28 April 2010

The Fifth Sunday of Easter, 2 May 2010

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
Saint John 10:22-30

The Sundays of Easter are suspended between two great liturgical feasts: The Resurrection of our Lord, Easter Day, and the Day of Pentecost.  One serves as a culmination of the Passion Cycle, and the other serves as a beginning to a season of the Holy Spirit.  The readings during Eastertide prepare us for this transition, with Jesus looking ahead to the gift he will give to sustain the community after his departure.  All of the readings this morning prepare us for the gift of the Spirit and the new horizons to which she will lead us.  See if you can see what the signs of the coming Spirit are.

Acts 11:1-18

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, "Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?" Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, `Get up, Peter; kill and eat.' But I replied, `By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' But a second time the voice answered from heaven, `What God has made clean, you must not call profane.' This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, `Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.' And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, `John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?" When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, "Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life."

This is a pivotal text in Acts in that it prepares Peter, and the reader, for all of the changes that are about to made in the Church’s outreach to non-Jews.  One needs to understand the background of the dietary laws of Judaism, and you may want to look at Leviticus 11 to see how these laws are described in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Luke was not a Jew and is writing for a Gentile audience. Thus he goes to some lengths to describe the existential dilemma in which Peter finds himself.  The other interesting aspect to this text is its theology around baptism, where Luke describes the necessity of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Baptism, and the differentiation from the baptism of John the Baptist.  Even at this late date, Luke finds it necessary to “suppress” John, and to lift up Christ. 

Breaking open Acts
1.    Why does Peter object to eating the food shown to him?
2.    What changes his mind?
3.    What have you forbidden yourself because you think that God forbids it?
4.    Have you not formed relationships with others because you have been forbidden from doing so by tradition, the past, or by the influence of others?

Psalm 148 Laudate dominum

Praise the LORD from the heavens; *
praise him in the heights.

Praise him, all you angels of his; *
praise him, all his host.

Praise him, sun and moon; *
praise him, all you shining stars.

Praise him, heaven of heavens, *
and you waters above the heavens.

Let them praise the Name of the LORD; *
for he commanded, and they were created.

He made them stand fast for ever and ever; *
he gave them a law which shall not pass away.

Praise the LORD from the earth, *
you sea-monsters and all deeps;

Fire and hail, snow and fog, *
tempestuous wind, doing his will;

Mountains and all hills, *
fruit trees and all cedars;

Wild beasts and all cattle, *
creeping things and winged birds;

Kings of the earth and all peoples, *
princes and all rulers of the world;

Young men and maidens, *
old and young together.

Let them praise the Name of the LORD, * for his Name only is exalted,
his splendor is over earth and heaven.

He has raised up strength for his people and praise for all his loyal servants, *
the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

This is one of the six psalms of praise (Hallel) that close the collection of psalms.  In order to understand the psalmist’s frame of reference it is necessary for us to keep in mind the first creation story (Genesis 1:12:3).  In the psalm the author rehearses each of the creation “days” or events as a cause for praise of God.  Thus we have a descending order of praise from the highest heaven to human kind.  A couple of notes on the text: The “angels” (poorly translated here) are not the winged creatures of popular note but rather the “messengers” of God’s will.  Also of note is the comment on the “waters above the heavens” which are kept in place by the “firmament” a fixed hemi-sphere above the earth.  It is here that the Genesis story is influenced by its Canaanite counterparts, in which the act of creation is seen as a triumph by God over the sea monsters.  God is the bringer of order.  The psalm requests the praise of God from all of the cosmos, and pictures God enthroned upon the praises of God’s creative work.

Breaking open Psalm 148
1.     Does the psalm track the “days of Creation”?
2.     What does the psalmist mean by “Praise him, sun and moon”?
3.     Is there anyone excluded from the praise of God in this psalm?

Revelation 21:1-6

I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

"See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away."

And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life."

