Come and Have Breakfast
Come and Have Breakfast – Resurrection as the invitation back home
Karen has asked me to speak on the first half of the lectionary text for this morning.
Imagine for a moment the journey these disciples had been on. They had left their nets and their former lives, given up everything to go and be with Jesus. Then they had seen him killed, and mostly had failed to understand what was going on. Now, they have been given glimpses and moments of experience of the Risen One, bursting through all their categories and calling them into the place of risk and forgiveness. The change and turbulence and grief and uncertainty must have been immense, even now peppered with the most astonishing joy, if they could allow themselves to receive it. In this story on the beach, I see Jesus calling the disciples back to themselves, to come home to themselves and to set in place the rhythms and expectations of the ongoing life together. In this story I see Jesus take up the fragments of habit and memory and infuse them with new meaning and abundance. It's the same, but not the same. The former things and the New Things are wrapped up together.
As a community of faith it is our task too, to learn to receive the hospitality of The Christ, as we come home to ourselves and each other. And that means we need to know something of what it looks like and feels like to meet the Risen One in unexpected flesh. To recognise him with the eyes of our hearts. The text of our reading tells us that Jesus 'revealed himself' again to the disciples.
This story shows us some hallmarks, some qualities, some signs of what it is like when Christ is present. And it calls us each to take and eat the simple meal of homecoming, of a life of abundance in the company of friends, in the love of the Christ.
The first thing I notice is that the disciples weren't huddling in a locked room any more, as we heard last week. Jesus has met them in their fear, even come back again especially for Thomas to be persuaded. Now they are ready to return to the world of ordinary living again, and for Simon Peter the fisherman and his friends, that means going fishing. This revelation of the Risen Jesus comes to them in the midst of their normal practice, as they resume the stuff of ordinary life. It reminds me of that phrase – I don't know its origin – 'after ecstasy, the laundry.' It is good to have our special experiences, our holidays and festivals and retreats. But it is not only there that the Christ meets us. Just as often, the Christ is revealed and encountered in the normal...in our work, our homes, our friends, our church, our play.
I notice that the disciples have been in the boat all night without a single catch. This presses again on that motif of disappointment, of the darkness that they have been through, of the 'nothing' that perhaps threatens to engulf them, even in the newness of their hope and the experience they've had of an empty tomb and a Risen Lord. This waiting time, this going into the night, is part of all deep change, and precursor to most joy. And what I notice is that Jesus appears, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, on the shore, in the first light of the morning. At that liminal time of transition and unfolding of the new gift of the new day. Our daily and seasonal rhythms have much to teach us about the shape of the spiritual life.
I hear Jesus calling out to the ones on the water 'haven't you caught anything, friends?' This Risen Jesus doesn't set up an 'I'm the Lord, you're the minions, listen to me' kind of hierarchy, even though he has just walked through death and hell and risen into a body of glory beyond imagining. He calls them, and us, friends. This reminds me of the lesson from Matthew's Passion account, when Judas comes to betray Jesus and Jesus greets him as 'friend.' We can sit on one side of that exchange, as Judas, and know ourselves 'befriended' by the love of God even in our worst moment of betrayal. Maybe that's what you need to take from this word 'friend' today. Or, we can sit on the other side of that exchange, to identify with Jesus as we're invited to do as sharers in his life. And we can learn to embrace and welcome all new information, all questions, all difficulty, all seeming betrayal, as 'friend.' So, the Risen One calls out to these disciples, lost and disappointed and scattered as they have been, and invites them to receive his advice and his suggestion as from a friend.
Which they do. Despite having been out there all night and catching nothing, they respond to his encouragement to throw the net out onto the other side, and suddenly their catch is full, more than the net can hold, and their hearts are open to receive the abundance that is God's provision. The remarkable catch recalls other scenes from the gospel – the water into wine at Cana, the feeding of the 5,000, the promise of the great flow and fullness of the living water. Life in the company of the Risen One is characterised by this fullness. I don't mean 'miracles' in the popular sense. I mean generosity, flow, abundance. The reign of God is not mean, mealy, stingy or careful. That doesn't mean bad, painful, horrible things don't happen, or that there aren't lean times. But that when our eyes are opened to the presence of the Christ in all and through all, our hearts become open to the whole of creation as the gift of God, including its fruiting, its colour, its power, and its vastness. And that spirit becomes part of how we receive the ordinary things of life too. Instead of expecting to be pushed back, put in our place, told to sit down when we raise our empty bowl, we deepen into a sense of our inheritance as a child of One who loves to give, and who intends that all receive. The Risen One comes to us and says 'keep company with me, and things will begin to surpass your fear of limits, smallness and scarcity. You'll begin to trust, to risk. You will sow with generosity, and reap joy.'
