Homily from service on May 1, 2022 – Third Sunday of Easter
Sermon preached by The Rev. Tammy Hobbs Miracky
Sermon preached by The Rev. Tammy Hobbs Miracky
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
That was quite the Gospel reading! This is one of the longer Gospel selections we get in the lectionary. I really like that for today. It gives us a chance to actually see the story develop. With the longer selection we get more than a decontextualized wisdom statement or two, or confounding parable or teaching in isolation, which can sometimes happen. Today, we get a nice long story that we can watch unfold.
As I’ve considered this 21st chapter of John, it occurred to me that this text could be interpreted as the story of “a family reunion in three movements.” I realized that in my library at home I had the perfect theological companion piece to help us…experience the story more deeply. The book I’m thinking about was originally published in 1985, but I didn’t discover it…it didn’t come into the Miracky family library until it arrived in a box of Cheerios…as part of a children’s literacy campaign in 2004-2005. When the Relatives Came, by Cynthia Rylant. My apologies, I don’t have the original copy. It was cereal box quality, so sadly, over the years I think it just sort of disintegrated.
The Relatives is also a story of a family reunion in three movements. First Movement: The Arrival.
“It was in the summer of the year when the relatives came.
They came up from Virginia. They left when their grapes
Were nearly purple enough to pick, but not quite.
“They had an old station wagon that smelled like a real car,
And in it they put an ice chest full of soda pop
And some boxes of crackers and some bologna sandwiches,
And up they came—from Virginia…
[and once they arrived]
“Then it was hugging time. Talk about hugging!
Those relatives just passed us all around their car, pulling us
Against their wrinkled Virginia clothes, crying sometimes.
They hugged us for hours.
“Then it was into the house and so much laughing
and shining faces and hugging in the doorways.
You’d have to go through at least four different hugs
to get from the kitchen to the front room. Those relatives!”
Then, of course, there was the meal, followed by the scramble to find a place to lay their heads in a house that had no spare bed. And the relatives stayed, for a nice long time.
When I slowed down in my reading of John 21 long enough to actually consider The Arrival, I was struck by a similar lovingly-chaotic scene. The Gospel of John is comedic at times, and this is one of those times. As soon as Jesus makes himself known to “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” all chaos breaks out. Peter is “naked” – that probably means he was only wearing his inner garments, he wasn’t fully attired – so then he puts ON his clothes just so that he can jump INTO the water. The other disciples following as quickly as they can – dragging a net full of fish behind the boat for 100 yards to the shore. You can imagine a scene of great confusion and commotion – very much like the scene from The Relatives.
The Arrival, of course, is always followed by Movement Two: The Meal. When the disciples had scrambled onto the shore…they were welcomed with a fire, in the air the smell of fish cooking, bread on the side. To the fish already cooking they add more from their fresh catch. The gospel writer emphasizes the abundance of the meal by referencing the oddly-specific 153 large fish in the net, and the fact that the strength of the net was ample to hold so many fish.
And Jesus says to them, “Come and have breakfast.”
Movement Three: The Return to the World. “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me…?” And, upon being assured of Peter’s love for Jesus, Jesus responds, ‘Feed my lambs.’” And then, “Tend my sheep.” And then, “Feed my sheep.” Finally, he tells Peter, “Follow me.” Do as you have seen me do.
After they are replenished by their reunion, nourished by their meal together, Jesus sends them back out into the world.
As for The Relatives, they stayed for a nice long time. Until enough time had passed that they started thinking about “their [now] dark purple grapes waiting at home.” The time had come to return.
“And when they were finally home in Virginia,
They crawled into their silent, soft beds and dreamed
About the next summer.”
Today is the third sunday in the season of Easter, the season of the church year when we remember the ways in which, following his death, Jesus appeared to his disciples to comfort them, to reassure them, as in today’s Gospel, to model for them how Christian community can continue to live out his message of Good News. Jesus introduced to them this rhythm of life – this reconnection with the Holy in three movements – a rhythm that they could continue to follow in their communal life even though the one whose life’s mission was to point them to God, the one whose work was to open their eyes to the dream that God has for God’s people… even though he would no longer be with them in physical form.
And at the heart of that rhythm, as with any good family reunion, was the table.
Today, all these centuries later, we, too, are invited into this rhythm. In a few moments, Anoma will stand at this table, and she will invite all of us — all different ages, all different experiences; those of you who may be joyful this week, you who may be grieving; you who are rested, and you who may be anxious or just plain worn out. There is room for all of us to share the meal at this table, to be nourished, to take this sense of reconnection with us back into the world to do the work we have been given to do.
The harvest is waiting – just as those dark purple grapes were waiting for The Relatives back in Virginia – and God’s table continues to be here as a place of reunion with God and with each other, where we find nourishment and rest.
Come, take, eat. Amen.