Easter 3C, 2013/2016
A Liturgy is also available
COAXING THE DAWN AND OTHER NEW POSSIBILITIES
The story we have heard this morning is a story full of images and possibilities.
When I met with some ministry colleagues for study and discussion,
we canvassed several sermon possibilities.
Those possibilities included:
Discovering the new.
Bread and fish as an early form of communion meal.
A call to the church.
Peter - before and after.
So I thought I might touch on one of them this morning: discovering the new.
To begin with though... there is a reasonable debate among scholars
that this particular section of the book we call Gospel of John,
is a later addition to the original collection.
That somebody else added this section as a kind of epilogue.
So it comes very late in our religious tradition
and has lent itself to a whole series of speculative conclusions.
Traditionally, the interpretations given to this section are
often about the power and majesty of ‘Christ’ after the resurrection.
And a call to discipleship – especially Peter’s leadership.
That’s some of the left brain stuff. But what about any right brain stuff?
Well, this story is full of that as well.
To connect to some of those images, I invite you
to close your eyes and imagine a scene when I mention some words.
Gradual sunrise. (Killinger 1992)
Theologian and author John Killinger, also pictures this scene. This is what he says
(and once again you may wish to close your eyes and imagine):
“Let's begin with the lake itself, the place where they were fishing. Lakes, in both fairy tales and sacred legends, are strange and symbolic places. Because they are often deep and hold secrets that can't be discerned from the surface, they are the residences of mystery.
“In Jungian psychology, they often represent the unconscious, the realm of our dreams and fantasies. There is something dreamlike about this scene... Halfway between night and day, with the first hint of dawn spreading pencil-like along the horizon. Patches of mist and fog rising from the water. The gentle noise of waves slapping against the boat or dripping from the nets. The deep sighs of the fishermen, whose muscles ache from the toil of the fruitless night.
“And then the... stranger, standing on the shore and [calling] to them through the mist, telling them they will catch something if they will lower their nets on the other side of the boat...” (Killinger 1992, 30 Good Minutes web site).
Left side. Right side.
And I am sure those of you who have read
a bit of psychology over the past 30 or so years,
will immediately resonate with the ‘left brain - right brain’ suggestions.
The left side of the brain is the
the side that analyses,
The right side of the brain is the
artistic side, the side that responds to pictures and images.
Killinger boldly, and perhaps at times, unkindly,
suggests Jesus had to deal with a lot of left-brained people in his time.
“They were the legalists, the ones who thought the world was constructed by an accountant and everything could be got down in black and white.”
But Killinger goes on:
“Maybe Jesus was saying to the disciples here... they were to live and act out of their right brains, as visionaries and artists... (to) live nobly, generously, without counting the cost or stopping to dot their i's and cross their t's. If they would do that, they would always find their nets full, they would live in the overflow of grace and excitement” (Killinger 1992. 30 Good Minutes web site).
Twenty three years ago (1990), I had the privilege of experiencing first hand
some of the Celtic spirituality which I had been nurtured in since boyhood...
To go to both Scotland and Ireland (again in 2015) and soak up the feelings
of my father’s birth town in Coleraine and teenage town of Carrickfergus (Northern Ireland),
and to be in Scotland on the Isle of Iona (only 1990)
staying in the old Abbey of the Iona Community.
On my first morning on Iona I was out early just before the break of dawn.
In the mist. In the semi-darkness.
And when modern-day Druids were welcoming
the new day arriving in a neighbouring paddock.
John O’Donohue, the late Irish theologian, poet, and former priest, describes a morning experience like this:
“Light is incredibly generous, but also gentle. When you attend to the way dawn comes, you learn how light can coax the dark. The first fingers of light appear on the horizon; ever so deftly and gradually, they pull the mantle of darkness away from the world. Quietly, before you is the mystery of a new dawn, the new day” (O’Donohue 1997:21.).
Dawn is a refreshing time, a time of possibility and promise.
It is one of the tragedies of modern culture
that we have lost touch with these primal thresholds of nature.
The urbanisation of modern life has succeeded
in exiling us from this kinship with nature.
If we could live nobly, generously, without counting the cost
or stopping to dot our i's and cross our t's,
maybe then we could discover what Peter probably discovered:
how to see and to take the first few steps in a new discovery
which for him, so our tradition says, would be expressed in servant leadership.
On the other hand, an associated story this Sunday, is the story
of Paul’s dramatic ‘Damascus Road experience’.
Again, it has been subjected to a host of different interpretations and understandings.
But perhaps the one most fitting as a companion story to the Peter story is:
the life-changing (not a conversion*) event of Paul happened in a profoundly public way,
rather than just within a closed group, called ‘disciples’.
Both stories – about Peter, about Paul –
indicate that Easter is not a one-time-only event.
Rather it is an ongoing counter-story which challenges ‘things as they are’.
“Easter is not done yet!” writes Walter Brueggeman (W Brueggeman/theolog web site, 2004).
And maybe that should be our story, as well.
O'Donohue, J. Anam Cara. Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World. London. Bantam Books, 1997.
(2016) * “Conversion as a model for what happened to Paul is both problematic and potentially misleading. The interpretation of Paul that has dominated the West and underpinned the Protestant reformation derives from Augustine and Luther, and was championed in modern times by Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann. This is indeed a powerful and entrenched understanding of Paul. For most folks it is Paul, so deeply ingrained that it has become intuitive… The Augustinian/Lutheran understanding of Paul has clearly understood Judaism as the opposite of Paul’s new religion, Christianity. But our exploration is suggesting that Rome fills that place...” (Brandon Scott. The Real Paul).