A preacher retired and moved to the country to enjoy a relaxed life practicing his favorite pastime: yard work. Needing a lawn mower, he rode his bicycle into town to shop for one. On the way he saw a sign advertising a mower for sale. He stopped at the house and a young boy came out to greet him.
The preacher asked about the lawn mower, and the kid said it was behind the house. In the backyard the mower was already running and the engine was sputtering along at idle speed. The preacher increased the speed and mowed a few strips. As he tinkered with the mower, the boy asked the preacher about the bicycle. He said he hadn’t ridden in a few years, but he really wanted a bike. Seeing each had something the other wanted, they decided to make a swap. The boy hopped on the bike and immediately tottered over. The boy looked nervous, but the preacher said, “Keep trying. It’ll all come back to you!”
Later in the day, the boy had gotten the hang of riding his new bike and was riding around town when he spied the preacher pulling on the engine starter rope. The kid stopped and watched for a couple of minutes. He asked, “What’s wrong?”
The reply came, “I can’t get this mower started. Do you know how?”
The kid said, “Yep.”
“Well, how do you do it? Tell me!”, the preacher yelled.
The kid replied, “You have to cuss it.”
The preacher rose up indignantly. “Now you listen here. I am a preacher and if I ever did cuss, not saying I have, I’ve forgotten how to do it after all these years.”
With a wise look on his face well beyond his years, the kid said, “Preacher, you keep on pulling that rope and it’ll all come back to ya.”
I think I was living in Dallas at the time, because I was in a very crowded place – a restaurant or a mall. I was walking along, minding my own business when I suddenly caught the scent of a woman’s perfume. I thought my knees were going to buckle. No, it wasn’t that the perfume was all that remarkable, probably just some dime store variety, but I had this girlfriend in high school and it was the only kind of perfume she wore. I looked around to see if I could spot her, knowing full well that more than one person had worn that brand of perfume. Yet, in that single smell, it all came back to me. All the fun of high school and thinking you were in love. All the memories of friends, hanging out, going to parties, and just being a stupid teenager. It all came back.
I’m weird when it comes to movies. Any movie will probably do, but when I find one I like, I don’t mind watching it again. There are however, some that I’ve watched many times and never seem to get tired of them: Harry Potter – especially 7.1, Lost in Translation, Station Agent, and the Swedish version of the Girl with Dragon Tattoo (I, as a priest would never really watch that, but I’ve heard it’s really good. It stars Noomi Rapace, not quite a Scarlett Johansson huba-huba, but close.) When it comes to these movies, the opening music begins and I’ll just settle in and smile. It all comes back. I know the entire story. I can quote the lines. Happiness.
On the night before He was crucified, we know that Jesus and his disciples shared the Last Supper. Following the meal, he taught them many things, and prayed for them, but just before he prayed he said to them, “You believe at last! But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone.” We know that shortly following these events, he was arrested. At his arrest, we also know that Jesus statement was fulfilled, the disciples fled. One of them, probably Mark, was so afraid that he ran off naked.
These past few weeks we have been reading about the events following his resurrection: the women discovered the empty tomb and how He appeared to the disciples on two separate occasions while they were holed up in the upper room.
Soon afterwards, the disciples must have decided that it was safe to leave, and fulfilling what Jesus had said, they went home, returning to the Lake of Tiberias, also known as the Sea of Galilee. Why? Probably because they did not know what else to do. They knew that Jesus had risen from the dead, but they didn’t yet know what that meant.
So today, we find Peter and the gang sitting by the Sea of Tiberias. Since he didn’t know what to do, Peter decided to go back to what he knew – fishing. The rest of them said they would go, but in doing so, you can feel their disappointment. The last three years had been so amazing. They had walked with the Lord. Witnessed so much – lives changed, miracles, new ways of understanding God, and now… now it was back to the nets and the boats. Back to the way things were. And just to pour a little lemon juice in a paper cut, they fished all night and didn’t catch a thing.
As the sun was coming up, someone called to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” Our translations puts a question mark after the sentence, but knowing who said it, I wonder if it should have been a period. Anyhow, he asked if they had any fish, and you hear the answer, “No… does it look like we’ve caught any fish. Oy!” But then they are told to cast their nets on the other side of the boat and they caught so many fish they couldn’t haul them in.
It happened for the disciple whom Jesus loved, John, first: it all came back to him. The voice. The miracles. Purpose. Mission. Life. ”It is the Lord!” When John said this, it also all came back for Peter: “When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.” It all came back to them and they were restored to Jesus. They were renewed.
There are some, but I do not think there are many who intentionally walk away from God. For most who find themselves distant from the Lord, it has more to do with life, busyness, or simply out of the discipline of what a life with God entails. Whatever the case, there is an emptiness, a dryness that grows between us and our God, which is really unfortunate; but just as that perfume or movie or whatever the “trigger” may be has the potential to bring back memories and emotions, the same is true in our relationship with God, if only we will look up from all the distractions of the world, that busyness, and allow ourselves to once again catch a scent of the Jesus. If we will allow His voice spoken to us through prayer and His Holy Word to remind us of our true First Love. ”It is the Lord!” — Let it all come back to you.
St. Josemaría Escrivá writes, “What a strange capacity man has to forget even the most wonderful things, to become used to mystery! Let’s remind ourselves… that the Christian cannot be superficial. While being fully involved in his everyday work, among other men, his equals; busy, under stress, the Christian has to be at the same time totally involved with God, for he is a child of God.” (http://www.escrivaworks.org/book/christ_is_passing_by-point-65.htm)
Let it all come back to you and rediscover how near your God truly is. Rediscover what it is to be a child of God and renew your purpose in Him.
Let us pray: Glory to you, O Lord our God, Your love calls us to be your people. By sharing our many and diverse gifts we share in your mission. We ask you, Lord, to shape us into a community of faith. Nourish us by your word and sacraments that we may grow into the image of Jesus. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, heal us that we, in turn, may heal the wounded. Form us to be instruments of love, justice, and peace in our land, and send us to proclaim your saving work. Renew us, Lord, that we may renew the face of the earth. Amen.
One Reply to “Sermon: Easter 3 RCL C – “Renew””
You know, Fr. John, this is such a marvelous reminder. One of the toughest thoughts about my life as an oldster is to see that I often categorize my connection to God as somehow apart from everyday life. Even my thought patterns change…which can be a good thing, but maybe not so much when it feels too aloof from my daily routines. This is a new goal I am entering into my journal…to talk as I usually speak and to be “me” when being part of God’s plan.
I note in your sermons that you have mastered this. Thank you, as always, for posting these reminders in sermon format.