The following homily was delivered from the Readings of the 3rd Sunday of Easter.
A summer ago, I did a chaplaincy training program. It was called CPE, for Clinical Pastoral Education. CPE programs put seminarians of all faith backgrounds in chaplain internship positions in hospitals, hospice care, senior living facilities, prisons, juvenile detention centers, and other internships. We spend several hours a week visiting residents. In my case, it was a full work week. I was assessed by an onsite chaplain, as well as a CPE director who organized all the CPE students, once or twice a week.
In my case, I was assigned to a premier senior care facility. The complex was large, and had various levels of care. One of the sections of the facility was specifically for seniors with dementia. For many people, it was a sad and scary place. It was clear that the residents would not recognize me from visit to visit. Sometimes I got so frustrated, that I wanted to just make up a life story:
For instance, A man would ask me my name, my occupation, and what did I go to college for. Since it was futile to accumulate knowledge, it was tempting to just play games.
Aside from one on one, the care gave them round the clock activities. The variety of activities and programs were designed to keep them occupied with activities, rather then getting distracted by concerns that arose from their dementia.
There was one real challenge in the dementia care section named Sandy. Sandy had a difficult time getting out of bed, staying awake, and participating in activities. Maybe she was depressed, maybe she was confused, maybe she just would rather get back to her dream, the one, she once told me, “I left a bookmark in it, and want to get back to it.”
When the program was watercolors, something remarkable happened. When she was given the watercolors, she became the ace she always had been. She became recognizable. There was that Sandy we were looking for! And what joy there was!
I think about the disciples in this reading, when they finally recognized Jesus, and what joy there was! They thought he was gone. They thought he was left to the grave. They thought he was crucified. They thought their master, teacher, and close friend, was forever taken from them.
And here comes this guy, along the shore of Galilee, asking for some fish for breakfast. Here comes some strange man on the shore calling to the fishermen on the boats. A lot has changed for Jesus. He is not recognized. Nothing has changed for the disciples. They still can’t catch fish. And yet, things are the same with Jesus. He tells them to cast their net on the right. The disciples are brought back to that magical moment, when they knew that there was something remarkable about this man. They were brought back to the intrigue, the excitement, the enthralling and gripping fascination, that some carpenter from Nazareth could read the fish better then trained fishermen. The disciples changed from that moment onward, and followed Jesus. The disciples, yet again, were in need of a change. The disciples were in need of reinspiration. The disciples were in need of a risen life. Jesus takes them to the beginning, to the birth of their discipleship, so to speak, and Jesus send them forth.
So for the disciples as recalled in this reading, so we can recall in our discipleship. We lose our intrigue, excitement, and gripping fascination with our Lord and our ministry. Ever so gently, every so strangly, Jesus stands at the shore, calling out to us in our boats. Jesus stands at a distance asking us for food for the hungry, clothing for the naked, shelter for the homeless, calling out to us in our boats, in our jobs, in our traffic, in our dead-end dreams, in our brokenness, calling out to us to share some fish for breakfast, calling out to us give us direction, calling out to us embrace us, calling out to us in love, calling out to us from the shore.
What joy that is for us! What joy that was for the disciples, and what joy it was to see Sandy paint! It is evening, and we, this community of disciples has kindled the fire and we gather. We kindled the fire of the Paschal Candle, just as the disciples who gathered with the Lord for breakfast. So we still recall the Paschal fire that inspires us as Risen disciples in this Easter Season. So we are also gathered in much joy and festivity. We fasted for 40 days, and now, savoring the mysteries of our own encounters with the risen Lord, we feast. Our feast, though, is not fish for breakfast, but everything we offer here. Our dreams, our hopes, our time, our service, and feast with the Lord. This feast is so joyous and rich that Easter is longer then Lent. & Most especially, this feast reaches its climax as we communally, and personally encounter the Risen Jesus, whom we recognize in this breaking of the bread.
So just as Peter dove into the sea, out of the boat, to swim to the shore, to be near the risen Lord, so we jump out of our boats, out of our independence, out of our self-doubt, out of our brokendreams, and run to the Lord. Just as Peter ran to Jesus on the shore, so we process joyously to Jesus in the Eucharist. So like Peter, like the disciples, we can see, this is him, this is Jesus! He certainly is, up to all his crazy old antics!