Lectionary Reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year B
April 19, 2015
Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 1 John 3:2
Everybody loves a good story. It’s how we communicate with one another. Stories help us to share life and to explore what it means to be human–to love, to laugh, to cry, to experience this life. The best teachers (and preachers!) know how to use story artfully to draw an audience in, to drive home a point, and to send folks into the world pondering and/or moved to action. Jesus was a master storyteller. And so were the authors of scripture.
In fact, this week we have both a fish tale and a love story all rolled into one breakfast on the beach and the impassioned words of a disciple writing to an early Christian community. Think about it. Jesus is risen from the dead. This amazing and beloved rabbi is now revealed as more than just the hope of the tiny nation of Israel but indeed as the out-of-this-world ruler of the cosmos who will not be bound by time and space but who is also as ordinary as the fisherfolk with whom he’s now dining on the beach.
What madness is this? How can this be? We’ve taken this absolutely phenomenal story and sanitized it for Sunday school consumption. We trot dutifully to the altar rail to consume a bit of bread or a wafer, a sip of wine or a jigger of juice in various states of awareness of the miracle of this meal. And that we are called children of God? Wow! What wondrous love is this? What kind of earth-shattering, limit-busting, reality-bending wonderment is this? Really.
Don’t take this the wrong way. I’m really NOT trying to beat up on everyday faithful disciples, on salt-of-the-earth Christians who are trying to walk the walk and talk the talk, the faithful who “fall down seven and get up eight” as the Japanese proverb reminds us. This is not a guilt trip. No, not at all! This is a good news story that never ends. Our Lukan fish tale this week reminds us that even the early disciples doubted, were confused, and sometimes were stuck in a quagmire of inaction and ineptitude. Human nature has not changed one iota. And the good news is that neither has God’s amazing love story and wild and crazy grace.
Our life of faith may be marked by hills or mountains. It may be peppered with storms and pitfalls. There may be periods of clear, smooth sailing, just as there will surely be times of trial and tribulation. The journey begins at baptism and ends when we enter eternal life. There are no shortcuts, no fail-safe plans for traveling ease or assurances of “first class” seating; however, John’s letter to these early Christians who suffered doubt, confusion, hardship, and loss
points us to the nature of God revealed in and through Jesus. Like the original audience, we need to hear this message again and again: The essential nature of love is an integral part of discipleship. God and love cannot be separated.
In Jesus we see God. In Jesus we see love worked out in a radical, mind-bending way. In the revealing of God and the nature of love we get our discipleship marching orders. It’s a love story that never ends, that we are written right into and that is written (quite literally) into our very hearts.
And yes, just as Jesus told his first disciples, we ARE witnesses to these things. We may not have been sharing that meal of fish over a charcoal fire on the lakeside beach, but we share Christ’s very self and consume Christ’s amazing love whenever we gather at his table. So let us consume love and be consumed by love. In doing so, we are equipped to live life abundant and to go out and retell this love story/fish tale so that all may see and hear.
Consider singing “What wondrous love is this” today. Send people from the communion table with a reminder that we are witnesses to Christ’s amazing love at his table and that we leave equipped to share that love with a hurting and broken world.
What’s the solution to life’s troubles, cares, and woes? The psalmist provides some direction in Psalm 4. What begins with a cry for help ends with the assurance of God’s presence and the joy and security that comes from a life focused on God. Consider inviting youth to create a series of visual images for Psalm 4. It could be a short video, a series of paintings or posters, or a series of Instagram photos to post. Seeing this psalm imaged through others’ eyes brings clarity, grace, and freshness to these strong words.
Good Night! Sleep Tight!
Psalm 4 ends with the wonderful words “I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.” Children are often afraid of the dark. If you have a story from childhood about being afraid of the dark, share it with the children. For example, I was so afraid of the dark that I slept with every single stuffed animal I owned piled on the bed around me, my baseball bat under the bed within easy reach, and a flashlight tucked under my pillow. Let the children share their comments about fear of the dark. Invite them to share their bedtime prayers or rituals that help them feel safe and secure. Even adults have night time prayers that help them feel safe and secure. Some of the pillars of our faith have shared bedtime prayers with us. For example, Martin Luther’s evening prayer is still widely used:
I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen
John Calvin also prayed an evening prayer (albeit a bit longer than Luther’s). Click here for five popular children’s bedtime prayers. Maybe we should change the old saying: “Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite” to “Good night. Sleep tight. In Jesus’ hands everything’s all right.”
(Photos: Marcelino Repayla Jr,, Steve Cadman, and Adriel Socrates, Creative Commons. Thanks!)