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John 21:1-19

Last Sunday I participated in the TC Fun Run which is 1.5 km together with kids from my child’s elementary school. What I did not anticipate is just how much frenzy a couple hundred kids make at the start line. We were near the legislature and there was a big blow up arch that the 10K race had used, so it felt very official. But there were some distinct differences to the 10K race. At the Fun Run there was a DJ pumping tunes while we waited. There was a woman yelling encouraging words into a megaphone getting the kids even more riled up. And then she would yell out how many minutes until the start. Finally with ten seconds to go she had hundreds of kids screaming the final count down. And then all mayhem broke out. Kids just shot forward over the start line. Parents who placed their four year old at the front of the line to give them an advantage immediately regretted their decision. Small children were scooped up into arms. Kids ran in every direction looking for an opening through the mass of people. After about a block things calmed down.

            However one part of racing 101 is that you want to start more slowly and build speed over time. The worst feeling is slowing down midway and having scores of people pass you. But this was a fun run and kids were having fun. My oldest child ran off right from the start and I never saw him again. I ran with two eight year olds and offered words of encouragement. Including telling them to slow down, to take their time, so that they can run the whole race. Thankfully they found a pace that worked for them and were able to run the whole race. Meanwhile other kids who sprinted out of the gate found themselves stopping and walking midway. Parents pleading with them that the finish line was only 800m away, but to no avail. The kids were pooped and needed to catch their breath.

            Nevertheless everyone crossed the finish line eventually and were greeted with cheers. There was an endless supply of Powerade, banana flavoured chocolate milk, apple juice, cookies, apples, bananas. In fact the bounty was so plentiful that organizers didn’t know what to do with so much food left over from the two races so they just started giving it away to the crowds. Parents suddenly finding themselves hosting a case of Powerade or flat of juice boxes on their shoulders. Emergency personnel bringing back a flat of cookies to share with their colleagues. The supply seemed endless. The volunteers just had no way to transport it. It had been dropped off with no intention of being picked up again. Eventually the food was distributed. Kids on a sugar high now had deep stores to bring home for later.  

            The antics of the Fun Run remind me of preparing for Holy Week and Easter. The need to pace ourselves over the time leading up to the worship and fellowship times. The joy we felt being able to gather again for Easter Sunrise worship on Mt. Tolmie and the Easter breakfast with delicious food. Many thanks to all the faithful folks who helped prepare for all the Holy Week and Easter activities. Pr. Lyle and I realize it’s a lot of details to tend to. And it’s not necessarily any one of the events so much as all of them together. About pacing ourselves knowing that the event we are tending to immediately is just one among many and giving each one the attention it deserves. I think we were all happy to be worshipping and celebrating together again, whether in person or online.

            I also think about the anticipation the first disciples must have had. Imagining what life with Jesus was going to be like. Despite all Jesus’ teaching that he must die and rise again none of them seemed to have believed him save apparently the women. The men thought they knew better and figured there would be some work around regarding the cross. The cross seemed like such a downer. And yet we meet the disciples on the other side of the cross and they’re trying to return to “normal life” although from our perspective as readers of the gospel we know that’s not really possible in a post-Easter world. And true to form the disciples are in a state of confusion. Even though their vocation before meeting Jesus was being fishermen, at least the day of this story they’re not having much luck. They’re not catching any fish until Jesus shows up.

            The emphasis here is that it’s Jesus’ presence in their midst that God’s bounty pours forth. Suddenly when Jesus commands them to throw the nets back in the water there is an enormous catch of fish. And they only recognize the man to be Jesus after he commands them to throw the nets back in. It’s through action, through grace, through gathering in community that Jesus appears to them.

            I think that’s true for us as well. It’s through the preparing for the festivals that the Spirit is present, that Jesus is in our midst as a community. Imagine if we were in a position to hire a professional theatre crew to make all the festival preparations on our behalf and all we had to do was show up. That we had no active role in giving shape to the celebrations. It would feel very different. While we pursue excellence in worship, your participation is at the heart of it.

            It’s seeing people on Mt. Tolmie for worship and discovering some of the same folks joined us for breakfast, including some new faces. It’s knowing those who need to stay at home and join via the livestream send us a note appreciating the care that goes into worship, sending us a prayer request. The connection is there because Jesus is present, enlivened through the Holy Spirit, bringing us together as a community.  

            One question we may have about the disciples having Easter brunch with Jesus on the beach is where we find God when things aren’t going well. Where is the abundance when we we or a loved one is sick, in hospital, struggling with employment or school, struggling finding housing security, worrying about the climate crisis or war in Ukraine, or just getting out of bed in the morning. We know these are real, everyday questions that each of us struggles with in one way or another. No matter how much someone might seem to have their life together we know it’s only one or two degrees of separation from someone in their life struggling with something serious. Each of us has someone whether in our immediate family or extended family or a coworker or friend going through something really hard. And it’s for that reason that during the Easter season we celebrate a resurrected Jesus who is walking with us especially in the midst of difficulty.

            That’s why we journey through Lent, a time of reflection and prayer, Maundy Thursday a time of service towards others, Good Friday reflecting upon the cross, the mystery of the Easter Vigil, and the Alleluias of Easter Sunday and Easter Sunday. The Alleluias do not diminish people’s struggles but rather point to God’s steadfast love journeying through death into life. Jesus knows we are struggling and knows what human struggle is like. This Easter season we can lean into trusting that God understands our lived experience because God took on human lived experience. God became incarnate to close the gap between human and divine.

            And like the disciples it’s human to feel confused in life. On a lighter note, if you’re like me you feel that confusion on a regular basis. Yesterday I went for a morning training run. I thought I might be getting a ride with someone but that didn’t happen. So at the last minute I booked a car share vehicle to drive to what was described as Lambrick Park High School. Except that wasn’t quite right. Because they were meeting in front of another field nearby. And there are four different sports fields, including a rec centre around there. So I opened the route map on my phone and started running the route expecting to catch up with folks eventually. After failing to catch up to anyone I looked more closely at the map which revealed I was running the route backwards. That would explain the arrows marked in flour along the base of a Mt. Doug trail pointing the opposite direction I was running. However my good fortune was that I met up with the group around the halfway point but only two members of my eight member group were together. People had injuries, others were running slower that day, and others were busy and didn’t show up. There is a joy in being lost and then being found. Catching no fish and then having an abundance. Enjoying God’s abundant love.

            How is God sharing an abundance of love in your life this Easter? Know that Jesus is walking with you, going ahead to meet you for Easter brunch, sustaining you through they journey you’re on. Amen.