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Acts 3:12–19 | Psalm 4 | 1 John 3:1–7 | Luke 24:36b–48
I don’t know about you, but I’m a little ambiguous about whether I like to eat fish or not. Having lived in the arid interior of the continent for most of my life, perhaps I just haven’t had the opportunity to experience enough quality water-sourced food. I DO remember camping out one summer at Sky Ranch as a young person, when a counselor caught a rainbow trout from a nearby stream and immediately fried it up over a fire. We all ate a bite or two and I thought: This is really good—moist, flavorful, not “fishy.” Add to that, everything tastes better when you’re outdoors and and are especially hungry.
In Luke today, we hear again about Jesus appearing to the disciples after his death and resurrection (as in John last week)—but with a new detail. He shows them all his hands and side—inviting them to touch him—and then asks for something to eat: Maybe he was hungry (probably!), maybe it was a demonstration that he was real. But they offer him fish—though they are in Jerusalem, this is what’s usually on the menu in Galilee and what—I’ve learned this week—had been associated with a fabled and forthcoming “messianic banquet.” Remember that this sense of an emerging future when a Messiah will make all things right is nothing new with Jesus, but had been developing over the last centuries in light of all the political and social turmoil. After Jesus shows that he’s “real”, then he once again connects the dots: From himself, to hope and expectation in Moses, the prophets, the psalms; that is, the teachings and relationship; the struggle and joy; the poetic expressions of the height and depth of human experience that all point to and convey God’s Presence again and again: Jesus is saying that that God’s ultimate way of conveying life and presence is this act of solidarity in humility and suffering. God is so close; accessible in the dying and rising, a true “messiah” who transforms sin and transmits forgiveness—for everybody.
While this starts to sound a bit distant, the nitty-gritty fish-eating business can keep us grounded. Sometimes we are—like Jesus—just hungry. And hunger can tell us something. I can lead us to make connections. Maybe we simply hunger for food. Maybe it’s hunger for reassurance, affirmation, comfort, peace. Maybe the hunger needs to be taken out and examined as a program for happiness that won’t ever work. Something as plain as hunger can remind us to notice that we live in a material world—yes- bodies and minds; and that God is present here. That yearning of hunger can open our senses to the simple grace of fulfillment: A bite to eat. It tastes good. And someone provided it- friends, even . . . At the same time, we might notice the satisfaction goes deeper, too: Fullness that is the limitless love of God.
Maybe that seems far-fetched for some reason right now: Difficult circumstances or maybe a “ho-hum” boredom—which, as Fr. Keating says—is really, actually, a great entreé into faith because it actually helps us more than the spiritual high points, to let go of expectations—which often means things aren’t how we think they should be to suit us—which makes us feel forsaken and angry at God—but to begin seeing where God actually is. As he says, “The maximum kingdom of God isn’t where you think it is and shows up when you don’t expect to find it.” We might remember all those parables that Jesus told—that the kingdom of God is like a tiny seed—not the big plant—just the seed. Or treasure still hidden in a field. Or the leaven/ yeast—which is kind of stinky and akin to rot—but has potential when it multiplies in dough. The disciples are still not there yet: “While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.” The messianic feast still comes as something both ordinary and surprising; where you least think it can be or where you can’t believe it is: For instance, it could be at dinner in front of the TV tonight. God doesn’t have limits, here: “Trying to transmit as much of divine love, light and happiness that God possibly can . . . ” For Christ has revolutionized the idea of the sacred.
The fish lives on as a symbol of following Christ, adopted by the early believers—easy to draw; scratched in the sand of beaches, furtively sketched on walls as a sign; and ultimately, worked into beautiful mosaics. You may know that the letters that spell out “fish” in the Greek alphabet also serve as an acronym for claims about Jesus. ICTHUS- Iesus Christos Theos Uios Sotér (Jesus Christ God’s Son, Savior). The fish is a reminder of all these things about Jesus; it’s conveys the feeling of the feast that satisfies our hunger; it’s the physicality of Jesus who was raised and with us still. It doesn’t mean that our troubles are magically over— though we will hopefully feel the joy resurrection life—but it’s the sign and manifestation that we have every day to spend in the vast and encompassing, forgiving love of God. This experience calls us into that “rightness” that John talks about; that way of being that prompts us to do what we wanted to do all along— bring forward the hungers that do not bring life; and instead take into ourselves and bring to the world- what is life and light. Watching with amazement as God values our bodies, our lives and can hold all of it: Our joy and our disbelieving and our wondering. Thanks be to God. Amen.