Sermon April 10: Free Fish

Posted by on Apr 15, 2016 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon April 10: Free Fish

Faith United Methodist Church

April 10, 2016

3rd Sunday of Easter

Rev. Kristabeth Atwood

Scripture: John 21:1-19

Prayer of Illumination:

Since we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from your mouth, make us hunger for this heavenly food, that it may nourish us today in the ways of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, the bread of heaven. Amen.

Sermon:                                    Free Fish

It is said that there is no such thing as a free lunch, right? The implication being that it is impossible to get something for nothing. Even if something seems like it’s free there is always a cost, no matter how indirect or hidden.   This reminds me of a conversation Gary and I had before a recent vacation. My mother, very generously, offered to pay for our plane tickets, knowing we were saving for a house. When discussing whether we could afford the vacation I said to Gary, “Well, the plane tickets won’t cost us anything,” to which Gary replied, as only a son-in-law can, “Oh, we’ll pay!”

Today we have already heard about “free soup.” And in this morning’s gospel lesson we see an example of “free breakfast.” But can someone really get something for nothing? Let’s catch up with the disciples…..

First a little back-story….. The men we find in the fishing boat this morning had accompanied Jesus in his ministry. They had been called by him. They even went with him to Jerusalem, yet betrayed him in his last moments. They experienced the depth of grief when he was crucified. And then something amazing happened. Jesus was resurrected and appeared first to the women and then to them.

But today they don’t seem to be thinking of resurrection. They seem to be thinking of fishing, which isn’t too surprising since they were fishermen. Overwhelmed by the events that had taken place, and wondering what they should do next, the answer probably seemed simple. It seemed right to do something familiar, something they knew how to do.

But maybe they were out of practice. Maybe they had lost their touch. The night passed without a single nibble. As morning dawned they looked up to see a man on the shore. This wasn’t the first time that the risen Christ appeared to the disciples, but I don’t imagine one ever gets used to seeing a resurrected friend. From far off this man on shore called to them with some tips, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat and you will find some!” After their unsuccessful night they had nothing to lose. They tried it and they got a great catch of fish, an enormous catch. And it was then that they realized the man on the shore was Jesus.

By the time the disciples got to shore, Jesus had already begun preparing breakfast. Free fish for everyone! A seaside breakfast with Jesus was probably not how they imagined ending their night.

Then, after breakfast, Jesus turned to Peter and asked him three times, “Do you love me?” Each time Peter responded, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Some think that Jesus did this to rid Peter of the guilt be carried for denying Jesus three times in Jerusalem. Jesus forgave peter and ~ more than forgave ~ loved Peter through all the mistakes he had made. That morning on the seaside there was free fish, free forgiveness, unconditional love.

Today’s Scripture reminds us that Jesus loved the disciples with an unconditional love, a love that gave and gave…. Free breakfast, free forgiveness, love beyond all imagining. As you know, today is the kick-off to our Spring Stewardship Campaign. In this church our giving year runs from July to June. Our campaign theme is “Unconditional Giving” and over the next few weeks we will celebrate the many ways God gives to us without strings, without conditions. Soon you will receive a pledge card and be asked to consider your 12-month pledge to begin on July 1st.   We will dedicate our pledge cards on Sunday, May 1st.

As we embark on our Stewardship Campaign, I could remind you of all the great things your pledge supports. I could encourage you to pledge because commitment giving helps the leaders of your church better budget for our financial responsibilities. These are important things. Yet I know that your giving ~ my giving ~ is more of a spiritual matter than a financial one. Giving comes out of our belief that giving matters to God. Giving comes out of the conviction that all who need “free soup” will be able to have it. Giving flourishes when we know that what we give makes a difference. Giving multiplies when we recognize God’s unconditional giving to us.

The disciples learned that as God was generous with them, with fish, with forgiveness, with love ~ they were to be generous with others. As Wiley Stephens preached, “When God interrupts lives, as Jesus did the lives of the disciples that early morning by the Sea of Galilee, it has a way of bringing us face to face with what we should be about.”

After this shoreline encounter with Jesus Peter became a preacher and leader in the early Christian Church. He changed people’s lives by telling them about Jesus. He knew anything was possible with God ~ including unconditional love and forgiveness ~ because he experienced it for himself. As our Seasons of the Spirit suggests, “Maybe Jesus asks us over and over to show our love, and in turn to do what Jesus commands: feed the world with grace.” Together let’s make free soup. Together let’s be God’s love in the world. Amen.