Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Third Sunday of Easter, Year C
May 5, 2019
Lessons: Acts 9:1-6 [7-20]; Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19
Theme: Once God’s faithful and generous people experience the risen Christ, there is no turning back; their lives are forever changed.
Key Scripture: You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever. – Psalm 30:11-12
The lessons this week invite disciples and seekers to ponder several questions. Just who is Jesus? How have I encountered the risen Christ? What am I called to do as a result of this encounter? Am I willing to follow where Jesus is asking/inviting me to go? Am I willing to suffer and empty myself for the sake of gospel? If I haven’t yet had such an encounter, am I keeping my eyes, heart, and mind open?
Possibilities for preaching abound with these lessons, and any one of the individual lessons has material enough for several sermons (especially the lesson from Acts and John’s gospel). Yet sometimes it is helpful to paint with a broader brush in order to open new avenues for reflection and action. The stories of Saul’s conversion and the third post-resurrection appearance to Jesus’ closest disciples (i.e., breakfast on the beach) offer two very different but complementary examples of experiential discipleship and how the very real Christ meets very real people at their places of deepest need. If you preached about Thomas last week, you can continue and broaden that theme for the third Sunday of Easter.
Both Saul and Peter have failed and missed the mark. Saul persecuted and murdered Christ followers. Peter denied his Lord when the going got dicey for him. Both are going about “life as usual” in the unusual light of the Jesus story. Saul is on the road to Damascus to look for more Christ followers to haul back to Jerusalem. He thinks he’s doing this work for all the right and righteous reasons, but he’s about to find out differently and have a radical reorientation of life. Peter decides that life will go on and he will to get back to work as a fisherman. With Jesus, however, there is no ordinary day or life. With Jesus, each present moment is infused with possibility and the oneness of life in Christ in this “God-soaked” world.
Peter and Saul are confronted by Jesus at their places of disconnection from the divine. Saul is struck blind and forced to consider why he is “persecuting Jesus”—in the name of religion at that. Peter is questioned about his love for Jesus three times (shades and shadow of his own denial the night of Jesus’ arrest), AND he is commissioned for specific ministries: tending and feeding the flock. He, and the other disciples, are called from fear, discouragement, guilt, shame, and trauma to the work of the blessed now. They (and all of us) are partners with the Christ in turning the world upside down and inside out so that others may come to experience the grace and mercy of Jesus through their witness and action.
Saul, however, is completely reoriented and converted from one who destroys God’s goodness in the name of religion and “right practice” to one who empties himself for the sake of the gospel. His reorientation necessitates a renaming, and the newly baptized Christ follower regains both his physical sight and his “faith lens” so that he is able to proclaim in the synagogues that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. Just let that 180-degree change that is Paul sink in for a moment. He is still intense, full of purpose, and strong—a man redirected for the sake of turning human power and cultural structures on their heads.
With such “Christ experiences” Peter and Paul are forever changed. Their life trajectories are reshaped; they will empty themselves in holy invitation to others to come and experience Christ, to follow the way of Jesus. And it will be a hard road, a counter-cultural journey. Yet it is a way that leads to life abundant and the beauty of the eternal now, the path of being fully present in one’s time on this earth. Yes, experiencing Christ changes everything. This is what we confess and preach and live.
How about hosting a breakfast church? It doesn’t have to be fish on the beach; make the meal fit your context. Take it outside on the church lawn if weather permits. Celebrate communion and know that Christ is truly present among you.
If breakfast church isn’t possible, interview one or more persons about how life in Christ has turned their “mourning into dancing.” How has God clothed them with joy? Perhaps you have congregants in recovery or who have learned to walk in joy and faith despite a difficult chronic condition. Given the opportunity and encouragement to “not be silent,” such testimony can be a powerful way to build trust, community, and share the gospel through tangible experience.
Consider the stories of Peter and Paul, their experiences of Jesus, and how that changed their lives. There are plenty of stories of high-profile actors, musicians, writers, and other celebrities who experienced Jesus and experienced radical life changes as a result. From C.S. Lewis to Alice Cooper, you can find plenty of examples to discuss. We hear about high-profile folks who have a life-changing experience, but all of us are called to experience Jesus. Invite youth to contemplate how they see their own lives changed by being a disciple. What role does doubt play? What do they need to grow in faith? Where do they see Christ in their daily lives?
This week’s focus verse is John 21:5-6 – Jesus said to them, “Children you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.
Remember and share a personal story about how you tried to do something one day with no luck, but someone invited you to consider a different way of doing it that yielded good results. Relate that story to today’s gospel story. Sometimes Jesus invites us to look at things in a different way—to fish on the right side of the boat. We listen to Jesus through scripture, preaching, and through our relationships in our family and church community. We look for Jesus to show up in unlikely places bearing gifts of wisdom, relationship and wonder. Having a tough time? Listen for Jesus to guide you in a new direction.
Finish with a simple prayer of blessing and commissioning. If possible, include each child by name in the prayer.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Stewardship is about much more than money; it’s about how we orient and live every day of our lives. This week pay careful attention to the ways you see Christ in the world and how you are called to respond to what you see and experience.
Stewardship at Home
This week ponder what one thing God might be calling you to do differently. It could be as simple as spending more time in nature, appreciating the good gifts of creation. It might be listening to the faith (and doubt) stories of others in a more active way. Maybe it means being open through daily prayer and study to a new direction in life. Use tools such as journaling, art, or activity (such as hiking/walking) to assist you in discernment. If this is a family or small group activity find time each day or periodically throughout the week to check in with one another about your observations, learning, or confusion.
2016 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2016/04/faith-and-fishing/
2013 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2013/04/the-ways-of-love/
Photos: John August Swanson, Art in the Christian Tradition, © shotsstudio – Fotolia.com, Baptism of Saul, Art in the Christian Tradition. Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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