The Minister writes

I write to you shortly before I begin my June/July sabbatical and then take summer leave in August.   Thank you so much for your support and for the kind provision of my sabbatical.  I am really looking forward to it.  As I mentioned the other day, we will all miss being part of church life over the summer but we will very much look forward to joining you all again in September.  We will next be with you for worship on Sunday 4th September and we all send our love and very best wishes to you all for the summer period. 

A few weeks ago, we looked at a wonderful story towards the end of John’s Gospel (John 21:1-19).   We read that following a night of fishing, the disciples meet the risen Jesus on the seashore and eat breakfast with him.  They don’t recognise him at first and it’s only after the miraculous haul of fish that they catch on.  This leads to a life changing moment of healing and renewal for Peter, who had denied Jesus before the crucifixion.

John tells us that after seeing the empty tomb, Peter and the beloved disciple ‘returned to their homes’ (John 20:10).  Offered peace and forgiveness by the risen Jesus and commissioned to share his risen life with the world (20:21-23, 17:18), they again return home to their fishing.  This does not necessarily mean that Peter is running away from his calling.  As Presbyterian Minister Revd Austin Crenshaw Shelley suggests, ‘what if Peter’s instinct to go fishing is not an abandonment of Jesus’ call but a desperate attempt to re-enact the scene in which Jesus first called him?’  In Mark, the earliest Gospel writing, it had been while they were fishing, that the first summons had been given and received: ‘“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”  And immediately, they left their nets and followed him’ (Mark 1:17-18).  Certainly, we see that they are taking time to recognise who Jesus is and to understand their experience of God.  Perhaps they wisely go to a place where they’ve encountered him before.  Of course, it seems that the risen Jesus is encountered in different places and in different ways as he continues to point them towards God.  In Jerusalem, he showed them his hands and his side.  Now he meets them back in Galilee, which is also where this Gospel writer has told us they first ‘believed in him’ (2:1-11).  Remembering their past, not just the ‘glory days’ but also the brokenness and moments of frailty, must become part of their new way of living.  Here back in Galilee, the familiar Jesus they previously followed is now a stranger on the shore.  But by following his instructions, they find life-giving food and they experience once again the one who is the source of living water (John 4:7-15; 7:37-38).

Well, as I think about this just before my sabbatical, perhaps there’s encouragement here for me to wisely go to the ‘place’ where I’ve encountered God before.  For me, that will inevitably include running, walking, cycling and generally being outdoors as much as possible!  I also hope to find inspiration as I read at least some of the books in my ‘not yet read’ book pile!  The time to read and reflect will be precious.  Extra time with loved ones will also be special.  I also hope to do some chores that I never get round to doing but I’m not sure I’ll encounter God there!  But I must remain open to the possibility! 

I hope that all of us feel encouraged by this story about Jesus and Peter to be open to encountering God in both familiar and new ways.  We may wish to think about times and places where we’ve experienced the divine in the past.  Perhaps we wisely go to that place or do what it was we were doing again.  Or, there may be surprising and new ways in which we may experience the life and love of God. Let us at least remain open to the possibility.  And certainly, in all you do through the coming summer months, I pray that you and your loved ones will be richly blessed by our loving God.                     

Every blessing,

Andrew's signature