Christian voice -- to the pluralistic conversation going on about just about everything.
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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.
"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!"
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.
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!
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."
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."
"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.
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.)
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 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 -
For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year. What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories…
So for Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that.
Now one of the things I'm thinking about fasting from during Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
That would mean taking on encouragement: to make visible -- even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
So for starters: I'm inspired by the leadership example of…