Biblical commentators on the book of the Acts of the Apostles always point out how one of the great themes of this book about the birth of the Church is that God the Holy Spirit is the main actor in what we read there. It isn’t Peter or Paul. It isn’t the sprawling cast of characters with names like Cornelius and Lydia and Dorcus and Titus. The Holy Spirit of God is the headliner, the star, the one who’s responsible for setting peoples’ feet moving down the road, and blowing ships on just the right course, stirring up dreams and visions, building bridges, opening doors, and generally stirring the whole pot. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift of himself “that we might live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died and rose for us, [as his own first gift] to complete his work in the world, and to bring to fulfillment the sanctification of all”. As I read these stories of the church’s first beginnings – including this story of a tense meeting between Peter and the other apostles – I can’t seem to shake the image of God the Holy Spirit as a divine but clearly meddling and persistent matchmaker who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. The lead up to the confrontation between Peter and his brothers back in Jerusalem is a series of visions and the appearance of an angel and words from above that say ‘you really should meet so-and-so, they’re just perfect for you. I know you don’t get out much but it’s time you did. I tell you what, don’t you worry about a thing, I’ll arrange everything’.
And everyone involved is more than a little reluctant for the match to be made. There are lots of protests, like, That’s really not my thing. I’m not really ready. I like my life the way it is. I’m fine on my own. But there is the divine matchmaker, the Spirit insisting: ‘Trust me. You’re perfect for each other. You just show up where I tell you to and I’ll take care of all the rest. You absolutely belong together.’
The passage from Acts we just heard is the climax to a whole series of events. So let me just recap how we got here.
When I was younger, my parent’s, like any parents do, tried to expose me to as many hobbies and experiences as possible. Sometimes these experiences did not go so well. My father really enjoyed fishing and well, he thought I might too. When I was about 10 years old, we went deep sea fishing. The fancy boat, the beautiful sea, and a time to spend with my father…I was so excited for the day ahead. We all loaded up on a big boat and sailed out into the ocean. Unfortunately, at that time, both myself and my father had no idea what the day had in store for us. It was finally time to fish, everyone found their spot on the boat, casted their lines and then the waiting happened. I was ABSOLUTELY miserable. Why were the fish not biting? and why was it taking so long? You would think this would be the worst for my father that day, having his impatient 10-year-old daughter bugging him constantly while trying to relax. Well then, the fish started to bite, and I quickly learned that we were keeping these fish. Looking in the cooler filled to the brim with fish devastated me. The tears started running. Crying, for the rest of the trip, I begged my father to throw each fish he caught back in the water. I am sure this is not the kind of father daughter bonding time he had in mind when planning this adventure. And let’s just say I had not been fishing since.
In the gospel today Peter and the disciples go out fishing. Every time I hear a passage about fishing in the bible, I immediately remember my own fishing experience. Now I do not believe there were any tears over catching fish for the disciples, but I can imagine on this particular trip they felt their patience tested as I had waiting. They fished through the night and yet they caught nothing. I do not know about you, but I would have given up after a few hours.
Alleluia! Christ is risen, the Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia!
On that first Easter morning, before there was one thought of crying aloud, alleluia, our great sister in the faith, Mary Magdalene says to a stranger who she thinks is a gardener, “They have taken his body and I do not know where to find it.” I do not know where to find it.
Sometimes, when I can’t find something, I think, ‘it’s not really lost. It is somewhere, I just can’t find it.’
And I suppose that’s true but it hardly helps when you’re frantically searching for lost key. Yes, presumably they continue to exist, they haven’t slipped through some worm-hole into a parallel universe. But that doesn’t help when someone’s waiting to be picked up from school. They do exist in this material world even if I can’t find them.