"This is the work of God: that you believe in the one whom He has sent." (John Chapter 6 verses 29)
My dear friends,
As this coming Sunday is the last in Eastertide, I have recently been reminding myself of the resurrection passages in the Gospel and particularly enjoyed re-reading the story of when Jesus appeared on the beach in the early morning and cooked His disciples breakfast (John 21 v 1-14). You will recall the story. After Jesus’ cruel crucifixion, the disciples were worried that what had happened to Him would also happen to them. A few weeks ago we were invited to join them where they were locked in the upper room and were reminded that it was into that place of fear that the risen Christ became real to them and projected His peace into them, allowing them to live in a new way, in the strength of the Holy Spirit. But it was obviously a slow start as they assimilated this new life. Only in a Hollywood blockbuster would they have left the upper room immediately transformed, ready to transform the world. Theirs seems to have been a slower, more faltering process and perhaps this is something you and I can identify with as we are invited to allow our experience of the Risen Lord to feed into our expression of Him in our lives. They simply did not know in which direction to turn after their encounter with the Risen Jesus: they didn’t know where to go, they didn’t know what to say, they didn’t know what to do. So they simply returned to what they knew best, fishing. They joined the fishing community once again, from which they had been called away by Jesus and one night they set out from the shore for a catch. It was one of those nights, nothing went right. Try as they might, they caught nothing, not even a tiddler. Then, in the bleary light of pre-dawn, a blurred figure was seen walking along the shoreline, a right clever dick if ever there was one. "Why don’t you cast your nets on the other side of the boat mate? You are bound to catch a shoal then." Yes, right, that’s going to make all the difference isn’t it, what possible difference would that make? But, for whatever reason, something compelling in this man’s voice or because they had tried everything else, they do as He suggested and the nets almost break for the quantity of fish. Marvellous, though also wonderfully mischievous on Jesus’ part, don’t you think? Perhaps to make up for it, Jesus cooks some of the fish for them on a charcoal fire He has lit on the beach. You can just hear the hiss of the cooking flesh, see the smoke plume the air and smell the fragrant promise of a delicious breakfast. By then the sun is just peering over the horizon, turning the landscape to shimmering gold. And I mention this at a time when so many people are returning to work having been furloughed for months, or are preparing to return to work on May 17th when restrictions are relaxed further; as others face unemployment, redundancy, job insecurity; as some continue to work from home and others go back to offices, some reluctantly, others eagerly; as others remain at home having retired and yet others who have worked without a break all the way through the past 14 months are experiencing complete exhaustion.....because so many of us define our lives in terms of our work and because of that, have found the series of lockdowns particularly threatening and challenging. Work still dominates our culture, particularly for financial reasons, but so much of our identity and sense of purpose is caught up in it too. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" we ask young children. "Hello, this is Neville, he works in electronics...." we say at parties. This past year has forced us all, of working age or not of working age, those who have worked this past year or those who have been furloughed, to rethink our relationship with work, especially in relation to who we are, what we contribute to the community and our own sense of identity, purpose and self-worth. We may have thought about whether our work is stimulating, fulfilling, or whether it is just a means whereby we pay the mortgage. We may have reassessed our work/life balance, how we work most productively and creatively, how important to us are those with whom we spend our working lives, and how we now want to spend the rest of our working lives in the light of our realisations, if indeed we have the luxury of choice. I suppose the connection between the Biblical passage I mentioned earlier, of Jesus cooking breakfast on the beach for His disciples who return to work after having spent years living in a different way with Him, and the relaxing of the Covid rules around working practices, is this: like the disciples, for many of us, there has been an interruption in our usual living and working practices over this past year, or at least a different experience of it, intensification of it or cessation of it. Now that, like the disciples returning to their nets, some are returning to their offices, shops etc, how is that going to be for them? And for those of us in the vocational professions and other key workers who have continued to work and are weary: teachers, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, drivers, supermarket workers, food suppliers, PPE producers, priests, they too are in need of an energy beyond that of their own