The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter 'It is the Lord.' And this is enough to wake Peter up and send him running for shore. There is a lovely balance and interdependence in these two responses. The heart that knows a deeper love is the first to recognise the essence of the beloved in a different form. And the heart that has previously veered wildly between 'yes' and 'no' trusts that testimony and leaps to respond with action as only that one can. It's as though Mary's said, while Jesus was a long way off 'Jesus is coming today', with the knowing of her heart, and Martha has rushed off to bake a cake and clean the house. These dualities are held together in any community that lives the faith together. We pondered some weeks ago about the polarities of Elijah and Moses as a necessary ongoing tension. Here in the story of the catch of fish we have Peter and the beloved disciple both bringing their gifts of recognition and response into the moment of the revelation of the Lord. Where do you most identify? Do you find in yourself nudges and resonances that others don't seem to notice, that you need to risk to say aloud? Are you someone who is learning trust the testimony of another's heart, bringing to bear your gifts of action and movement? Or does fear, doubt and mistrust, caution and prior wounding put a spoke in the gentle interplay of these ways of recognising the Risen Christ in our midst?
And now, we are on the beach, and look, Jesus has already lit a fire for us and begun to cook breakfast. He still doesn't look like Jesus. And we can tell that from the suppressed impulse of the disciples to look only with their outer vision and ask the question 'Who are you?' even while their inner knowing is telling them loud and clear that this is the Lord.
I notice the 'already' aspect of this breakfast. 'As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it.' What the disciples needed had already been provided, the fire was already lit and the food was cooking. This is the nature of God's provision to us. Yes, there is waiting, and there are long nights without a catch of fish, but there is also, somewhere, a breakfast already cooking and a fire to warm ourselves by. We, like the disciples, are given a simple invitation into the 'already' hospitality of God – 'come and have breakfast.' It's nothing we have to do anything to receive. It's there before we get to shore. But we are invited to add our fish to it – we become partners in the giving and receiving, just like the boy with the loaves and two fish in the feeding of the 5000. Life in the company of the Risen One is not just passive receptivity. We act, we cast our nets, we run towards life when we recognise it, and we bring our catch of fish to the breakfast table.
As I see it, this breakfast is a symbol of home, of 'returning to ourselves' when we have become estranged from our core truth. John O'Donohue, referencing Meister Eckhart, speaks of death as simply a return to a home we have never truly left. Jesus lived all his mortal life in consciousness of his home in God. He never lost that sense of being the Son. And so he was able to lay down his life, because he was returning to a home he had never left, one where he assures us, there are many mansions and a place prepared. And so he returns to his disciples to invite them back into being at home again, after the turbulence of the previous days and weeks. This is not the home of origins, of 'mother and father, sisters and brothers.' Jesus has already made it quite clear throughout his life that being 'at home in God' also means making 'home' with a new group of people, a company of fellow travellers, united by the way we share in the dying and rising of the Christ. It is a home that is intended to both remind us of and embody for us the eternal home in the love of God that is always our deepest belonging.
And so Jesus breaks the bread and hands out the fish, a deliberately ritual act that sets out the rhythm of this new community of home – taking food from the hands of the Christ and sharing it together. In this formal giving of the food to his friends, the Risen Jesus is inviting them to pay attention...this is not just a hang out around the fire, it is also the formation of a new community around a meal, around the hospitality of Christ. There is no 'last supper' bread and wine institution in John's Gospel. You could say that a type of it happens here, using the food that is available. What is important is the sensibility that is being formed in the group. John O'Donohue observes that growing up in a home develops in us a 'rhythm of mind and sensitivities of the heart,' - different depending on what was valued and enacted by our family of origin. Jesus in the giving of the food in this attentive way is reminding the disciples what the rhythm and sensitivities of his home are...hospitality, lives and food shared, hands that give and receive, and the recognition of the Christ with us in each of these moments.
Which brings us to the questions we might want to ask of ourselves in this space where we attempt together to enact these rhythms and sensitivities and discern the Risen One among us.
How far away am I from the core of my belonging and my sense of acceptance in God, and with other people? How has grief, or trauma, or change, or confusion, or disillusionment, or betrayal, worked in me a mistrust in my welcome at Jesus' breakfast fire? How many nights have I spent out on the water, trying to catch fish and coming back to the empty shore empty handed?
To each of us, whatever our answer to these questions, Jesus meets us here and now, and says 'come and have breakfast.' No fireworks, nothing spectacular. Just a life lived in company – the company of the Risen One and the company of friends, where what we need is provided, and where our welcome is always assured.