Third Sunday of Easter
Sunday, April 14, 2013
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
Newt died on February 24th. We received the news of his death from his wife, Ellen, the following week. When not at home in Delaware, they were “at home” here on Maui.
During Holy Week we received a request from Ellen to dedicate Easter lilies in memory and celebration of his life. I sent a copy of the Easter Sunrise Service worship bulletin to her that included a listing of her request. I received an email from her yesterday which read:
“Mahalo for sending me a copy of the Easter Service program. As I read it I was picturing the beautiful setting by the sea, the lovely floral cross and all the people who were celebrating the Resurrection of Christ so long ago. Such a special service each year.
Our Delaware Spring with its magnificent flowering trees and bulbs is a spirit lifter. Of course, I miss Newt terribly but I have wonderful memories to comfort me and as I drive about I see God’s handiwork and I know (he) is with God now. Aloha.”
Ellen said he had excellent care through Hospice. He accepted his situation with grace, dignity and love. His concern was not for himself but for his Hospice nurse and how hard it must be for her to cope with so many dying patients day in and day out. He loved Maui and he loved Keawalaʻi.
Because she was able to be by his side as his health began to decline and because she was able to be with him through the process of his dying, she has found her way forward through the hope and promise of Easter and through what may seem like an ordinary every day activity for many of us – driving about.
But what are we to say of those who may be overwhelmed “when they suddenly receive news of a grim medical diagnosis or when a spouse walks out on a marriage”? “Perhaps a child suddenly falls prey to an eating disorder, the boss gives notice, or a tragedy takes the life of a loved one.” (Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, Bartlett & Taylor, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2009, page 420) Gary Jones, an Episcopal priest, points out: “Experiences like these can overwhelm the human spirit . . . ” (Op. cit.)
Under such circumstances, how can anyone move forward?
Our reading from The Gospel According to John reminds us that through the hope and promise of Easter and the ordinary activities of life – fishing and eating - the early disciples were able to find their way forward. Their last week with Jesus was profoundly overwhelming. From the glorious entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey to the sharing of a Passover meal and the intense moment in Gethsemane to Judas’ unexpected betrayal, an arrest, a series of denials, a trial and jeering crowds and a horrific execution, the disciples were crushed by overwhelming grief.
Equally overwhelming was the joyful news of the empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection appearances. What were they to make of all of this?
It would seem that the disciples needed some time to come to terms with what had occurred. Interestingly enough, it is Peter who decides to seek some comfort in doing something that is familiar to him. He announces to the others: “I am going fishing.”
I can almost imagine him saying, “You do what you want. But as for me I am going fishing.”
Whether or not Peter caught any fish may have been inconsequential to him. Peter, nor the other disciples who joined him, are not distraught when Jesus seems to belittle their effort: “Children, you have no fish, have you?” (John 21:5)
They answer in unison and without hesitation, “No, we haven’t!” as if to say “What is it to you.” It is then that Jesus eases up a bit and invites them to cast their nets to the other side of the boat.
To their amazement the nets become so full they must be dragged ashore. Initially it is only John who recognizes that it is Jesus.
Jesus feeds them and in feeding them the disciples all become aware that it is Jesus. They become aware that this is the third time he appears to them after the resurrection.
There is something to be said about the comfort the disciples find in doing something as ordinary as fishing - with Peter. There is something to be said about the comfort the disciples find in eating a breakfast of fish and bread with Jesus.
The way forward for the disciples will not be easy, but they come to realize that in life and in death, Jesus will remain with them. Ellen reminds all of us of the same.
In his reading of the passage from The Gospel According to John, Gary Jones concludes that the Risen Christ “continues to supply the strength and nurture we need for our lives and work.” (Ibid., page 423)
In the end Jesus offers Peter and all of us a way to recognize and encounter the power and presence of God in our lives in the day to day – in our fishing and eating, in our driving about and noticing God’s handiwork in all of creation. Jesus offers us a way to recognize and encounter the power and presence of God in our lives in the day to day through our feeding and tending to one another.