Child Psychologist, Dr. David Heller, begins his book Talking To Your Child About God (New York: Doubleday, 1987), by quoting a prayer. It’s a very simple yet profound prayer, written by a ten-year-old named Walt. Listen in carefully: “Dear God, I love you more than anybody else that I do not know.” (Please read this little prayer again.) I find the confusion in this prayer to be very telling of the increasing questioning in our time. By this, I mean to say there is an ever-increasing sense of separation that we are experiencing in our lives – not only geographically and physically (as families are more and more scattered to the far-flung corners of the map), but especially emotionally and spiritually (as depression and spiritual apathy are ever on the rise). And so we are searching or questing for wholeness, connectedness, oneness. People are sensing a great need for God but don’t know how to connect, or better yet, be connected.
So how does this relate to the Gospel text for this coming weekend? Listen to Jesus’ Word for you:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow [are connected] to me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30; RSV. Emphasis added.)
“But how do I know that I’m of this family of God, one of Jesus’ sheep?” You’re hearing it right now! “My sheep hear my voice,” says Jesus. And this fact is all the more reinforced for you when you gather in worship – with God’s Word and Sacrament at the center of it all, addressing you by name – with the whole woolly lot of the other members of Christ’s flock. “And what of the last verse … where Jesus says, ‘I and [God] the Father are one’” (John 10:30)? What does that have to do with me?” you might ask. Everything! ... On this upcoming Mother’s Day Weekend, listen in again to the words of a child, from another of Dr. David Heller’s books. From a little girl named Lori, age 7. “As a little child shall lead us” (Isaiah 11:6).
“Dear God” [writes Lori]: “I know that Jesus is my friend. Since he’s your friend [Son] that makes us friends too. Right? Let’s get together and play this afternoon. You can bring all the toys you have and I’ll bring mine.” (David Heller; Children’s Letters To God, p.22. Emphasis added.)
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is calling you to gather with the rest of the flock this weekend at worship, even if … no especially if … we’re feeling “Baaaaad.”
“After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples
by the Sea of [Galilee] …” (John 21:1; NRSV. Emphasis added.)
And just when you thought you were about to leave … or hang up the phone … you hear those infamous words from a close friend, or perhaps (just perhaps?) your beloved Mom: “Oh, you really don’t need to go quite yet, do you? C’mon, have another cup of coffee.” Or “Thanks for calling. But … ah … just a minute. There was something else I needed to tell you. Now, what was it?” Ever experienced this? Yup? It’s what has come to be referred to as the infamous “Minnesota/Midwestern Goodbye.”
In our Gospel story for this coming weekend, St. John’s Gospel also concludes with a “Midwestern Good-bye.” That is, it ends not with one but two endings. “Ah … just a minute … there was something else I needed to tell you.” In the first, Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection – as they cower behind locked doors (John 20:19-31). He gives them his word of peace, breathes new life and hope into them, and sends them forth in mission in his name. Sounds like an ending, right? But it it’s not. Or at least it’s not the only ending according to St. John’s gospel. Because in the 21st chapter that we’ll hear this weekend (John 21:1-19) there’s another, quote, “It’s the Lord!” … ending. And if it all seems a bit confusing, it’s hard to blame John because we all know how hard it is to come to an end. You think you’ve said everything, and then you think of something else, something too important to leave out. And so we put a “P.S.” at the bottom of the page/conversation … trying not to actually say, “Goodbye.”
Indeed, it’s hard to blame John for lingering over his ending for a while. Perhaps because he just wanted to make sure he had pretty much said it all (cf. John 20:30-31). He wanted to make sure he’d given us everything we’d need to make it through the long nights when we wait for a seeming eternity for our next daybreak to come. St. John didn’t know how long it would be for us, but he did know how long it had been for him and some of the other disciples. And so he decided to tell us a story about them that might help us too.
Come join in the family of faith this Sunday at worship, and hear why the disciples decided to go back to their fishing nets. What happens when they’re out all night fishing, get skunked, and at daybreak a voice calls to them from the shoreline – as their nets, say nothing of their lives, begin to overflow with joy? And then they gather ’round a campfire with a multiplication of bread and fish, a meal Jesus has prepared just for them [and you!].
With a calling word and a splashing of water
Even when the campfires of our lives have seemingly all gone out
Someone has written something “good news” news
In the ashes of our lives that says:
”You will not see me for a little while.
But in the meantime … when you gather around my meal of broken bread and fish
And then go out into the world and feed my sheep
Know that I am always with you.” Signed “Jesus”