Mother Katherine’s sermon preached on May 1, 2022

Posted by on Sun, May 1, 2022 in Easter, Sermons

The Third Sunday of Easter

May 1, 2022

I’m going fishing.”  Sometimes returning to what we know best helps us stabilize when our world feel unsteady or when we feel adrift. Life was simpler as a fisherman, outcomes were clearer; fish or no fish. What to do next chose itself; clean and sell fish, mend nets, tend the boats. After all of the crazy highs and lows of the past few years, and after endings that turn out not to be endings, and with passionate commitment and high expectations—now what? I’m going fishing. I need to do something normal, something familiar, something I know how to do! This not only describes Peter, it sums up where we are too in some ways. Now what? Mask or no mask, common cup or no, venturing out sounds good and then we feel strangely vulnerable. But then we find out footing, not in running from it all or hiding, but by being vulnerable together—and by doing what Christ told us to do, we begin to trust that an ending that was not an ending is also the beginning of new life. 

Look, it’s the Lord! They see him on the shore as they come to ground and figure out what’s next, as do we. Celtic people said where the water meets the land is a sacred or ‘thin place.’ This time is our thin place, as surely as breakfast with the risen Christ became Peter’s. He still had some terrible things to deal with though, to set down in order for him to embrace the new life ahead. 

“Simon son of John, do you love me?” Jesus asked him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” “Feed my lambs.” … Tend my sheep… Feed my sheep. Three times Jesus asks and three times Peter affirms his love. One for each of the times Peter denied him before the cock crowed on the day of his crucifixion. I imagine being face to face Jesus whom he loved and served, had denied and forsaken, was about as painful and vulnerable a state as Peter had ever been in. Fishing didn’t help, breaking bread and eating fish together with our Lord did and the others did. Facing his fears and being loved during such a soul-rending time was what he unknowingly needed.

Christ comes to us at the worst times, and yet the best times. Mary Magdalene, Saul, Thomas, Ananais, Peter. Each in a spiritual darkness until they come into the light of Christ. “Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach…” Then, after a fruitlessly long night they are hauling in nets so full of impossible abundance it could be nothing else; “It is the Lord!” the beloved disciple says.

In the awful moments, the shameful ones, disastrous ones, we most need to see Christ. It is as if we need to be disarmed or lost enough to seek him some times. We are at our most fragile, exposed, vulnerable when we need someone. It is only then we can build trust. That is also the only road to love that I can be absolutely sure of. 

“When you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” The same word of fastening or girding is used as when Peter tied clothes around himself before jumping in, and when Jesus tied the towel around his body and humbly washed their feet. (Peter didn’t want him to wash his feet any more than many ‘well-girded’ Episcopalians on Maundy Thursday!) The moment of vulnerability becoming trust is transformative. This is where deep love and great joy is humbly kindled.

Darkness gives way to light every morning as if to remind us of God’s constant presence and invitation, to give hope and help us lay down even the worst of what we carry, so that we may sit down to breakfast all together and with the risen Christ. Amen.

© 2022 The Rev. Katherine Sedwick. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.