Come have breakfast.

From John 21

Some of the disciples went fishing with Peter. They didn’t know what else to do. They had been following Jesus. That gave structure to their lives. They got up in the morning, they did what Jesus said. Sometimes he taught, sometimes they traveled, sometimes they went on trips for him. But every day was oriented around what Jesus told them to do.

Then he died.

Though it was only for a weekend that he was dead, it changed everything. Now he could appear and disappear. He didn’t need to walk from place to place. He was real – touchable, capable of eating – but it was a different kind of reality than the disciples were familiar with.

So Peter went fishing. It was a routine that he knew. Even when, like on this particular morning, there weren’t any fish to catch.

In the dim morning light, a voice called out from shore. “Friends, have you caught anything?”

“No, we haven’t”

The voice responded, “Throw the net on the right side of the boat. There will be some fish.”

They tossed the net over the water and drew it closed. The net was full. John said, “It is the Lord,” Peter swam for shore.

There was a fire burning, fish and bread cooking on the coals. And Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you caught.” Peter went and got some off the boat.

Jesus said, “Come and have breakfast.”  After they ate, Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep.”

I know that Jesus gives Peter three chances to affirm his love after betraying Jesus three times. But what if feeding isn’t just a metaphor? After all, didn’t Jesus literally feed the disciples? And what if obedience, at least sometimes, is as simple as “Come and have breakfast.”

Or morning coffee with Jesus.

Fourth Sunday of Advent: Joy

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:40-41)

Easter evening is a little like Christmas evening. We’re emotionally exhausted from the anticipation, from the preparation, from the interaction, from the food, from the frustration. As we start to crash, some of us start thinking about the next big thing. Whether it’s going back to work or catching the post-Christmas sales, many of us have a hard time simply being content with the moment.

It’s not the best time, however, for new emotional events. After the build-up and the celebration, any new gifts, new revelations, new delights or despairs are likely to leave us more confused than clear. Hearing news that, for example, a good friend we thought was dead was actually alive would leave us stunned.

On the first Easter evening, some of the disciples were together. In the aftermath of a holiday, of watching Jesus die, of hearing scattered stories of seeing him alive, they were trying to figure out everything. They were, in a word, human.

Two of their colleagues arrived and said, “Jesus was walking with us, but we didn’t recognize him until we were just about to eat.” And then Jesus showed up.

They thought he was a ghost. He showed them his hands. Their capacity to understand was overwhelmed with the inconceivability of the truth. The joy they couldn’t quite believe flooded their reasoning.

So Jesus picked up where he left off on Thursday night, on the road toe Emmaus : “Do you have something to eat?”

I know we see this as a ghost-test, since specters can’t eat. But I think it’s an act of gracious normalcy. Jesus had been eating with them for the past three years. What better way to prove his presence than to meet them at a table?

It’s true then and still.

Not a cup of Christmas cheer.

Sometimes the cup in front of us is not full of delight.

Jesus ate one last meal with his disciples, talking about bread and wine. He taught them one last time, around the table, walking out of Jerusalem, across a small valley, up a hill. They walked past vineyards on their way to Gethsemane. Jesus looked at the branches and vines and talked about staying connected and bearing fruit.

When he left the disciples and went further into the garden to pray, it is little wonder that he talked about a cup: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

When talking about the cup of wine a few hours earlier, it was a means of life. Taking the cup in what we now call Communion is the acceptance of an agreement. It was the cup the bride drank to accept the groom’s offer of engagement. It was a cup of hope and promise.

When he described how branches have life when they are connected to the vine, it was a description of relationship. The commitment started with the cup is lived out in the growing vine.

But the promise and relationship rested in a cup of willingness. As he talked with his dad, Jesus found an image to describe the pain that was coming in the next hours. Being betrayed, being abandoned, being scourged, being crucified, all were familiar images to him. As a man he had walked by criminals dying. As God he knew the pain of broken relationships. All of that reality needed a simple way to talk about the choice.

And he found the image in a cup, drained to the dregs. And a phrase.

As you wish. Thy will be done.

 

bread. and wine.

Take all the preparation we make for Christmas. All the shopping, all the chopping, all the planning, all the worrying, all the harvesting and blending and decorating and redecorating. Take all of the secrets and surprises, the dreams and the doubts and despair and delight.

It all comes down to a very simple meal around a simple table, bread and wine and a dozen friends.

We expand our gift-giving as wide as we can afford, and two steps past. Yet in our efforts to express our love, or at least our attentiveness, we never can spend as much as the bread cost for that simple meal.

And we explode our senses with color. Balls and bells, lights and fabric. Nothing is as vivid as the deep purple of the wine, or the crimson of the blood which lies behind it.

There is no either/ or about these images, I don’t think. Bright colors and elaborate feasts on one hand, flatbread and new wine on the other. One is not more spiritually elite than the other, one is not more divinely humble. I am convinced that when Jesus said that he was offering abundant life, he was serious. And when he ate huge feasts with newly repentant friends, with curious acquaintances,  and even with spiteful critics, he delighted in the relationships and the food.

But when we pursue the riches as a replacement for the simple feast, we will stay hungry. And when we think we don’t need bread and wine, body and blood, and when our life is marked by not thy will but mine, we miss the meal that heals and feeds.

I know that that the first Easter came after the first Christmas. But the first Easter has reframed Christmas from mere wondering to sheer wonder at love’s gift.

 

Nine decades.

tomNinety years ago yesterday, Tom Kies was born. He doesn’t own the farm where he was born any more, but his grandson does. He doesn’t drive the combine anymore, but he rode along for many hours this fall. He lost his wife of sixty-four years in September. When family and some friends gathered last night, he was the oldest one in the room.

I’ve known him for 32 of those years. I met him because I was planning to marry one of his daughters. He accepted me, and I him. We always shake hands when we see each other and when we part. He has a very strong handshake.

He also has strong concern for the wellbeing of his clan. Sometimes that concern comes out as cranky. But I think that he’s trying to say “I love you” when he tells us to be careful or to watch a certain network or to be careful with our money.

He’s waiting for the end of his part of the story. As well as he can for someone who is ninety.

While I was thinking about what it must be like to always be the oldest one around, I thought about Simeon and Anna. They both saw Jesus when he was an infant. We know that Anna was 84 when she saw Jesus. We don’t know how old Simeon was. They both hung around the temple, waiting for something. They were waiting for hope, they were hoping that the wait wasn’t pointless.

Tom and Simeon and Anna kept living one breath in front of another. They kept, and keep, listening for God. As Tom said tonight after I prayed for the meal, “Thank you for these ninety years.” It was a quiet prayer, like Anna’s and Simeon’s. But that’s Advent. Waiting thankfully for what comes next.