Serendipity: ser-en-dip-i-ty (noun) 1. The accidental discovery of something pleasant, valuable, or useful.
Out of adversity comes creativity.
I am not speaking of my sermon or even the scriptural passage. I am referring to the phone call at 3 AM from our organist stating that she was in the Emergency Room with her husband (who later was admitted to the ICU). Staff is like family at our church and we are all very concerned about David’s health. The report is looking better as I write.
A secondary concern was that we would be worshiping in a few hours without an organist and as luck would have it; our pianist was on vacation as well. I packed my guitar and hoped for the best. Our music director had planned to play his guitar and sing one piece in the service so we tuned up together and chose hymns that we could lead with guitar. Our opening hymn was an upbeat “Lord of the Dance” followed later in the service by, “Pass It On” and we closed with a New Orleans style rendition of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” I think that my favorite moment was the Offertory (insert pastor’s joke here) where Terry and I sang a freestyle duet of “Broken Hallelujah.” God bless Terry’s ability to harmonize! Singing the Gloria and Doxology (and the prayer verse of America) a cappella worked out fine but I will admit to being a bit out of voice by the end of the second service. Sometimes life gives you lemons… I just wish I’d had one to suck on.
Chapter 21 marks the second ending of John’s gospel. The final verses suggest that after the gospel writer had died there had been confusion among his followers who had anticipated the return of Jesus (theologians use the term “Parousia”) before the disciple’s death. Whatever the reason for this last chapter, we are given insight into Peter’s private struggle with guilt over his multiple denials of Jesus.
Peter had displayed bravado earlier as he professed that he would follow Jesus to his death. He had showed courage when facing the authorities who came to arrest him in the garden by drawing his sword and stepping into the fight. But it would be Jesus who prevented Peter from continuing; and then he healed the man Peter had wounded. His spirit broken, Peter fled the scene and while remaining incognito, followed Jesus to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest. There Peter was given three opportunities to acknowledge Jesus and each time he lied, claiming that he did not even know him.
Now, following the resurrection the disciples are fishing in the sea of Tiberias throwing their net all night without success. In the morning they are instructed by a stranger on the shore to cast their net on the other side of the boat. Immediately the net is filled with what will later be reported as 153 fish. Some have suggested that there is allegorical relationship between the church and the vessel; and even the number of fish caught in the net. Some biblical historians note that the number 153 represents all known species of fish at that time. Calling on the church to cast out in a different direction to bring in all kind of people is a challenge for churches even today. It is so much easier to bring in people who are just one type… our type. The type that we are comfortable with; who talk like us and dress like us and mostly think like us.
Later in the reading Peter and Jesus are apart from the others and Jesus asks him, “Do you love me more than these?” …Possibly causing Peter to reflect on his unfulfilled assurance to follow Jesus unto death. Peter’s affirmative response leads Jesus to direct him to shepherd the flock; in other words, be a caregiver to others. This happens three times in succession, an obvious correlation to the number of Peter’s denials. The last time Jesus questions Peter’s love causes an almost cathartic response from Peter. It is finished.
The passage ends with an interesting observation about the possibility of Jesus’ return in the Parousia. The words of Christ as recorded by the gospel writer, along with his outliving the other disciples by several years fed into the church’s expectation of Jesus’ imminent return to earth. These words, recorded after John’s death were no doubt words that he told his followers many times in response to their hope. The greater message comes from Jesus himself as he responds to Peter questioning how the younger disciple would die; “What is that to you?” Jesus said. “Follow me!”
I believe that we would be a better reflection of Christ today if we worried less about the lifestyles’ of others and simply tried ourselves to, “Follow Him!”