May 1, 2022

"But Wait … There’s More"

Rev. Scott Landis

John 21: 1-19

I suppose we’ve all been there. It’s late at night. You’re sitting on the couch, bored, you were flipping through the endless number of television stations desperately seeking something interesting to watch, and you happened upon one of those infamous infomercials. An animated voice suddenly invades your semiconscious state offering you the latest gizmo or gadget that would solve a longstanding annoyance of domestic life you never knew you had. Whether it was a pair of scissors that can cut hair AND a tin can, a knife that can fillet fish AND slice a tomato, or the famed Popiel Pocket Fisherman (remember that?) It guarantees you will catch a tuna AND you can store it in your car’s glove compartment. Regardless of the product — that you could purchase right now “while supplies last” for the low, low price of “$19.95” you often heard one final hook, “But wait … there’s more!”

It’s that sense with which we begin today’s story from the gospel of John. Chapter 20 concluded with what you might have thought was the end of the story. It’s as if the curtain dropped as the narrator recites the final lines, “Now Jesus provided FAR MORE God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.”

“But wait … there’s more.” There’s one more chapter – probably added a few years later AND with good reason. Likely at the hand of a different author, chapter 21 begins, “After this, Jesus appeared AGAIN to the disciples, this time at the Sea of Galilee.”

The reason for this subsequent chapter? No one really knows for sure, but it certainly appears to be a kind of “coda” for the entire book since it reiterates so much of what has already taken place in Jesus’ life – as it highlights various events through one more appearance.

First, there is the notion of Jesus appearing again – and the fact that the ones to whom he appeared initially did not recognize him. This happened to Mary Magdalene, then Peter, then to the disciples – and now once again on the Galilean shoreline.

Second, there is the unsuccessful catch of fish – reminiscent of an earlier scene in the disciples’ lives where that same thing happened. Both times the result is an overwhelming catch that almost tears the net – accenting the theme of abundance which frequently occurs in John.

Third, there is the charcoal fire upon which Jesus broiled the fish. The last time a “charcoal fire” is mentioned in John is the scene where Peter denies Jesus three times on the eve of his crucifixion.

And fourth, there is the THREE-fold questioning by Jesus, “Simon Peter, do you love me?” Which, undoubtedly, was done to parallel Peter’s THREE-fold denial just a few days before.

But notice Jesus’ invitation to Peter in this situation. Each time Peter says, “Yes, Master, you know that I love you. Jesus says in his own subtle way, “But wait … there’s more.” There’s much more for you to do” “Feed my lambs. Shepherd my sheep. Feed my sheep.”

Harkening back to an earlier teaching in the gospel of John (chapter 10 if you’re really interested) Jesus told his disciples that he was the “Good Shepherd.” He emphasized that it was his kuleana, his responsibility, to care for his sheep. But soon, he would be leaving them for good, and the sheep needed a new shepherd. Jesus was telling his disciples – beginning with Simon Peter – “but wait … there’s more – more that I need YOU to do in my absence.” You are now to teach, to heal, to comfort, and to guide.” “I need you to continue my work. I’m counting on you to pass on all that you have been given so that others might receive as well. You are the “more” that they are all waiting for.” The implication being that this would be an ongoing process. [Pause]

Just over a week ago, Randy and I watched, with keen interest and amazement, the 2022 Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo. What a treat. We couldn’t get enough of it. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Merrie Monarch is arguably the “Olympics of Hula” where the hālau from all the Hawaiian Islands converge to offer the gift of what they have received, learned, and practiced for the past year. There are many aspects to the festival that I do not fully understand, but what was amazingly clear to me was the importance of demonstrating, celebrating, and passing along a vital aspect of Hawaiian culture through this powerful medium — one that was outlawed for many years.

Much more than just a beautiful dance, hula is a means by which the mo’oleo or the stories of Native Hawaiian culture are passed along from generation to generation. They are the stories of the ‘aina (land), the wai (water), the kanaka (people), and so much more. Through oli (chant), mele (song), and hula young and old alike have and are becoming the “more” which must be shared in order for future generations to know and — as one kumu stressed — pū’ili (embrace) that which is shared.

As I watched the intensity of this sharing – particularly during the hula kahiko (ancient hula), I wondered “how are we doing the same with our faith today?” Have we taken up our kuleana our responsibility to shepherd to those in our midst today who need feeding and tending – through a relevant message of love and justice-action for all beings? Are we effectively sharing our message with the same authenticity and deep respect for others? Shouldn’t our churches be “Mini-Merrie-Monarchs” today as we seek to pass along what we have received to those who follow? [Pause]

It’s been over 2 years now since we arrived on Maui and began our ministry here. It has been quite a ride. I will never forget being greeted in the airport on that first day by Thom. and Annetta Probst, Judi and Freddie Pasco. We were greeted with smiles, words of welcome, and lei. The “aloha” of the island and of Keawala’i was bestowed upon us before we ever left baggage claim. At one point I distinctly remember Uncle Freddie saying to me, “Welcome home.” I will never forget how warm and welcomed that made me feel as hospitality was extended to one who knew a whole lot about church but very little about church in Hawaii – and next to nothing about the history of this beautiful land.

I don’t have remind you that today – May Day – is Lei Day. What a wonderful opportunity to do exactly what those who greeted us on our first day in Maui AND the participants in the Merrie Monarch Festival did in sharing their Aloha – their love of Hawaiian culture. Today, through lei, (maybe even hula) or just our expression of aloha we can pass along the gift our Savior gave to everyone he encountered. His life is an invitation to us of the importance of offering the “more” that we now embody as his modern-day disciples. [Pause]

The table set before us is the welcoming table. Here we are invited to receive the gift of God’s aloha — to hold that gift as a sacred trust — and we are invited to go out and offer similar expressions to those in our ‘ohana and beyond. As we say each week,

I kupa’a ma hope
O ke aloha o ke Akua
Mai kekahi hanauna
A kekahi hanauna aku.

“We are committed
to sharing God’s aloha
from generation to generation.

May it be so!


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