The First Lesson: Acts (9:1-20)
Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
The Response: Psalm 30
1 I will exalt you, O Lord,
because you have lifted me up *
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried out to you, *
and you restored me to health.
3 You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; *
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.
4 Sing to the Lord, you servants of his; *
give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.
5 For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, *
his favor for a lifetime.
6 Weeping may spend the night, *
but joy comes in the morning.
7 While I felt secure, I said,
“I shall never be disturbed. *
You, Lord, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”
8 Then you hid your face, *
and I was filled with fear.
9 I cried to you, O Lord; *
I pleaded with the Lord, saying,
10 “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit? *
will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?
11 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me; *
O Lord, be my helper.”
12 You have turned my wailing into dancing; *
you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.
13 Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; *
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever.
The New Testament: Revelation (5:11-14)
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
The Gospel: John (21:1-19)
Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
The Collect, or gathering prayer, that we used toward the beginning of today’s worship service, appears more than once in The Book of Common Prayer. In addition to this Third Sunday of Easter, it is used on Wednesday of Easter Week. Its repetition, especially during the Easter season, is not so unusual.
But there is another Collect in the Prayer Book that holds two exclusive distinctions. It is the one that we will be using at the end of today’s Prayers of the People. It appears, not just two or three, but five times in the book. But its unique status is not only one of quantity, but of quality: of the importance of the services in which it is used. It is appointed for use in the liturgies of Good Friday, the Great Vigil of Easter, and the ordination of all bishops, priests and deacons. Clearly, those who put together our Prayer Book, as well as the two General Conventions that adopted it, saw something very special here. This prayer asks God to “let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made…, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
That prayer focuses on the theme of the-old-being-made-new. And it would be very difficult to come up with a better story to illustrate that theme than the one we heard as today’s gospel reading.
At the end of last week’s passage, the story about Jesus appearing to all his disciples including Thomas on the Sunday after Easter, we came to what was, at one time, the conclusion of John’s gospel: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” Period. End of story – except that it obviously isn’t.
Some unknown editor, late in the first century, added a chapter 21: the one from which today’s reading is taken. Suddenly, after what appeared to be the end of John’s gospel, we seem to have gone back to the very beginning. The disciples are once again fishing on the Sea of Galilee. As in the opening scene with John the Baptist, two of them are unnamed. All night long, they have caught nothing. There is a miraculously abundant catch of fish. Jesus feeds everyone with fish and bread. He addresses Peter by his original name, “Simon, son of John.” And the whole scene ends with Jesus’ call, “Follow me.”
After the gospel has apparently ended, after the account of Jesus’ death and resurrection, why are we suddenly starting over again? At first, it appears that nothing significant has happened, that nothing has changed in the story, since the entire gospel narrative began. But it quickly becomes clear that, although everything is the same, everything is also different. Everything is being made new by him through whom all things were made. It is now the risen Christ who is entering and touching the disciples’ seemingly ordinary, everyday lives. It is now the risen Christ who is inviting the disciples to recognize and experience God’s abundance. It is now the risen Christ who is feeding God’s people. It is now the risen Christ who is calling people to come and follow him. It is now the risen Christ who is making all things new.
But how does that work? How can the risen Christ, how does the risen Christ, accomplish those works of God in our time? Not surprisingly, John gives us a clue.
In a section of the gospel from which next week’s reading will be taken, Jesus assumes the familiar and well-loved role of the Good Shepherd. He is the one who cares for all of his sheep: God’s people. But in today’s scene in which Simon Peter is reconciled to Jesus, he, on behalf of all believers, is given the commission to take on and fulfill that role of “Good Shepherd” for God’s people today. “If you really love me, then feed my lambs, feed my sheep.” That is not just Peter’s role. It is ours as well.
We are now the ones to whom God, in the risen Christ, has entrusted the work of being the good shepherds for those who are in need in our time. Just as the unknown author of John 21 once took the stories of what Jesus had said and done in his public ministry and refashioned them to take their place in the life of the late first-century church and world, so do we need to take those words and works and make them live again in the life of the early twenty-first century church and world.
Jesus calls to us, just as he once called to Simon Peter and the other disciples, “Follow me.” He asks us, if we truly love him, to be the good shepherds for the people of the greater-Dayton community today: doing those same things that Jesus did in his public ministry and that we see him doing in his risen life in today’s gospel reading. He asks to carry on Jesus’ work for our neighbors today: going out to God’s people where they live and work, feeding those who are hungering in so many ways, reconciling those who are divided from the rest of society and from one another, and helping them to experience God’s presence in their lives,
We, in the risen Christ, are the ones sent by God to help the world experience God’s presence and God’s compassionate love in their lives today. We, in the risen Christ, are the ones sent by God to help the world, in the words of T.S. Eliot (“Four Quartets”), recognize that
“The end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
We, in the risen Christ, are the ones called by God to see our world in such a way that we “know the place for the first time”: to see our world transformed because of what Jesus has done. We, in the risen Christ, are the ones sent by God to “let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, [God’s] Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”