Sunday, April 10, 2016

What Do You Bring to the Table?

April 10, 2016

John describes the meeting in detail, but it still helps if you can read between the lines. It was some time after Jesus' resurrection. The disciples were still trying to figure out what had happened; resurrection is not exactly an every day event. Not knowing what else to do, Peter announced that he was going fishing - not the drop a line in the water kind of sport fishing, but the "this is how I make my living kind of fishing, with a net. Except they weren't doing too well with it. They worked all night long to no avail. They caught exactly...nothing, which is disappointing enough when you're doing it for sport, but is completely discouraging when it's your livelihood.

As dawn is breaking, they hear someone calling from shore: "Any luck?" is how we'd phrase it today. When they sadly reported their failure, this stranger on the shore boldly told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat, which sounds pretty silly when you think of it. If there weren't any fish on one side, there wasn't likely to be any on the other side. But they did as they were told and got the catch of a lifetime. John was the first to make the connection. "It's the Lord!" he shouted, whereupon Peter grabbed his shirt, leapt overboard and began swimming for shore. The disciples followed in the boat.

When they got to shore, they found Jesus was ready for them with a fire and some fish broiling. Apparently not quite enough, since he asked them to bring some of their catch to add to the meal, which points to the lesson I want to make. This breakfast wasn't just an ordinary breakfast; it was a sign of the meal Jesus had already shared with them a short while before, and which he said he would share with them again in his Father's kingdom.

The Eucharist, or Communion meal is where we meet and fellowship with Christ and with his people. Problem is, we often come to this Table but fail to meet Christ there. We come and we go, nothing changing, no connection made. What is wrong? Two things. First, unlike the disciples, we hear the clear command of Christ, but fail to obey. We hear him command us to forgive, but it is too hard, so we harbor bitterness. He tells us to love our enemy, but that seems as silly as casting our net on the other side of the boat. He may even tell us to give generously to a church, charity, or an individual in need, but the figure he is suggesting pinches our pocket a little too much. We cannot meet Christ at his Table if we have deliberately ignored his command on the shore.

The second problem is one of respect. He asked the disciples to bring some fish to the feast. We cannot come to his Table empty handed. The place of fellowship is always a place of sharing. If we come to his Table only to receive, we will surely go away hungry. When we come, it is to share with our brothers and sisters that which we have, of our time, talents, and treasure. Years ago, the Rolling Stones sang "Can't Get No Satisfaction." They identified the problem, but not the solution. It's not complicated, but it is difficult. Most of us tend to be more interested in what we get than what we give, but John shows us a different and better way: Do what Jesus commands, and don't come empty handed. It's a pretty good lesson from today's Scripture, and I am grateful for it tonight.

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