Sermon Title “Goin’ Fishing” by Pastor Rosanna McFadden
Bet you thought you might not have to listen to a sermon at all today. Well, the joke’s on you. First, I want to acknowledge the words of St. Paul which you heard earlier — those are the words of Dan St. Paul, who wrote the Biblical Baseball sketch. Anyone who knows me knows that there’s no way in heaven I could have written that. But I am going to share some of my own thoughts about this post-resurrection story about Simon Peter and some of the other disciples going fishing. It is one of my favorites — in part because of some potential silliness.
For example, I think I can understand why guys might want to take their clothes off to fish — at least in a warm climate. Wet clothing can be chilly and uncomfortable. This is a good argument for single-gender fishing boats, however. I can even get why these guys would fish at night rather than during the day — I mean, think of the savings on sunscreen. What has always baffled me though, is why did Peter stop and put his clothes back ON before he jumped in the water to swim to share and see Jesus. One of the mysteries of the faith, I guess.
I believe this passage is about Joy. Even a casual fisherman can relate to the joy of a great catch, especially after hours of getting skunked. If you’re fishing for your livelihood, a great catch is an economic windfall, not just bragging rights on the Sea of Tiberius. But there’s a deeper joy here, especially for Simon Peter. This is not the first time Peter has seen Jesus since the resurrection. There were two times previously — once the day of the resurrection when Jesus appeared in a locked room with many of the disciples, and again a week later. On those occasions, Jesus spoke to the disciples generally, but not Peter specifically. Peter probably had some justifiable concern about how Jesus might treat him — after all, despite big talk to the contrary, Peter denied knowing Jesus after Jesus was arrested, and did nothing to stop Jesus’ crucifixion. The fact that Peter has seen the resurrected Christ — twice — and still decides to go off fishing on the Sea of Tiberius is an indication that at the very least, Peter has not fully grasped his role as an apostle. He might be ashamed to encounter Jesus, or afraid of what Jesus might say to him. Fishing is a safe option — if you’re fishing naked it’s probably safer with nets than with lines and fishing hooks — in any case, fishing is relatively safe, and fishing is familiar. Perhaps Peter is thinking that the best he can do is to go back to who he was before Jesus called him away from his boat and his nets to fish for people.
Jesus doesn’t let Peter go back to trying to be who he was — Jesus has invested too much, and Peter is too precious for that. Jesus gets Peter’s attention in a way in which only Jesus can: with a whole lotta fish. A miraculous number of fish. It is interesting that, like Mary Magdalene, who encountered a man outside the tomb who she thought was the gardener, Peter and the other disciples don’t recognize Jesus immediately. Even after the other disciples bring the boat in, dragging their huge catch and the guy on the beach starts cooking them breakfast, they’re all afraid to ask, “Who are you?” Peter and the others figure that it is only Jesus who could engineer a catch like that, but they’re afraid to ask if it’s Jesus on the beach. It is not until he breaks bread that they are sure it’s the Lord.
Resurrection is about second chances — not only for Jesus, but especially for us. I’m sure that part of Peter’s joy was the realization — while he was still out in the boat — that Christ had forgiven him. Peter knew Jesus well enough to know that if he had not been forgiven, there would have been no miraculous haul of fish. Jesus could have sunk the boat and walked away, if he wanted to. That is no how it happened; Peter was given a chance to be redeemed from his denial of Christ. For Peter, it meant the chance to tell Jesus (3x!) “Lord, you know I love you,” and more importantly, to realize that Jesus had known that all along. Jesus used Peter’s hesitancy, shame, and rotten fishing luck to teach Peter a lesson: and that lesson was Peter, I love you, and I have always loved you.
Resurrection gives each of us another chance to know that we have been forgiven; a lesson in the grace of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to be a fisherman, or even like fish, to experience the joy of being forgiven. Christ can find us on the Sea of Tiberius or anywhere else we’re hiding because we’re ashamed and afraid.Do you remember Jesus’ reply after Peter says, “Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus gives Peter commands: Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. Jesus wasn’t talking about the fish they were eating for breakfast, and he wasn’t talking about sheep — sheep eat fish. Jesus was talking about PB&J: not the creamy. Gooey sandwich filling, the really good stuff: Praise, Blessing, and Joy official nourishment of the resurrection. The Joy the risen Christ offers to each of us; the blessing of being forgiven, the praise we owe to our mighty God. This is the PB&J we’re called to spread to all people in every nation. To God be the glory — and the PB&J. Amen