Sunday, May 1, 2022
By: David May, Rector
When my sons were little, we used to go on walks in our neighborhood that took us beside an old, abandoned rock quarry that over the years had filled with water and become a little lake. Mostly, the surface of the water sparkled in the sunshine; if you looked, it was like a mirror reflecting the sky and clouds above and our faces when we peered over the edge. But as you went along the path, we’d pass beneath great oaks whose branches hung over the water and shaded the surface. We always stopped in those places because something magical happened. We’d get down on our haunches and stare into the water. But instead of just seeing our faces reflected on the surface, you could suddenly see, really see what was there through the clear water. All the way to the bottom. At one of our favorite spots, my sons would scream and point, ‘a fish! look! do you see it? a fish!’
The life we live even now in the resurrection of Jesus is something like that. It’s what we just prayed for in the Collect of the Day: give us eyes of faith to see Jesus in all his redeeming work. All the resurrection stories point towards that and have that quality – of not being able to see what is right in front of your eyes (usually Jesus!) and then suddenly seeing what is there, him, and what he is doing for us. Like Mary Magdalene when Jesus calls her by name, and she can see him. Or Thomas when Jesus shows him his wounded body, and he sees him. Like the disciples in Emmaus when Jesus takes bread and blesses and breaks it and they suddenly see that it is Jesus. Or today when Jesus calls out from the beach, ‘cast your nets on the other side’ and the water boils with thrashing fish as they pull the net to the surface where all night there had been nothing.
In fact, if we get down on our haunches and stare into this sacred story of resurrection, so much comes into view – our whole life with Jesus, all of life really, all the way down to the bottom. Take a look.
After the utterly mind-blowing, totally incomprehensible, life-changing, world-changing, creation-changing experiences of the first Easter morning, after seeing all the way to the depths of God’s very life, I just love what Peter decides he’s going to do. He says, ‘I’m going fishing’. And the others say, ‘we’ll go with you’. What else do you do when everything you thought was settled gets turned inside out and outside in? I think there are lots of ways that we too decide, ‘I’m going fishing’. I need a moment. I need to just stand on solid ground and get my bearings.
And so they do. And catch nothing all night long. Oh well. That’s what fishermen do too.
And then there is this stranger who says, try the other side (using words they’ve heard before and so have we) and they do, and there are so many fish in their nets and one of them is saying ‘It is the Lord!’, and Peter is jumping out of the boat – again, like on a stormy night on a lake. And there on the beach when they get there he is taking bread and fish (just like the two fish and five loaves from the boy that fed 5,000 and more), and there was more than enough. And Peter’s triple denial of Jesus ends with his triple declaration of love that brings forgiveness which becomes Peter’s new mission in life: feed my sheep. And follow me.
If you lay this sacred story over our lives, you can see the life of the Church: ordinary gatherings, a sacred meal with Jesus where what we have is more than enough, and forgiveness is given and the Church receives our mission (Feed my sheep, he tells us too), and then following him out into the world. If you look beneath the surface, this is what is happening right now.
I brought this thought to the vestry when we met last week. Through the mercies of God we are regathering our lives together. The vestry is looking ahead these days to hear how Jesus is calling us to follow him. I thought we’d begin to do that by first looking back. By remembering. I brought this to the vestry meeting. It’s a document called ‘These Past 2+ Years’. It’s a chronology of events, or at least the ones I could remember, of the past couple years beginning with Sunday, March 8, 2020 that reads: “last regular pre-Covid service, last Holy Eucharist’.
And then we just went through it together and it seemed like to me that after a while, we were no longer looking just at the surface, but at what lies deeper. I won’t go through everything, don’t worry. But here are some of the things we suddenly saw.
On Mary 28, 2020, 38 women, our Caritas guests came and stayed here with us because even though we were scared, it felt scarier to say no you can’t come, and a parishioner called me to say he’d never been prouder to call himself a Christian.
A week later the Finance Committee met and in the moment – for me at least – it felt like we had about two fish and five loaves of bread to get us through for, how long? No one knew. But we have been given more than enough. And I’m not just talking about money.
And then we had a drive-thru good-bye party for our Sexton Gersain and someone who came told me later that she cried and cried and had no idea why. I think she saw thru the surface to the heart of God that day.
And after George Floyd was killed the vestry wrote collects of their own about that and shared them with each other on a Zoom call that brought the Kingdom of God near.
And because we wanted to connect so, so badly, Amelia – over and over again – created treasure packets to mail or that she delivered to children and their young families in her minivan that are still helping children and people see through the surface to the heart of the risen Christ.
And in the dark, dark months of winter 2020-21, the Fellowship Committee just had to do something, just had to cook, just had to feed someone and they created take home suppers twice a month and you lined up in cars on those night for dinner and to be able to see each other face to face.
And we baptized babies in the parking lot, sometimes in the rain, and we buried those we had lost in small groups and witnessed couples join hands in Holy Matrimony, and because there were no receptions to worry about and all the rest that goes with it, God showed us what matters most in those sacred times in our lives.
And the Most 2020 Christmas Pageant Ever was light in the dark.
And then a summer reprieve last year, and then Delta, and then Omicron, and so much more when we saw through the surface into the deep heart of the risen Christ, because following him or even just the hope of him was all we knew to do.
At the vestry meeting, as we went along, people began telling stories: oh remember this, remember that! And I thought, this is how the church first began, telling stories from their own lives about how it was Jesus, risen, alive with us, all along. And so, here we are. Do you see?
We have been changed. Haven’t we? Help us, O God, to see how. Help us to see through the surface into the deep heart of Christ, always, who prepares this sacred meal with what we have, and overcomes betrayals with his forgiveness given, that releases our own declarations: you know I love you, Lord, from which we shall feed his sheep.
It is him, do you see?
O Lord, open the eyes of our faith, again, that we may behold Jesus in all his redeeming work. And be changed. Amen.