There were people who didn't see last week's episode of Game of Thrones, even though
they were watching it.
The battle scenes were exceptionally dark, so viewers had trouble making out characters
and action, which is exactly what cinematographer Fabian Wagner intended.
This makes him the perfect choice to film this morning's gospel.
Peter and friends go fishing on the dark sea before dawn.
A tiny flicker of light on the distant beach dances with clouds of charcoal smoke, just
enough to hint at the presence of a shadowy figure.
Memory is foggy too; who remembers the very last words Jesus said to them at the end of
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.
Now, after ending at chapter 20, the gospel continues, because at least with John's
gospel, Marshall McLuhan was right: the medium is the message.
The end is not the end, because Easter.
The story that is finished continues, because Jesus, but now Jesus is nowhere to be
seen and Peter doesn't know what to do with himself.
In the midst of grief and confusion, who does?
In the murky darkness between yesterday's certainty and tomorrow's unknowns,
when everything is impossible to understand and completely out of our control,
Just like I would, Peter turns to what is familiar.
He goes where his expertise is at home.
He goes where he first met Jesus.
He goes fishing.
Like so many of us who go fishing in the dark, Peter catches no answers, no salmon, no
Finally something comes up out of the water, but Peter had nothing to do with it.
God successfully fished out the sun and lifted it slowly toward the sky.
And just as it was coming to the surface, it gave light enough to confirm the suspicions:
there is a fire and a figure on the shoreline.
A voice bounces across the water: Children, you have no fish for your taco, have you?
Funny, he didn't use the usual word for fish—he used the word for the fish relish
that goes with bread, sounding more like a chef than a fisherman.
When they get to shore, he uses a different trade word—cooked fish—like a pickled
herring, that would not show up in the sea but would in a little boy's lunch.
Does cooked fish with bread begin to clear the morning fog of memory?
Add the sudden, wild abundance in the net that somehow was not torn...the light
is slowly dawning in the disciples' hearts.
This is the one who took five loaves and two cooked fish and fed thousands until they
were all hauling in leftovers.
These are just some of the echoes in this epilogue that convince the disciples not to ask
who this stranger is, because they knew it was the Lord.
If and when we ever recognize Jesus, it is long after he has already recognized and
provided for us.
We do not know the story nearly as well as the story knows us.
We do not know where it is taking us, but we have a voice in the darkness to
guide us, rarely with a roadmap or answers or light or the vision we want, but
always with the word and the meal we need.
He has long since built a charcoal fire like the other one in that awful courtyard where
Peter denied him three times, so that he can break the fast and break the stranglehold that yesterday's dark night still holds on Peter's soul.
In this new day's firelight he will ask Peter three times Do you love me, leading him to
restoration, to forgiveness, to the healing of transforming his triple answer to yes.
And this does more than save Peter.
It also provides for others.
The disciples have drawn in all kinds of fish, which is the same industry verb for hauling
or dragging ashore that Jesus himself used back in chapter 12 about what would
happen at the cross: And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all
people to myself.
Now these people need to be fed, nourished, tended, guided, loved.
They need to be shepherded, so Jesus turns to the fisherman and turns him into a
shepherd, just like him.
This means Peter will be led where he doesn't want to go, including a violent death, just
Follow me, he says to Peter, and the look in his eyes says he believes that Peter can.
And that's where it ends.
Of course, we have already learned that the end is not really the end.
That is what gives us the incredible courage we call faith to follow when the
scene becomes much too dark.
When the evil is too strong.
When the challenge is too great.
When the loss is too much.
When the regret is too deep.
When the call to love others is too impossible.
When the price is too high.
When the night is too long.
When the failure is too enormous.
When the future is too bleak.
When the world is too scary.
A face we don't recognize, a figure we don't expect, a fire we didn't build, a sun we didn't
raise, a love we can never fathom finds us and feeds us and believes in us long before we ever believe in him.
Bring what you have to what I'm already doing, he invites us.
Love my sheep, he insists.
Follow me, he says.
But first: here is my life, given for you; do this in remembrance of me.
Come and have breakfast.