In this vision, the Seer sees a new heaven and a new earth.  This is the promise of the Church renewed by the Spirit.  Indeed all of creation is renewed, and like the psalm for today, the whole cosmos speaks of the Creator’s work.  Of special interest is the phrase, “the sea was no more.”  The battle between chaos and order (the sea monsters vs. Yahweh) is finished. In this metaphor, the veritable home of chaos doesn’t exist any longer.  The Church is pictured either as a bride ready to greet her husband (Christ) or as a city (the new Jerusalem) a community gathered around the Temple (the Lamb).  In this new creation, heaven and earth are brought together, for God dwells with mortals.  The Seer recites the events that speak to the new messianic time just as Isaiah, and Jesus had done.  Tears are gone, death is gone, pain is no more; signs of the new time.  In spite of the fact that the sea is no more, water still does exist: the spring of the water of life (baptism).

Breaking open Revelation:
  1. Read Isaiah 35:5-7 and Luke 7:18-23, what are the signs of the messiah?  How does John talk about them in Revelation?
  2. Is the earth being renewed today?  How?
  3. Are you being renewed in the Spirit?  How?

Saint John 13:31-35

At the last supper, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

This conversation, pictured at the Last Supper, gives Jesus opportunity to instruct the disciples on what is to come.  The succeeding several chapters then comprise a rabbinic instruction to the disciples about the meaning of the Passion Cycle that will follow.  Foundational, however, are two concepts.  The first is that Jesus will need to leave, “I am with you only a little longer.”  They need to prepare for a life and ministry without him.  This is where the second concept comes in as a foundation to their continuing ministry.  Simply put, Jesus wants this new community to be known for the love that it has for one another.  If we read Acts properly, we can see how this love is a sign to so many about the difference of this Christian group.  Here, in preparation, Jesus makes the first steps.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1.  When you hear “love” in the Christian context, what does it mean to you?
  2.  How do Christians manifest love in the church?  In the world?
  3.  Does your faith allow you to love yourself?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

21 April 2010

The Fourth Sunday of Easter, 25 April 2010

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
Saint John 10:22-30

This Sunday is called “Good Shepherd Sunday” which will become obvious as we read through the texts.  The themes of sheep and of shepherds pepper both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, and often refer to kingship in ancient Israel (David was portrayed as a shepherd) and in relationship to Jesus as well (the son of David). 

Acts 9:36-43

Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, "Please come to us without delay." So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, "Tabitha, get up." Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

In the Book of Acts, Luke has two programs that are especially evident in our reading today.  One of those programs is to accentuate the ministry of women.  In this story we meet Tabitha, who serves as an introduction to this series of Christian women.  The second program that Luke brings to our attention is the establishment of the authority of both Peter and Paul.  With this reading we are in the Peter cycle of authority, during which Peter (and then later, Paul) repeats some of the miracles of Jesus, here raising Tabitha from death to life.  In addition to this, and we shall see this in coming readings, Peter learns to understand the necessity of a mission to the Gentiles.  Luke is picturing for us an early church that is rapidly growing and changing, and yet rooted in the Easter Faith.

Breaking open Acts
1.    If commentators are right in seeing this scene as Peter replicating the deeds of Jesus, which Jesus’ miracles does this story bring to mind?
2.    Is there a story from the Hebrew Scriptures that this reading recalls?
3.    Why was/is it necessary to assign miracles to Peter?

Psalm 23 Dominus regit me

The LORD is my shepherd; *
I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures *
and leads me beside still waters.

He revives my soul *
and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over.

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

This psalm is so popular that it is almost impossible to comment on its meaning at either the time it was written, or as it is read today.  The psalm is supposedly a David psalm, which has certain logic to it, in that David’s legend includes stories of his being a shepherd.  For the small city-states of the Ancient Near East, such affinities (shepherding and kingship) were quite possible.  The closeness of agrarian life, and the role of kingship in securing the productive context of field and meadow made this compelling image.  The image in the psalm is associated with God, using the shepherd skills and situations as a metaphor for God’s care of God’s people.  For Christians, the association with Jesus is natural, Jesus himself making the comparison.  The setting of a meal, the anointing with oil, and the over-flowing cup are all rich associations for Christians who would call to mind the Eucharist, and Unction.  It’s popularity as a psalm at funerals is likely due to its close personal associations with individuals’ prayer lives, or with the verse about “the valley of the shadow of death.” 

Breaking open Psalm 23
1.     Can you recite this psalm by heart?  Which version?
2.     What are the compelling images for you in this psalm?
3.     Has God been your shepherd?  How?

