Peering Through The Mist

A Sermon preached by the Rev. Nils Chittenden

Sunday, May 5th, 2019

Last week, I was saying how the apostle Thomas is such a good role model because – as a doubter, who wanted more evidence before he believed – he was an apostle we could really identify with. Actually, you know, despite their stained-glass images, the apostles were regular guys: mostly fisherman. Of course, there were women, too. Most of the disciples were regular folks. Matthew was a tax collector, so he was a bit different, but it’s always good to have a CPA around to take care of the accounts, right?

Yes, the disciples were regular guys (both men and women, incidentally, but history has always focused on the men. Unfortunately history has sidelined them, but they were present and there). And, as I was saying, most of them were fishermen and throughout the story of Jesus ministry on earth, they still carried on being fishermen.

And so, today, after all the drama of the crucifixion and the resurrection of their dear friend and spiritual guide, Jesus, they were back at work, on the Sea of Galilee. John’s Gospel refers to it as the Sea of Tiberias. It was renamed by the Romans as a bit of flattery to the emperor, but it was still always the Sea of Galilee to most people.

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Some years ago, I was lucky enough to visit the Sea of Galilee. It is, remarkably, largely unchanged from Jesus’ time and is one of the most calming places I have ever been. You can really feel Jesus’ presence there. One of the few things that has changed from his time is that from fairly early on, the newly formed Christian Church started building church buildings over just about every site that Jesus visited. So there are churches over the site of Calvary, the Garden of Gethsemene, the Garden Tomb, the place where the wedding of Cana took place, and so on. And there is a church on the rocky shore of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus appears to his disciples in today’s reading. The Church of the Grilled Fish (it’s not really called that, but I forget its name) is on a small rocky outcrop where it is said that that Jesus lit his breakfast fire and cooked fish for the disciples.

They would certainly have had enough fish to grill. We are told that they were fishing without catching much, when a helpful stranger on the shore suggested casting their net to the right hand side. I suppose that they felt that they had nothing to lose by doing so. When they did, we are told that they hauled in such an abundance of fish that they were afraid the nets would tear.

It was at that point that they recognized that the helpful stranger on the shore was, in fact, Jesus.

It might seem strange to us that the account tells us that they were only a hundred yards off the shore, and though these men had spent the most dramatic years of their life with Jesus, they did not recognize him until there was this miraculous abundance of fish. But remember that this was early, early morning. First light. Probably a mist hanging over the water, and hard to see very far.

That abundant catch of fish that the disciples had had that morning was a metaphor, a message for them. They knew that following Jesus meant that they were gathering not only fish, but people’s hearts and minds. The metaphor, then, of this story, is that the big haul of fish through their work as disciples was to encourage people to become followers of Jesus.

So, my thought for the day is this: sometimes we find it hard to see Jesus, to get a handle on where he is in our lives.

‘Monk by the Sea’ by Caspar David Friedrich

It often feels to us that we are peering through the mist.

Sometimes we may hear a helpful voice, deep within us, as it were.

Perhaps our takeaway from this account is that even if we struggle to see Jesus, and to know God, we can still see the effects of his presence.

Wherever there is good, wherever there is life in abundance, that is where God is.

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