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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Monday, April 12, 2010

2010-04-18 John 21:1-19 "Men's Breakf...

2010-04-18 John 21:1-19 "Men's Breakfast"

James McTyre

Lake Hills Presbyterian Church

April 25, 2004

They've been out all night, these fishermen.

Had they been able to catch anything, they might be seeing morning from shore, maybe even missing the morning as they lay asleep in their beds.

But not today.

This morning they're sharing a silence, each drifting in that quiet place between sleep and thought, drifting as effortlessly as their boat in the calm waters of dawn.

James and John are caring for their nets.

They're checking for weak lines, tightening knots.

Thomas, the youngest, is lying across the bow, staring into the water, but not looking for anything.

Peter is at the stern, his hand on the rudder, even though he knows there won't be any wind.

And around them the morning is so gradually coming to life that they barely notice.

In the east, the sun is turning to a soft orange glow, lighting up the thin wisps of clouds.

The shore is distant and silent, veiled by the mist creeping up from the water.

Seagulls are beginning to wake and occasionally one lets go a faint cry.

The boat rolls ever so slightly.

A small swash of water laps at its side.

Keeping a slow beat, the boat creaks with each movement.

Rolling, creaking, swashing.

The voice is so far away they almost miss it, faintly calling, "Hey! Hey! You in the boat!"

All slowly look up from their work or lack of work, turning their heads, searching the shore for the source of the voice.

John is the first to see a faint, dark figure beyond the mist.

"Hey! You in the boat! Catch anything?"

Now, you know how much I know about fishing.

Ordering more tartar sauce is the extent of my expertise.

But it seems to my limited experience that fishermen are always on the extremes.

They either want to tell you about the great white whale that nearly capsized the boat, or they want to be able to say, "Nope. Not a bite."

Which clearly puts the blame on the fish for having brains the size of, well, fish, where blame rightly belongs.

A moment's pause, then the voice calls out, "Have you tried casting on the right side?"

Peter looks at John with irritation that fades into a country-boy grin.

"Oh. That's it,” he says.

“We've been fishing on the wrong side.

“Hey Doubting Thomas! Why didn't you tell us we weren't fishing on the right side? Whatsamatter wit chew, boy?"

And all the weathered fishermen share a laugh at their troubles at the expense of the smart but clueless kid Thomas who's always correcting everyone.

And then the laughter fades.

And they're looking at each other to figure out what to do next.

Peter says, "Well? What are you ladies waiting for? Throw that net to the right side!"

So instead of fishing the shoreline side, they throw over into the deeper waters nearer the middle of the lake.

Before they know it, the net is pulling the boat.

The fish are pulling the fishermen.

The men all startle more awake than they've been in days and rush to help James and John, who can barely pull the lines that are now cutting into their hands.

Peter grabs the oars and strains to get the boat back to land.

It's unbelievable! Where did all these fish come from? It's a miracle! It's a miracle...

a miracle.

John steps away from the pulling and looks back toward the shore.

Even though he can barely see the cloaked figure through the mist, he gets it.

"Jesus," he says, so quietly no one else hears.

Staring in wonder he keeps his eyes on the figure as he reaches a hand toward Peter's shoulder.

Louder, he says it again to Peter:

"Jesus. JESUS! It's the Lord!"

After his own breathless moment of confusion, Peter sees.

And he believes.

"My Lord!" he shouts, grabbing his robe and diving out of the boat, splashing and swimming as hard as he can, leaving the rest of the men to drag the boat with all its catch back to the shore.

When the fishermen catch up to the land, they follow Peter's footsteps in the sand to the crest of a small hill.

They wall as though dead.

They walk as though alive, again.

They walk until they find Jesus with Peter kneeling as his feet, coughing through his tears.

Jesus smiles at his friends, and says, “Nice catch.”

“Come on,” Jesus says, taking Peter's hand and motioning the others toward the charcoal fire, with fish broiling, and bread broken, and cups set.

“Come on.

“Let's eat some breakfast.”


The deeper waters in the distant part of the lake.

That’s the place where the disciples find Jesus.

And that’s the place where we most often find Jesus, too.

In those places we never thought of looking.

In those rooms where hope has run out.

In those times when we accept that we can’t make it on our own anymore.

That’s the right side of the boat.

That’s where the good catch waits.

“Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?” Jesus never promises Peter that life will be easy if he gets the answer right.

In fact, he promises him the exact opposite.

But that’s not the point.

Because if you’re to the point of living on faith,

if you’re to the point when you can’t make it anymore,

if you’re to the point where the food you eat and the cup you drink right now is about your only connection to hope you don’t care what tomorrow’s going to hold.

You only know you want to share that one meal, and enjoy that one friendship, that one love.

And so in those times when our nets come up empty,

in those times when we don’t know how we should choose,

it may be that the voice of God shouts to us –

“Hey! Yo! You’re on the wrong side!

“Move over there! Take this job! Buy that car!

“Pick these Powerball numbers!”

Good for you if God speaks to you so clearly.

But it may also be that the voice of God comes to us as no more than a whisper when we’re on our knees, a slow and steady drumbeat,

“Do you love me?

“Do you love me?

“Do you love me?”

That voice may come to us in a place as simple as the breakfast table.

Somewhere after we’ve poured the second cup of coffee, when we’re watching the cream swirl and the steam rise and wondering what in the world we’re supposed to do with ourselves now.

And it may be that you hear yourself saying,

“I don’t know what to do.

“I don’t know what the right side or the wrong side is.

“But I DO love you, Lord.

“I do love you.

“I do love you.”

And if you're listening closely, and if the Spirit is right, God will say back to you,

“Nice catch.

“Now follow me.”