The Acts 9:1-19a; Revelation 5:6-14; John 21:1-14
Collect: O God, whose blessed Son did manifest himself to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open, we pray thee, the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Saul heard a voice from heaven. It was Jesus, whom he had been persecuting. It came suddenly, and a light from heaven flashed around him. The experience was so intense that Saul fell to the ground. The light was so strong that he was blinded. After his encounter with the light and the voice, Saul’s life was changed forever. Like Jacob after wrestling with an angel, even his name was changed. At his baptism, Saul regained his sight and took his new name. Saul the persecutor became Paul the advocate. Voices from heaven change everything.
John heard voices from heaven. In fact John journeyed into heaven and saw it all. How he survived such a startling vision is surprising. John stood among the four living creatures, the angels, the elders – there were myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands. John heard them singing praises. And then he hears “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea.” Who could stand such glory? Who could endure the sound of everything that exists singing in full voice?
John shared his vision with the Church, and none of us have been the same since. Now we sing in Liturgy many of the songs John told us about. Now we hope to be in that number that praises the Lamb for eternity. Voices from heaven change everything.
In today’s world, if we reported hearing voices from heaven we would be suspected of fanaticism or mental instability. We know that nowadays folks don’t hear voices from heaven.
But wait; maybe we do hear voices from heaven. Maybe we encounter voices and visions of heaven everyday and just don’t notice them. We religious people, because we are rooted in scriptures that tell miraculous stories, expect our words and visions from God to come in flashes of light and thundering sound. And because these supernatural things are not seen and experienced, we don’t expect them anymore.
But maybe these voices and visions are right in front of us.
In the Gospel today, Peter and the apostles hear a voice from heaven. It is the resurrected Christ. This voice from heaven isn’t flashy or loud. The voice they hear tells them not to give up on catching fish. The voice they hear tells them, “Come and have breakfast.” What a scene: the risen Lord, the King of the Universe, the Alpha and the Omega, sitting on the beach making breakfast. Yes, it is miraculous that the apostles encounter their risen teacher. Yes, it is miraculous that they catch so many fish that they can’t hold them all. But in the midst of the miracles is simplicity. In the midst of these miracles is everyday life.
This is where Christ meets us now. He meets us in the movements of our life. We need to eat; we need to work. And the risen Christ is there among us. God chose to come among us, and even after the miracle of the resurrection, God chose to make us breakfast.
In the Collect for today we remember that the “blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread.” We prayed that God would “open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work.” Thus we prayed that God would open our eyes to what is right in front of us.
This is Incarnation: God appearing where we would never expect it. It starts with Advent in that encounter between Mary and Gabriel. It continues with the birth in the manger. Jesus Christ is part of everything we do. Our life is a miracle. Our life is a prayer.
The creation around us is also a prayer. We miss this all the time in our busy-ness and weariness. Look down to the ground and see grass and gravel: there’s God. Look up to the stars: there’s God. Look out among the people and buildings and trees: there’s God. Look at the person next to you: there’s God.
It isn’t that God is the gravel or grass, but the gravel and grass our infused with the creative love of God. It is that God in Christ was incarnate with creation in the form of a human being.
After the resurrection, Christ could have entered the cities and by-ways in glory and light. He could have really amazed the crowds and gotten more people to take seriously what the apostles were preaching. But he didn’t. He kept entering into everyday life. Everyday life is blessed.
From Christ’s birth to death, the Holy One is submitting to earthliness. Even at his Transfiguration, he stands in a glorious vision with Elijah and Moses and speaks of his impending crucifixion. The Alpha and Omega, who could “take over” the universe, always remains grounded.
Where are our voices from heaven? Where are our visions of glory? They are right in front of us. They are in creation. On this day as the secular calendar commemorates Earth Day, we raise our voices to thank God for creation. We remember that seeing a stream, a forest, a tiny garden in our back yard deserves a certain reverence. God’s creation deserves our love and respect.
God speaks to us now through earthly elements. In Christ, God chose bread, wine, and water to ground us in divine love. In water we are baptized and brought back to life and given back our inner sight. And like Paul, after we are given back our spiritual vision and washed in that water, we are given something to eat. God in Christ is known to us in the breaking of the bread. In the Holy Eucharist we enter into the divine mysteries where somehow Christ is really present.
Water, wine, and bread are the essence of human life. God is really present to us in the essence of human life.
God in Christ is feeding us. What could be more earthly than being hungry and being fed? Christ is feeding us.
In our Gospel, Christ puts Peter to the test. He asks him three times if he loves him, and each time he instructs Peter to take care of the people: feed them and tend to them. The third time Christ asks the question, Peter is hurt. But Peter had denied Christ three times. He needs to make amends for that denial. Christ is rooting Peter in the Christian mission: feed and tend to the people. It’s about the people. It’s about feeding and caring for souls, and it’s all right in front of us.
In the first chapter of Acts, as Christ is ascending into Heaven, two men in white robes appear and say to those gathered, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” In other words, “Don’t stand here gazing up forever. Go on your way and proclaim the Gospel.” This is exactly where we can get caught: gazing up to heaven, waiting for a miracle. Life itself is a miracle. Everyday stuff is the prayer. It all goes together, and it is all a light from heaven.
When we come to realize this, then we will be changed forever. When we take time to recognize the beauty of the earth, the blessedness of those around us, then we will be changed forever.
The Rev. Paul D. Allick hails from the plains of Montana and North Dakota. He graduated from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in 1996, and for the past decade has experienced a wide variety of ministries in the Diocese of Minnesota, serving in Native American, African American, and suburban parishes, as well as campus ministry.