making in order to cope with the demands of continuing to work, and of not knowing what the future implications of the pandemic are going to be. How do we return to work, continue to work, look for work, deal with not having work, and learn from what we have experienced about work and about not working, this past year? How do those bursting with energy and enthusiasm for work, do so in a way which is sensitive to those who have worked tirelessly and without respite over the last year and are exhausted? Energy levels among the population have probably never been more different than they are at present in society and we have to respect each other in dealing with this in our own different ways. The experience of the virus, of shielding, of lockdown, of not socialising, of illness, of grieving, has been different for us all and we need to be sensitive to where each of us is on this spectrum, as much as we have been in relation to risk. I am also aware of people in our community who, having had a chance, the first real chance in the whole of their working lives, to reassess their lives specifically in relation to work, no longer wish to spend their energy, their intellect, their time on something they now assess as not sufficiently meaningful - those who have had the chance to consider whether they have an appropriately healthy work/life balance for the good of their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families and primary relationships. Caught up as we are in a culture which inculcates us with a belief that "I work, therefore I am", how, given the insights, revelations, realisations we have gained over this past year of reflection and re-evaluation, do we proceed from here in a meaningful, conscious and creative way? Well, perhaps by knowing that the Risen Christ is as present with us now as He was 2,000 years ago on that breakfast barbecue beach, and is with us every bit as much as He was with those first disciples who were reassessing the direction of their lives and taking their first stumbling steps into their future in the life of the Spirit. Like them, we too, whatever our situation, are invited to offer to Him all that we will be engaged in during the course of each day, to be prepared to "set down (our) nets on the other side of the boat" or the equivalent, as we are prompted by Him to work in different ways, perhaps for different results and different rewards. As we are invited to see our worth as well as our work in a different way, through the lens of what really, ultimately matters from a God given, God inspired perspective. We may even be asked to leave our nets if so bidden and fish in different ways, different waters and for different harvests. But if it is our creator God who directs us to do so, then we can be sure it is for constructive and well as for creative reasons we are asked so to do. Surely the main thing is to know that the Risen Christ is with us, wherever we are, however we spend our lives, and to entrust ourselves, our preoccupations, our concerns, our energies, our lack of energy, to Him, for the breath of His Spirit can animate even the most unpromising of us. The main thing I take from the passage I began by writing about today is this: that without Christ we are never going to be as productive, successful or creative as we are with Him as the motivating and inspiring agent of our lives. Without Christ our nets too may remain empty. We may do the job, we may earn the money, we may remain in employment, but is what we do hollow and of nothing worth? With Christ, we are promised, whatever is it, however seemingly menial or humble our task, that which is given to Him, like a few loaves and a few fish, can be transformed. He will use whatever is given to Him gloriously and fruitfully. His Spirit can redefine what meaningful work can be and what fulfilment we can derive from doing it. Brother Lawrence teaches us this. Living in communion with the ever-creative Christ can make us similarly creative and prompt us to contribute to the experience, expression and extension of the building of His Kingdom. Whoever we are, however we spend our lives, let us all offer ourselves, our work, our relationships, our opportunities, our activities, to Christ, that His Spirit may fill, direct, animate and inspire us to live with the essence of His Risen Life living in and through us. For just as surely as His first disciples, we too are called to help transform the world and bring healing and hope to all people. With blessings and best wishes Jeff
ZOOM AND MORE
Please join us this Sunday for our Zoom service at 9.30am by clicking on the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742 or in person in church at 6pm, by booking on: firstname.lastname@example.org We shall also be opening the church for Private Prayer 10am-11am on Wednesdays. The readings this Sunday are: Acts Chapter 10 verses 44-end and John Chapter 15 verses 9-17. The Collect: Risen Lord Jesus, By the lakeside you renewed your call To your disciples to help your Church Obey your command to love And to draw all nations into union with you. Help us to hear that call anew and to Obey it in all we are and do and say. This we ask through the same, Jesus Christ Our Lord Who lives and reigns With you and the Holy Spirit One God, now and for ever. AMEN.