Daily Devotions are published Tuesday-Saturday during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Isaiah 55, especially 1—3a (NRSV)
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk,
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
John 21:1-17 (NRSV)
…Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias [Galilee]….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?….He said to them, “Cast the net on 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…and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish….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.” …..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.” [Verse 16 has similar question and responses.] He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, 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.”
These two of my favorite Bible stories jumped out as relevant to this second of the “Fifty Days” between Easter and Pentecost and to the unknown number of days of the COVID-19 crisis. Easter is over, with memories of past congregational extravaganzas and recent odd but sacred experiences of celebrating around a computer screen. Now it’s back to on-line grocery shopping, mask-making, home-schooling, choosing whether to clean or write a novel, and wondering what post-Easter “reality” will become next.
Amid the horror on TV, woes of people we know, and pains of isolation and fear, do you share my guilty pleasure in advantages of relative safety, access to medical care, supportive friends, and the beauties of spring a-popping? I was distracted during a Zoom Christ Care meeting by watching two deer drink from our birdbath, rub noses, and sample our garden. The Bible is noted for sharp contrasts and parallels of dark and light, scarcity and abundance, doubt and faith, horror and glory. We can recall examples in our lives of deep mysteries of God’s presence in each abyss and hope bursting from despair, with or without our immediate recognition.
The ups and downs of Holy Week continued in post-resurrection days. The shock and awe of Jesus’ appearances on Easter morn and eve were enough excitement for a while, for soon the disciples went home and back to fishing. But the risen Jesus had another plan! Enter the John 21 drama of “Breakfast on the Beach,” the best campfire food or company? Think of the “communal” aspects of “Communion,” for this Eucharistic beach meal and our recent at-home “virtual” ones. Do we believe that God always loves us and is eager to forgive our myriad ways of denying or betraying Jesus? Some people cannot muster enough faith to believe; others blithely accept the grace but without passing on that good news to others. Can we understand that this free and renewable gift comes with the assumption that real acceptance means continued discipleship? “Feed my sheep” echoes across the New Testament and into future centuries of Christians. We are commissioned to spread the invitation to the feast, to join in community—even in cyberspace—and to live in hope without twiddling our thumbs while others starve.
This beach tale echoes other NT events of fish and feast, such as fish story in Luke 5, feeding of the 5,000 in all gospels, Parable of the Great Dinner (Luke 14), Cana wedding (John 2), Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), last meal with the disciples in all gospels, meal at Emmaus (Luke 24), and Eucharistic practices of the early church (Acts 2 and 27, 1 Corinthians 11). Some herald future feasts real and eschatological, and many Old Testament passages have this timeless feel, including Abraham and Sarah with three angels (Genesis 18), manna in the desert (Exodus 16), meal atop Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24), many passages about Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and several miraculous feedings.
How can any scripture that begins with a “Ho!” not require attention? Read Isaiah 55 aloud for full appreciation of cadence and joy. Consider the mystery: Is this a “now” or a “when” or a “forever” feast of free food and drink? Does this holy sustenance appear in especially sacred times and places, or when we actively seek it (opening our Bible to feast on the Word?), or is it always available? Whatever Isaiah intended, my own answer is a YES! to all, for God’s presence and bountiful offerings are eternal.
Dear God, I’d like to RSVP to your feast and thank you for the invitation from the bottom of my undeserving heart. Help me, Lewinsville Presbyterian Church, and people everywhere to use this time of social isolation to commune more deeply with you, to appreciate the beauties of your creation, and to reach out to others in new and healthy ways, both long-time friends and unknown needy sheep that you wish us to feed. In the mighty name of the Risen Christ, Amen!
Carroll Leslie Bastian