A Miracle, A Meal, and a Mission

eila-lifflander-220727        Jesus’ disciples were confused and scattered after his death.. You can hear the exasperation in Peter’s voice when he says, “I’m going fishing.”

All night long the disciples fished but caught nothing.  Life had slapped them around with the loss of their master. Now they had lost their ability to fish.

“Have you caught anything?” The weary fishermen heard a man call them from the shore the next morning.

“Not a thing.”

“Cast your nets on the right side of the boat.”

Why not? Nothing else had worked. Suddenly fish raced into their nets, almost too many to haul.  Imagine their delight as they laughed and splashed. What a miracle!

We can hear John’s intimacy with his friends as he whispers, “It is the Lord.”

The Lord sprinkles miracles sparingly throughout life. They boost our faith, confirm our hopes, and calm our fears.

Ken and I experienced a miracle after the loss of our young friend Jamie. He was teaching at Virginia Tech when a gunman entered his class and ended his young life.

We knew Jamie well from our years of serving Pine Mountain UMC. A charming teen, Jamie was brilliant, funny, kind….

He had delivered the sermon on youth Sunday and shared dramatically how he come face to face with the reality of Christ. Stranded on a bike trail during a torrential storm at Callaway Gardens, he sensed that God was with him and that Christ was real.

Jamie left his sermon on the pulpit that youth Sunday, and Ken had picked it. When we heard of his passing, Ken pulled Jamie’s sermon from his files and reread it with tears.

A gentle rain fell on the tiny town of Pine Mountain after Jamie’s funeral. Then a double rainbow covered the town.  It was a timely sign, a miracle, reminding us that God is with all the time—even in such a tragic loss.

The disciples hauled their catch of 153 fish to shore in a little boat. Jesus was grilling fish and bread when the fishermen arrived.

“Bring your fish, he told them, and throw some on the grill.” When they combined their resources with his, suddenly, there was a meal.

My very favorite meal is breakfast on Christmas morning–sausage balls, raspberry croissants, scones, scrambled eggs, fruits, honey, flavored coffee, juice, milk.  But it’s all about the people sitting around that table—our family.

A meal with God is the ultimate intimacy we long for–knowing Him face to face.

So Jesus says, “Come and dine.”

When I take communion, I let the bread settle in my mouth for a few seconds. I feel its texture and sense its taste. When I swallow I think of His presence with me. I am aware of  his promise to feast with his kids at his heavenly banquet.

From that communion comes a mission.

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During their meal on the beach, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me? Do you love me more than fishing?  Do you love me more than your fishing buddies?”

“Lord, you know I love you….”

“Then feed my sheep. Feed my lambs.”

Forty-seven years ago my Ken and I accepted a mission to serve churches in the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.  We married on Pentecost Sunday, the first Sunday in June. The soloist at our wedding sang, “Seal us O Holy Spirit.”

We were young, eager, but green. Gradually God sharpened our skills. He opened the door for Ken to attend LaGrange College and Emory University, to be ordained an elder in the United Methodist Church.

He put us to meaningful work. Ken cared for the parish and its people, visiting the sick, the shut-in. He wrote and preached sermons, composed bulletins, officiated at births, baptisms, weddings, and burials. As his helper, I filled in wherever needed. I taught Bible studies, led choirs, directed youth groups, taught Sunday School, played piano, organ, organized handbell anthems, raised our kids, and taught school in the community.  It was what we wanted to do.

“Follow me,” Jesus told Peter.

And Peter never looked back.

George Matheson sums it up in his 1882 hymn…

O Love that will not let me go,

I rest my weary soul in thee;

I give thee back the life I owe,

That in thine ocean depths its flow

May richer, fuller be.

 

O Joy that seekest me through pain,

I cannot close my heart to thee;

I trace the rainbow through the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain,

That morn shall tearless be.

 

O Cross that lifts up my head,

I dare not ask to fly from thee;

I lay in dust life’s glory dead,

And from the ground there blossoms red

Life that shall endless be.

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