Fresh Eyes or Fish Eyes?

Fish EyesEach week, or almost each week, I stand up in front of many of you and tell you where pondering and reflecting on the readings has led me over the last week… and so a sermon is born… But…I want to remind you that just because the readings touched me in a particular way this time, doesn’t mean that they will touch you in the same way… I hope my words are a beacon of light and a challenge for us to become more that we presently are… and that they speak to you with meaning… But also feel free to disagree with me… to take a different viewpoint… for the real sermon happens when we leave this place and go out into our lives…

Will you join me in a moment of prayer?

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts and minds be acceptable in your sight O God, our strength and our redeemer, amen.

When I meet with the worship committee, I usually give them an overview of my themes for the coming few weeks. Along with the opening and closing music for the season and if I am really efficient, I have chosen the hymns too. Originally, I had listed my sermon title for this week as ‘Fresh Eyes.’ Last week, as Rena and I worked on the bulletin, I changed it to ‘Fish Eyes.’ When Rena gave me the draft bulletin to take a look at before printing, she had typed ‘Fresh Eyes or Fish Eyes?’ highlighted it and was asking the questions, ‘which is it, one or the other? What was apparent though was that her question was actually a better sermon title than either of the ones I have given her before.

Now, you might be wondering where on earth I am going with this. As I read and pondered the gospel reading this past week. It became apparent that fishing and eating fish were important parts of the gospel. And in fact, the fish is a symbol of Christianity. I have a couple of them, including one on my car. This symbol was used primarily amongst Christians of the early church years (1st and 2nd century A.D.) The symbol was introduced from Alexandria, Egypt; which at the time, was a very heavily populated seaport. The symbol was later used as a means of identifying or acknowledging a fellow believer in Christ without the need for any verbal communication being exchanged. Why was this necessary?During the reign of Emperor Nero (54 A.D.- 68 A.D.), and throughout the reign of subsequent evil emperors of the Roman Empire, Christians were commonly persecuted, tortured, and put to death because of their faith in Christ Jesus.

In order to prevent this unnecessary capture and persecution, Christians would often draw an ichthus in the dirt, mud, sand, or on the walls of caves to let another Christian know that he too was a fellow believer of Christ and that it was safe to talk about their faith without the fear of being turned in.

Jesus calls fisherman to follow him and fish for people. There is the beautiful story of 5 loaves and two fish being enough to feed multitudes. There is the story of Jesus making some of the disciples a breakfast of roasted fish on the shore.

And today, we have the story of another appearance of Jesus after the resurrection. And the disciples, while filled with joy, are unbelieving that he could be real. And he says to them, ‘Have you anything to eat.” Such a basic human need, and Jesus asks, “Have you anything to eat?”

I wrestled with the whole idea of a physical resurrection until I read a book by Pamela Dickey Young, a United Church minister, entitled Re-Creating the Church. She writes, “Even though it seems apparent that Jesus must have had a different kind of body after the resurrection, since the disciples did not always immediately recognize him, Jesus was very much in his body. Along with being able to enter locker rooms, he also ate and he drank and walked and talked with them.”

But more than that, in asking for food, Jesus demonstrates the mutuality of our relationship with him. In contrast to the feeding of the five thousand, where he makes it possible for the multitudes to be fed, now he is asking to be fed. In asking for sustenance, Jesus is inviting us into his mission, into being both givers and receivers of the Good News. In asking for food, we are reminded of the words of Matthew 25, “5 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[g] you did it to me.

You did it to me.

We do that in our Food Bank. I think of those words in my conversations with the folks who come on Wednesday mornings. In feeding those who, for whatever reasons, don’t have enough to eat, we are feeding Jesus. In trying to get at the root causes of hunger, we are feeding Jesus. And in working towards food security for all, we are feeding Jesus.

But first we need fresh eyes, or fish eyes. Like the disciples who needed fresh eyes to really see Jesus after the resurrection, so too we need fresh eyes to see and experience resurrection.

Like the disciples who in this encounter, had to give to Jesus rather than receive, and so experienced Jesus in a new way, so too we need to give to Jesus in order to experience resurrection.

What do we see through fish eyes, through the eyes of Jesus, through the eyes of the Risen Christ?

We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” This Talmudic quote from Rabbi Shemuel ben Nachmani notes that seeing is not always vision. What we see in life is more than what the eye beholds. A person or circumstances right in front of us can be merely the surface of someone or something more profound.

What do we need to see in order to feed Jesus?

I am closing with excerpts from two of my favourite poems, both by Mary Oliver:

And she writes:

“You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

What will we do with our wild and precious lives?

Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity, amen.

Luke 34: 24-48
Psalm 33
April 18, 2015
St. Paul’s Spryfield

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