2018-4-22 “When Hungers Burn”

“When Hungers Burn”

A meditation based on John 21:1-14

April 22, 2018

Community Congregational Church of Chula Vista

Dr. Sharon R. Graff

* * * * *

                   Years ago, I learned a classic church choir anthem called “Wachet Auf!”  Loosely translated from the German, it means “sleepers awake!”  And it references that parable Jesus tells of the 10 young women whose lamp oil did not last the night.  When I think of Wachet Auf, I chuckle still, for after listening to hundreds of sermons and sitting through countless church meetings, the advice to wake up when you’re about the work of God seems humorously appropriate!  Today, we’re going to wake up! 

                   Last year, you may recall, I taught you about a way of reading scripture that draws you in to its lessons through the vehicle of your own personal story.  I invite us to revisit that today.  “Lectio divina” is a Latin phrase meaning, “a divine reading of scripture.”  Lectio = text, scripture.  Divina = The Divine, God, Spirit, Christ.  Lectio Divina is a special style of reading scripture that has a lens focused to see where God is speaking through that particular story to this particular group of people.  In this morning’s scripture story, we again encounter the Living, Breathing Resurrected Jesus, and I invite you wake up and enter that story through your own. 

                   The exercise goes like this: you’ll hear the story from John’s gospel again—a total of three times, each time with a different prompt for you to contemplate.  In between the readings, there will be a bit of silence, followed by an opportunity for you to share with someone else near you, if you wish.  Understand?  Ready to give it a try?  First step: find a partner.  Someone you know already.  Someone you want to know better.  Move to sit next to them.  So take a couple of deep breaths, settle comfortably into your cushion, and focus your gaze on something in the sanctuary other than me.  If you wish, you may close your eyes.  Whatever helps you focus your ears for listening more deeply, do that now.

  1. As you hear the story this first time, listen for what the disciples hungered for and listen also for how those hungers were met…[Hear John 21:1-14, The Message Bible]

After Jesus had met Thomas and the others in the upper room, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Sea of Galilee. This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, and two other disciples were all together.  Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.”  The rest of them replied, “We’re going with you.”  They went out and got in the boat.  They caught nothing that night.  When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the beach, but none of them recognized him.  Jesus spoke to them: “Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?”  They answered, “No.”  He said, “Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens.”  They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in.  Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Master!”  When Simon Peter realized it was the Master, he threw on his outer clothes, for he was stripped for work, and he dove into the sea.  The other disciples came in by boat, pulling along the net full of fish.  When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire, with fish and bread cooking on it.  Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.”  Simon Peter joined them and pulled the net to shore—153 big fish!  And even with all those fish, the net did not rip.  Jesus said to them all, “Breakfast is ready.”  Not one of the disciples dared ask, “Who are you?”  They knew it was the Master.  Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them.  He did the same with the fish.  This was now the third time Jesus had shown himself alive to the disciples since being raised from the dead.

                   What did the disciples hunger for?  How were their hungers met?  Please turn to your neighbor; share with them what you heard in the story about the hungers of those disciples…

  1. Finish the thought you’re sharing, settle back into your cushion, take a few breaths. Now you’ll hear the same story a second time.  This time, as you listen again to the hungers of the disciples…think about: what do you hunger for today?  [Hear John 21:1-14, The Message Bible]

Again, sit with your same neighbor and share with them one thing you hunger for today…

  1. Finish the thought you’re sharing, settle back into your cushion, take a few breaths. Now, you’ll hear the same scripture story a third time.  I invite you to listen and imagine: what is God’s nourishment for you, what is God’s nourishment for this church?

          [Hear John 21:1-14, The Message Bible]

Please keep silence for a bit, and ponder, what is God’s nourishment for you, for this church?  Anyone care to share aloud?  [sharing…]

                   Today, in this scripture story, the earliest disciples encounter the Living, Breathing Resurrected Jesus.  He meets them at the point of their deepest hungers.  Yet, once again, the disciples at first do not recognize him.  We ought to be used to this by now.  Each story we’ve read, from Easter morning forward, has some element of surprise and shock, as Jesus, again and again, appears unrecognizable to his closest friends.  In last week’s story, you may recall, the disciples were hidden behind locked doors, motivated by fear; in today’s story, as we have seen, hunger moves them.  The hunger to eat and drink, certainly, but also a deeper hunger.  A hunger for something normal.  Hunger for the familiar tasks of their lives, pre-Jesus.  It is a hunger for them of boats and sea air and nets and fish and the working together with friends to haul in a productive catch.  There’s nothing like doing something routine, when our own hungers burn, and we are unsure what to do next. 

                   Their hungers drew those disciples to the familiar seaside of Lake Galilee, near where their story with Jesus had begun years before.  At a wedding in Cana, Jesus had performed that first miracle recorded in the Gospel of John.  And now, years down the road, the disciples’ story with Jesus has come full circle with an ending and another beginning.  Not knowing what else to do, motivated by a hunger for something familiar, these disciples return to their day jobs. 

                   As we look back on this snippet of their story, we have the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, and we might question their decision…even though we can certainly appreciate the hungers that motivated them.  This time, it’s not just Peter, James and John who return to the boats.  It’s nearly the whole gang.  After a long night fishing, their nets are empty.  And from the shore, a stranger playfully calls out to them: “Did you try throwing the nets off the other side of the boat?”  These are men who were born on the water!  Yet the stranger on the shore plays with them.  Try again, he urges.  You can almost hear the cajoling in his voice.  Try again…try the other side…just sayin’…  As if they hadn’t already tried everything! 

                   Finally, as they haul in the biggest catch of their careers, Peter and one other catch on.  They look toward shore and recognize in the stranger the Risen Jesus.  Imagine the smile on Jesus’ face, as he flips hotcakes and cooks fresh fish and prepares to wow them one more time. 

When hungers burn, there is Jesus, cooking breakfast.  Always with this Jesus, or so it seems, there is food.  Food and drink given by him to those around.  Nourishment provided for burning hungers.

                   Readings like this one today, set in the midst of thirst and hunger, grief and doubt, they nudge us forward into the places where our own hungers are nourished.  So, as you go about your week this week, this story invites you to see Jesus in the face of a stranger, to hear Jesus in the sizzle of breakfast cooking, to find your own hungers met by this living breathing resurrected Jesus who shows up when we least expect and most need.  Wachet Auf—Wake Up, Sisters and Brothers!  And stay awake…for the resurrected Jesus is waiting with breakfast.


Amen and Blessed Be!