Here is how you prepare the fish. It’s probably speckled trout or white trout, saltwater varieties of trout. You prepare them by first scraping the scales off with your knife. Then you cut up toward the head, just behind the gills, then back all the way to the tail, flip it over and cut the meat off the outside skin. This fish meat has no bones in it. It is called a fillet. You take the fillets and you dip them in a mixture of egg and milk, then roll them in corn flour with a little salt added. Now, here’s the key. You fry it in very hot oil. Like, five hundred degrees. This seals in the juices and the flavor of the fish, cooks the fish but keeps the grease out.
Sitting with your Dad at the kitchen table, talking about the biggest one you caught and the one that got away, was it maybe even bigger? As the late morning sunlight pours in the window, and you eat the fish you caught less than three hours ago, it’s not at all difficult to believe that Jesus is risen from the dead. Not difficult in the least.
In the Gospel lesson for today, the disciples have difficulty believing, trusting that Jesus is risen from the dead. This theme of doubt runs through the resurrection stories in all four Gospels. In Luke, from which our Gospel lesson comes, the women come running from the empty tomb with the angels’ message that Christ is risen. But the other disciples do not believe them. They think it’s an idle tale.
Then, two of the disciples are walking a seven mile journey to Emmaus. Jesus walks with them, but they do not recognize him, just as Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus at the account of the empty tomb which we read two weeks ago. Only when Jesus breaks bread with them and prays do they recognize him. So they go running back to the other disciples. Apparently, Jesus has appeared to Simon Peter. But they still don’t get it because when Jesus appears to them in the Gospel lesson for today, they’re terrified. They think he’s a ghost.
Jesus says “I’m not a ghost,” and shows them his hands and his side, just like he showed Thomas in the Gospel lesson for last week. He says, “Come on, touch me. Do you have anything to eat?” they give him a piece of broiled fish, which he eats because a ghost can’t eat.
Nowadays, people don’t think Jesus is a ghost any more. Sometimes we do think he is a nice idea, something to think about to make ourselves feel better. Jesus is not just an idea. Can you touch an idea? Can something we think about just to make ourselves feel better eat? Jesus is real. He touches us in down to earth, real, broiled fish kinds of ways, like when we eat.
We are going to eat together after 11:00 service next week. Stewardship luncheon. Not broiled fish but a taco bar, I think. Not too spicy.
At the luncheon we are going to watch for the risen Christ in two ways. First of all, Council wants your help in discerning goals for the next year or so. This Spring, a task force consisting of a couple of folks from council and some of the people who participated in the cottage meetings and visioning retreat we had back in 2013 met and identified seven areas of emphasis that grew out of that process then. The areas of emphasis are, not in any particular order of priority, education, youth, seniors, worship, community outreach, leadership and communication, and a long term project to make the Narthex more welcoming.
So at the dinner, you get five little chips of paper. One is yellow and four are green. The yellow one is for the area of emphasis that you really, really think God is calling us to pursue. The green ones are for those areas you think are important, but maybe not the most important. At the luncheon, there will be signs and baskets for each of the seven areas of emphasis. You can put all your chips in one basket, or one chip in five different baskets, or any other configuration you want.
There will also be pieces of paper on the table if you want to write something down for council to take into consideration regarding what God is calling us to.
Please notice, we are not asking you what you want, or what you like. We are asking what God is calling us to do. What we want and what we like are a part of that. In addition, we also think and pray about others in the congregation, in the community and the whole world, and the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Council will take your input very seriously in discerning two or three goals for us to pursue this year.
This is the first way we look for Christ to be present with us at the dinner next week.
Second way, we will offer our estimates of giving for 2016. We ask you to think and pray about this. Money is very down to earth. It has to do with the roof over our heads and food on the table. I need to let you know that everyone on council is making an estimate of giving. My wife, Thyne and I estimate that we will give ten percent of my salary and housing. We do this even though our financial situation might change. If we cannot find a renter for our house in Madison county, we may have to call the church office and change our estimate of giving. This is okay to do. If your financial situation changes, you can change your estimate of giving. No one is going to look down their noses at you. God is not going to say, “Oh, they changed their estimate of giving, open the trap door!” and an angel pulls a lever and opens a trap door and you fall into the pit of eternal peril.
No. This is a commitment based on love, not legalism.
God is not going to say “Oh, so-and-so is not giving ten percent. Pull the lever!” It doesn’t work that way. This is a commitment based on love, not fear.
Thyne and I commit to giving ten percent for three reasons. First, because it is our duty. Every Christian is called to share what they have, even if it is only a little. Second, because it helps us to see the presence of God. Just like prayer, going to church, reading the Bible, and helping others, giving deepens our awareness of God’s beauty. Thirdly, we give because we believe in this place. We believe that God touches the world through St. John, and that the Risen Christ will work through God’s dreams for St John coming into reality.
The risen Jesus will be present at the meal next week.
We are going to have another meal in a few minutes. Holy Communion. Jesus is present there. I said this Maundy Thursday and I will say this again. When we share Holy Communion, Christ is present in the bread and wine. Also all of God’s people are present too, even those who have died.
My father will be there. He died in 2009. Taught me how to bait a hook and cast a line, and pull back at just the right moment when the fish bites. He taught me how to give, even though he was much more generous than I. He was a big part of teaching me how to love. He still is.
Everyone who has taught you what love means, what courage means, what hope means, is here at the table every week.
Down to earth, real, like broiled fish. Sometimes, it is not at all difficult to believe that Jesus is risen from the dead.