May 1, 2022 – Sermon

Gospel lesson and Pastor Richard Pokora’s sermon from May 1, 2022

Message from May 1st, 3rd Sunday after Easter by Pastor Richard Pokora

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

What have the past two weeks been like for you? Have you seen and experienced resurrection in your life? What does it look? Here’s why I’m asking. Two weeks ago we celebrated the day of Jesus’ resurrection. Two weeks ago the stone was rolled away, the tomb was found to be empty, and Jesus was seen alive. And here’s my question. Are you more alive now? Am I? What difference has the resurrection made in us? I am not asking about what difference it might make in some distant heavenly future. I am asking about our lives today.

I sometimes wonder if we make such a big deal about the resurrection that it’s difficult to recognize it in our own lives. I wonder if we make such a big deal about the rolled away stone, such a big deal about the empty tomb, and such a big deal about Jesus being alive that we lose sight of the resurrection in our lives. We look for and expect it to be an equally big deal kind of thing in our lives. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe that’s why it’s sometimes difficult to recognize resurrection in our lives here and now.

Please don’t call the bishop and say, “Pastor said the resurrection isn’t a big deal.” That’s not what I am saying. What I am saying is that maybe, and maybe more often than not, the big deal of the resurrection happens in the small details of everyday life. Maybe the big deal of the empty tomb is experienced in the ordinary circumstances of life. Maybe the big deal of Jesus being alive is revealed in the routine rhythms of life.

Let me explain why I say that. John begins today’s gospel (John 21:1-19) by telling us that Jesus “showed himself in this way.” John then sets the third appearance of Jesus to his disciples amidst ordinary circumstances. He returns the disciples to their old routines. He gives a lot of small, seemingly unnecessary, and even strange details. John could just have easily said, “While the disciples were fishing they saw Jesus on the shore. This was his third appearance.” But he didn’t. Instead, John focuses on the details in which Jesus showed himself; so maybe we should too.

That’s what I want to do today. I want to explore the details John gives us in today’s gospel. I want to examine the images in a way that I hope will help us recognize the resurrection of Jesus in the details of our own lives.
“I am going fishing.”

The disciples have returned home. They’ve gone back to fishing. They’ve moved from the empty tomb to their boats, from the house in Jerusalem to the familiar waters of the Sea of Tiberias. They’ve traveled some 70 or 80 miles from the place of Jesus’ resurrection and given themselves to their old routine of fishing. They’ve returned to the same boats, the same nets, the same water, the same work. That’s when and where Jesus “showed himself.”

It’s now two weeks after Easter Sunday and I’m betting we’ve all returned to the routine of our lives. That’s when and where we can expect Jesus to show himself to us. Resurrection does not happen apart from the routines of life but in them. Resurrection is not about escaping life but about becoming alive.

They fished through the darkness, but their nets were empty. “That night they caught nothing.” The darkness, however, was not just about the night sky. The darkness was also in the disciples. In the same way, the empty net is not only descriptive of their fishing efforts it’s descriptive of the disciples themselves. They are as empty as their nets. Who here hasn’t experienced that darkness and emptiness? You know what that’s like. You fish, you work, you do your best, but you still come up empty. In those times we have come to the limits of our own self-sufficiency. We have nothing to show for our efforts and nothing left to give. We’re empty.

That’s when Jesus, still unrecognized by the disciples, shows himself and says, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” That’s not so much a question as it is a statement. Within Jesus’ words I hear the echo of Mary’s voice at the wedding in Cana when she said to Jesus, “They have no wine” (John 2:3). Empty nets. Empty jars. No wine, no fish, no life. That’s when Jesus showed himself.

Nets and jars cannot be filled unless they are first emptied. In the same way we can never be filled with Jesus until we are first emptied of ourselves, until we come to recognize the limits of our own self-sufficiency. The emptiness is not the end or a failure but a beginning. The miracle begins when the wine runs out. Jesus shows up when the nets are empty.

So let me ask you this. What are your empty nets today? What wine jars have run dry? Don’t throw the jars away and don’t abandon your nets. They are the very places Jesus is showing himself to you. They will be places of resurrection – jars overflowing with the best wine and nets filled with large fish, 153 of them; wine to gladden your heart (Psalm 104:15) and fish to nourish your life.


Did you notice that all this happens just after daybreak? The dark night of fishing has given way to the dawn of a new day, new hopes, new possibilities. The darkness does not win. The light always prevails. In the light of this new day, in the light of a full net, in the light of 153 fish Jesus shows himself. “It is the Lord!”

This isn’t just about the rising of the sun. It’s about the rising of the Son in the darkness of the disciples’ lives and in the darkness of our own lives. Whatever darkness has overcome you, whatever darkness you might be going through today, that darkness is the circumstances in which Jesus will show himself to you. It is the context for your resurrection and the raw material from which new life will be fashioned.

Resurrection is in the details. That’s true in today’s gospel and in our lives. The gospel details are our life’s details. It’s as if John has given us a paper with a bunch of dots on it, each one a particular detail or circumstance, and now our work is to connect the dots with the lines of our lives. And when we do we discover resurrection. We discover that we have a future, our life has been guaranteed by Christ’s life, and he has shown himself to us.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.