Parish Priest’s Page

Sermon for Easter 3: May 5th 2019 Year C

delivered at Castlethorpe

“The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’”

In the name of the + Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Illustration

On Friday evening on BBC4 I settled down to a cracking evening of jazz, a mix of a gig from the Cheltenham Jazz Festival with a delve into the archives of iconic 1960s jazz programme, Jazz 625 – and all of it broadcast live and, would you believe, in black and white, and what a treat it was.

We forget how popular jazz was, and how mainstream, to score their first number one hit The Beatles had to knock jazz band leader Terry Lightfoot off the top of the charts and in 1962, British jazz musician Acker Bilk was the first British man to score a number one hit in the US record charts with his hauntingly beautiful single “Stranger On The Shore”. The clarinet melody, one of the most popular instrumental records ever made, and it provided, the most senior amongst us might vaguely recall, the theme tune to a BBC TV series of the same name about a young French girl in her first-ever foreign adventure as an au pair in a British home, in which, at first at least, everything in her new situation seemed strange and very unfamiliar.

Today’s three Bible readings are strange, or contain elements that do not make sense in the ordinary world. Imagine hearing them for the first time. The first reading has the apostles delighting in having suffered humiliation; the second describes a world that could not be further from earthly existence – the heavenly Lamb being worshipped by vast numbers of angels as well as by all animals, birds, fish and insects ever created. The third, the Gospel, has a stranger on the shore directing experienced fishermen to find what they could not, a shoal of large fish. He cooks for them and eats with them – despite having been killed in a vicious execution a short time before.

Are these not strange? And yet, as Lord Byron expressed it in his long poem Don Juan: “’Tis strange – but true; for truth is always strange; Stranger than fiction.”

Gospel Teaching

The Gospel passage contains the key that the other two readings depend on for their meaning. For here Jesus straddles two worlds, the earthly and the heavenly, as only God-made-man could do. As a stranger, he appears to the disciples after an unproductive night’s fishing on the Sea of Tiberias. Both the image of night-time and the sea itself represent the darkness and danger of life lived apart from God, a life that can produce no real fruit.

But to the eyes of faith, this is no stranger on the shore, but the resurrected Lord. The risen Christ calls the disciples to be fishers of men, to bring into community the great catch of believers, to share together the eucharistic meal on the safe shore of the kingdom.

Seated by the fire on the beach, Christ wipes clean Peter’s shameful thrice-denying episode, which had recently taken place beside, you might recall, another fire, in the courtyard outside the place of Jesus’ trial – a clever device that so typical of St John.

The eventual effect on Peter of this reconciliation is seen in the Book of Acts, when he courageously stands up to the Sanhedrin and accuses them to their faces of having caused the death of Jesus, now raised by God.

Lest we forget the full significance of who Jesus is and what he had done, the second reading, from the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation, expresses, in vision language, the all-inclusive nature of his kingdom. Here all living beings, human, animal and angel, are glorifying the Father on the throne and Christ the Son, the sacrificed Lamb. Through Christ, all nature has been renewed and voices its praise in the heavenly kingdom.

Application

Sometimes we are so concerned to read this Gospel passage as a mandate for the leading role of Peter and his successors in the Church that we lose sight of the message it also has for each of us. We who recognise the Lord are either like Peter – leaping into the water, full of enthusiasm – or, like the other disciples, being carried in the boat of the Church, doing our bit to haul in the net, to evangelise and make new disciples.

Then, in Jesus’ questions to Peter, we could hear ourselves being asked if we too love Jesus, and, like Peter, being asked to feed the lambs of God, to look after and feed his sheep. These creatures, the epitome of innocence and vulnerability, represent all for whom Jesus is still a stranger. They might be our families and friends, our acquaintances or work colleagues. They all need the love of God in their lives: they all need to know Jesus as Lord and friend, not stranger. Like good shepherds, so we too are called upon to tend their needs, to bring God’s love to them in the way we are, in what we say and in what we do.

Like Peter, we do not know where all this will take us. We hope we will not be asked to suffer, as Peter did, but we cannot expect the way always to be easy – self-sacrificial love never is. All we know is that we, like Peter, are called by Jesus: “Follow me.” – and so follow we must, as best we can.

In the name of the + Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Magazine Letter From The Vicarage – May 2019

Tel 01908 337936 fr.gary@btinternet.com

Dear Friends,

The eight days from Palm Sunday to Easter Day are quite a commitment. There were no fewer than twenty-three acts of worship which together have attracted some 650 worshippers and in addition our work with children and families brought in another fifty or so households to Pop Up Easter and Little Angels Xtra.

With quite a number of people absent, by virtue of ill health or holidays, I was anxious about how things would work out, but I need not have worried unduly. Attendance on Palm Sunday as well as Easter Day was into three figures and even at 11.45pm on Maundy Thursday seven people were present for Compline by Candlelight, and double that on Holy Tuesday just before 10.00pm.

We have been blessed with wonderful music, beautifully decorated churches and well-ordered worship, all of which requires a huge amount of time, planning and preparation for organists, singers, servers, florists, lesson readers, intercessors and those whose practical, administrative and organisational skills behind the scenes help make things happen, too many people really to even make a list of them, but without any one of whom, what we have shared this last week would have been the poorer.

Anecdotally I have heard some lovely stories of how different aspects of the week have impacted on individuals and families. I hope we can capture some of the memories and spiritual reflections in this edition of The Link so that we might all be encouraged by what the Lord continues to do among us.

May I thank you all, and wish you a blessed and holy Eastertide – seven weeks of feasting with the Bishop joining us for a joint parish celebration on Ascension Day, on day forty, to look forward to – Thursday 30th May at 7.30pm at Castlethorpe. Put it in your diary, please do come!

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Fr Gary

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