Get Dressed – April 22, 2012 – John 21: 1 – 14

We’re familiar with frustrations in the life of the church.  We want to grow.  We want to have a bigger budget.  We want more people to come to church.  We want more kids.  These are generalizations true of most mainline churches.  They are all valid goals.

For many churches, some of the reasons for the goals are skewed.  Do we want a bigger budget to redecorate the church or to feed hungry children in the community?  Do we want to grow in our witness to Christ or just fill the pews?  Do we want more people to come to church to witness lives transformed or to say we’re the largest church in town?  Sometimes we want to do the right thing for the wrong reasons.

There’s a lot the church is doing right for the right reasons.  And, there’s a lot more the church could be doing…there’s a lot more the church needs to do.  There are tornadoes and floods to clean up after, mouths to feed, homeless to shelter, families to protect, sick to heal, a world in need of peace, captives to set free.  We can do these things to hasten the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven.

You might be thinking that the Church has been working on that for some 2000 years and we don’t seem much closer to reaching the goal than when we started.  Today is a new day with new opportunities to participate in the redeeming work of Christ.  Let’s see what we can learn from the Disciples.

 Jesus had called these Disciples fromGalileeto drop their nets and follow him.  They had witnessed and participated in Jesus’ ministry.  They had rejoiced at the wedding inCana, traveled the countryside healing the sick and feeding the hungry.  They witnessed the passion of Christ and encountered the resurrected Lord.  They emerged from behind locked doors in Jerusalem to go fishing.

It was Simon Peter’s idea to go fishing.  And, Unbelieving Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee and two others went along.  This is the longest list of the Disciples together in one text.[1]  Let me say that again – no other Gospel story names this many Disciples in one place –other than their Last Supper with Jesus.  All of these Disciples were of one mind and one mission – go fishing.  And, Peter led the way.

I know that fishing is an activity that would gather a good group from here.  The Disciples fished all night and caught nothing.  Ironically, these professional fisherman never catch anything according to the Gospel of John.[2]  A man, as if goading them, yells from shore and asks, “Don’t you guys have any fish?  Haven’t you caught anything”

“No,” they yell back. 

The man calls from the shore and tells them to throw their net over the right side of the boat.  Weary and feeling defeated, the Disciples try it.  They had thrown their net on the right side and finally they caught something…with Christ’s help.  Their catch was so great, 153 fish to be exact, that they couldn’t bring it aboard. 

As they celebrate their success, someone realizes it’s the Lord on the shore who called out to us.  The successful catch caused the Beloved Disciple to recognize that the Lord.  Hearing it’s the Lord, Peter puts his faith into action and jumps in the water to run to Jesus on the shore.  He’s so excited it’s confusing!  He throws on his clothes before jumping overboard.  Yep, he gets dressed to jump in the water!

This fishing story is a call to action.  Jesus had originally called the Disciples to be fisher of men.  Now, the Disciples set out on a common mission – to go fishing. 

All of the Disciples in the boat that morning had not known what to do but to go fishing.  “Belief in the resurrection was a matter of faith that had not yet been translated into life and mission in the world.”  The boat they’re in isn’t a common former occupation, but a new community of mission.

The Disciples made a concerted effort to carry out Christ’s calling to be fishers of men and women, but they needed help.  The problem was not what they were doing, but how they were doing it.[3]  The 153 fish and untorn net are symbolic of missionary success in bringing people into the community of Christ.[4]

This final chapter of John is “a dramatic appeal to us not to reduce Christ and the wonders of his ministry to a story in the past, not to leave the gospel in a time and place long ago and far away.”[5]  “The risen Christ still calls, still feeds, still empowers even unbelievers for the ministry.”[6]  “If you are going to fulfill the mission entrusted to you (John 20:21), you will need the risen Christ guiding you.”[7] 

Cynthia Hale at the Ray of Hope in Atlanta, GAis an excellent example of a leader willing to be guided to try something new in ministry.  She is the founder of the Ray of Hope.  Cynthia is an active leader in the community.  Her church says that she “is a woman on a mission to impact and transform this present world into the Kingdomof God.  The Ray of Hope started as 4 people meeting for Bible study in her living room; 20 years later, it has 3500 active members[8] and is one of the largest Disciples of Christ congregations.

You can’t deny she’s doing a new thing when you hear about all the things the Ray of Hope is doing.  The church’s stated mission is to transform the world through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  The church says it has left the building and has taken to the streets.

The Ray provides things like worship, youth group, men’s and women’s ministries, and Christian education.  But, they’re offered in new and different ways.  They are doing things to renew mission in ways different than other churches are trying.  They are most proud of the things they are doing that are different.  Here are just of the few things they have done or are doing to bring about theKingdomofGod:

  • Going Green by providing church bulletins online
  • Receive text message and tweets from Cynthia
  • Started a Ride-Share Network for carpooling to church
  • Hold open court basketball time for youth, concerts, couples conferences, dances, plays, revivals
  • Opened the Hope Through Health Clinic to provide medical, dental, optometry care and prescription drugs
  • Mentor former convicts in the Second Chance Prison Ministry
  • Help with resume writing and dress for success programs to assist the unemployed
  • Adopted an elementary school where they’ve built a playground and walking trails and implemented a healthy fitness program.

She has said from the beginning of her ministry that she was convinced that “God…was going to use her in some unique way to change the world.”  Her preaching is prophetic.  Knowing she has empowered the church she serves to do so much inspires me. 

The Church is changing the world through leaders like Cynthia Hale, all leaders, not just ordained leaders, who are willing to look for Christ outside the tomb and willing to throw their nets over the other side of the boat.  Change in the world requires change in our ministries.

If we’re willing to ask Christ for help in our church, if we’re willing to heed Christ’s direction in our ministry, we will be successful in growing our church and transforming lives for the Kingdom of God.  We will be so excited with our catch of new believers that in our confusion we’ll get dressed to jump overboard.  We’ll run to the shore and gather ‘round the campfire to share the day’s catch with Jesus.

[1] Howard-Brook: Empowering the Christian Communities into the Common Mission

[2] Feasting on the Word – Troeger

[3] Craddock, Preaching the Lectionary

[4] Brown, Intro

[5] Feasting

[6] Feasting

[7] Feasting


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