Revelation 7:9-17

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
"Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing,
"Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen."
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" I said to him, "Sir, you are the one that knows." Then he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Again we have another vision of St. John the Divine, and hear the hymn sung by the celestial choir.  There are several clues that the writer gives us to understand the situation at hand, and the audience that is being addressed.  In the first paragraph we see a demography of the early church – “all tribes, and peoples, and language” demonstrates that the church has moved beyond Palestine and into the rich diversity of the Roman Empire.  It is in this locus of diversity and of the Roman Imperium that we encounter the other difficulty.  One of the elders refers to “the great ordeal.”  Given the late date of this book, the author probably has in mind the reactions of the Roman imperium to the revolt of Jews in Jerusalem, and the subsequent Roman suppression of that revolt.  In addition the reforms of the Emperor Domitian (ca. 81-96), which viewed Christianity as an illegal cult, resulted in persecutions, principally in Asia Minor.  Many Christians perished under his reign, thus making for the “great ordeal.”
Breaking open Revelation:
1.    In the last verses, the seer describes the new life of Christians.  Can you locate the attributes of this new life?
  1. Who is “the Lamb”?
  2. What other role is ironically ascribed to the Lamb?

Saint John 10:22-30

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly." Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one."

The Festival of the Dedication was a celebration in Israel that we know today as Chanukah.  This festival celebrated the defeat of the Seleucid Kings (after the death of Alexander, his general Seleucids was given control over what is modern-day Syria and Palestine) by the Maccabees.  It celebrates a miracle of relighting the temple candelabrum with too little oil.  In this context, the people around Jesus wonder aloud if he is the Messiah.  This is an appropriate question.  Substitute the Romans for the Seleucids and you can see the concern.  The implicit question is whether Jesus will take away the oppression of Israel by the Romans.  Jesus turns the metaphor on its ear, by noting that the flock (Israel) should recognize the voice of its shepherd (Jesus.)  Jesus declares that the question is moot – the real issue being that God (the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23) has given all the flocks (not just Israel) into the hand of Jesus, who is one with the Father.  Here Jesus and John move beyond Israel into the reality of the gentile church.

Breaking open the Gospel:
1.  Who else recognized the voice of the Shepherd (think Easter stories)?
  1. Was there an ulterior motive in asking Jesus whether or not he was the Messiah?  If so, what was it?
  2. How would gentiles have heard this passage from John?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

14 April 2010

The Third Sunday of Easter, 18 April 2010

Acts 9:1-6
Psalm 30
Revelation 5:11-14
Saint John 21:1-19

We are slowly moving from the focus on Peter (Gospel) to a new focus on Saul/Paul (First Reading).  It is Luke’s intention to keep these two individuals clearly in mind, as we begin to associate them with the work and signs of Jesus.  Both of these men will have visions that will directly affect their approach to not only the Easter Faith, but to the manner in which they characterize that faith to others.  This morning we will hear about the first of these visions to Paul, and then on the Fifth Sunday of Easter we will hear about Peter’s vision.  These visions will carry the church from a Judeo-centric perspective and mission to a more inclusive mission that involves the ministry to gentiles.  There is another vision in today’s readings, and that is the vision of St. John the Divine, as he hears the song of the angels and elders in heaven.

Acts 9:1-20

Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." [The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." He answered, "Here I am, Lord." The Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God."]
There are little details that we learn from Luke as he broadens our image not only of Saul/Paul, but of the early Church as well.  The fact that he is heading to Damascus gives us a clear understanding of the Jewish Diaspora, during which Jews moved from Palestine to other parts of the Fertile Crescent, Asia Minor, Greece, Egypt, and the Italian Peninsula.  We also learn that these early Christians were known as those who “follow the Way” (cf. Jesus’ saying: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”).  Many scholars look at this section of Luke/Acts as a “resurrection appearance”, for Paul, like Jesus, is incapacitated for three days, after which he sees and understands: “He is the Son of God.”  In some aspects this is the answer to the remark that Jesus makes to Thomas in last Sunday’s Gospel, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”  Paul’s vision is both – an evidence of the risen Lord, but as a vision, and belief that flows out of not a direct but rather an indirect experience of Jesus as the Living One.  The opening of Saul, now Paul’s eyes, also becomes his call as a prophet, for there is the laying on of hands and an outpouring of the Spirit.  Baptism followed.
Breaking open Acts
1.    What motivated Saul’s “threats and murder”? 
2.    What do you understand about Paul’s blindness?
3.    Why were Christians called “those who follow the Way”?  What does that mean to you?

Psalm 30 Exaltabo te, Domine

I will exalt you, O LORD, because you have lifted me up *
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

O LORD my God, I cried out to you, *
and you restored me to health.

You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead; *
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

Sing to the LORD, you servants of his; *
give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, *
his favor for a lifetime.

Weeping may spend the night, *
but joy comes in the morning.

While I felt secure, I said, "I shall never be disturbed. *
You, LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains."

Then you hid your face, *
and I was filled with fear.

I cried to you, O LORD; *
I pleaded with the Lord, saying,

"What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit? *
will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me; *
O LORD, be my helper."

You have turned my wailing into dancing; *
you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; *
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

This psalm might be put into the mouth of Lazarus, as a resurrected one.  It mixes both a pleading to be saved from death, and a thanksgiving for being saved from death.  Of interest is verse 10, in which the psalmist bargains for his life.  The term “the Pit” is a translation of the Hebrew Sheol.  Sheol was the place of the dead – neither heaven nor hell – that concept doesn’t really exist in the Hebrew Scriptures.  This place bears some kinship with the Greek notion of Hades.  None-the-less, the author bargains with God, noting that there is no profit in death – for the dead cannot praise God, or exhibit their faithfulness. 

Breaking open Psalm 30
1.     Why do you think this psalm was chosen for this Sunday?  What are the thematic ties, if any, to the other readings?
2.     How many verses plead, and how many verses give thanks?
3.     Have you ever bargained with God?  For what?

Revelation 5:11-14

I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice,
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!"
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,
"To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!"
And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" And the elders fell down and worshiped.
This hymn and the description that surrounds it follows the letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor, and is in the midst of a vision by the author of Revelation.  In the vision there is a scroll, and the question – “Who is worthy to break open the seals, to read the message?”  The answer is “the Lamb”, a symbol of the paschal Christ, the one offered up and raised again.  The vision wants us to see as well the vast court of followers that accompany the lamb, the “thousands or thousands”, the living creatures, and the elders.  Although popular opinion sees Revelation as a coded message about the future, full of ominous warnings and disaster, it is more likely a coded message intended for the Christians of Asian Minor concerning their choice of Jesus, rather than worshipping the Roman Emperor, which was their civic duty.  The author guises the heavenly scene with all the panoply of the Imperial Court.  For it was not Diocletian who was kyrios (Lord) or soter (Savior), but rather the Lamb – Jesus.  This is the One, whom the multitudes praise and honor.

Breaking open Revelation:
1.    Why is the image of a lamb used?
2.    Who is seated on the throne?
3.    Who might the elders be?

Saint John 21:1-19

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, you have no fish, have you?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go." (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, "Follow me."

In the first reading and in the Gospel, the principal characters receive a call.  Here it is Peter’s turn.  The scene is one taken out of everyday life, especially Peter’s everyday life – for he was a fisherman.  Jesus, in his usual fashion, turns that image into something different and new.  There is also a symmetry about how John fashions this story, for Peter, who denied Jesus three times, in this Gospel is asked three times, “Do you love me.”  The point of this gospel reading is not only a resurrection appearance to the disciples, but more a mission call to them and to the reader.  John wants us to understand that if we love Jesus, we will then share the story (Feed my lambs/sheep).  Jesus makes it clear what the requirements of following him mean, and then he utters the demand, “Follow me.”  There is a secondary theme in the reading as well, and that is the meal that Christ prepares on the beach.  It is similar in nature to one of the other resurrection stories that John cites, wherein Jesus eats.  This reference seems to have a greater implication, see especially “he took the bread and gave it to them.”  These are code words in John.
Breaking open the Gospel:
1.    Who are the lambs and sheep that are to be fed?
2.    Why does the author mention Peter’s nakedness?
3.    Again Jesus intervenes in their fishing procedure – and what is the result?  Why does John include this?
4.    What is the meaning behind “he took the bread and gave it to them.”?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.