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It's perhaps a few weeks after the resurrection, and we find ourselves with Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee while seven of the disciples (who knows where the others are) are out fishing.On last account, Jesus had just appeared amongst the disciples where they were hiding behind locked doors. It said they all came to believe, but now they're back to fishing. Seriously? They had an intense experience of Jesus, some might even say miraculous, and then it is back to business as usual? Back to their professions, picking up the pieces of their old lives? End of adventure?

Seems to me this is what happens when you stop at believing. OK, got it, I believe in the resurrection, now I can check that box off. The end. Because this is a  head thing, it doesn’t transform your life.

You can say you believe in love, but it doesn't have the power to transform you if you don't offer love or receive love. You can say you believe in forgiveness, but it doesn't have the power to transform you if you don't actively forgive another, or receive forgiveness offered to you. You can say you believe in justice, but unless you act justly and speak out for justice, you will not be transformed by it.

Frankly, I really don’t care what you believe about the resurrection, and the subsequent appearances of Jesus… all I want to know is how is it transforming your life? Who is the experience helping you to become? Or is it?

It feels to me like Jesus shows up on the lakeshore because they haven’t quite gotten it right, yet. Especially Peter.

After feeding them breakfast, Jesus turns to Peter and questions him (some say three times to counter the three times Peter denied him)… “Peter do you love me?" To which Peter responds three times, "Yes, Lord, you know I do." But Jesus doesn't leave it there. It isn't enough to proclaim love. True love must be followed by action: "Feed my lambs... Tend my sheep... Feed my sheep."

Pedro Arrupe, former superior general of the Jesuits writes:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evening, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”

If Peter’s love for Jesus is really, deeply experienced, if Peter has that overwhelming connection to Jesus, to who he was and what he said, then that love should be transformative. It, as Pedro said, should affect everything including how you live, what you do, what you dream about, and how you spend your time.

Jesus is saying, if you really love me, you can’t just go back to life as normal. You need to show the world my love by spiritually feeding the younger ones or the ones who have newly come to believe ("feed my lambs"), take care of the people in this world ("tend my sheep," which really contains everyone), and feed them spiritually so that they, too, might be transformed.

What about us? Do we allow the miracles in our lives to transform us? And I’m not talking about burning bushes or Jesus making us dinner, I’m simply talking about the sacred moments of our lives which are everywhere!  Or are we more like the disciples? Miracle on Tuesday, back to normal on Wednesday?

Sacred moments are like doorways to a new aliveness and we can choose to walk through the doorway, or not. There are plenty of things that keep us from walking through that unfamiliar door.

Perhaps Peter decided to go back to fishing because he was feeling badly that he denied Jesus. Maybe he didn’t feel worthy to carry on the mission.

Rev. Jacqui Lewis of Middle Collegiate Church in New York City spoke at the Richard Rohr conference I was at in March. She was raised Southern Baptist, knew at 14 that she wanted to be a pastor, but also knew that she couldn’t because she was a woman. So, she got married, sold copiers for a living and then got divorced. At 30 she went to the chaplain at Princeton University and said, “I know I’m supposed to be a pastor, but I’m the worst sinner in the world, married and divorced and I don’t think God can use me.”

He shocked her by laughing at her and saying, “Oh, you think God called you because you’re prefect!  Ha! God called you because you are you.”

God uses us as we are, no matter how flawed we may feel. So, this isn't an excuse for taking the safe road instead of the road of transformation. 

Or perhaps sometimes we don’t allow transformation because, as Nepo says, "facing sacred moments requires us to engage the paradox of being ourselves and losing ourselves." Sacred moments, as wonderful as they are, create a tension in us between who we are and who we could be if we follow the call into a new aliveness, because that aliveness will require us to let go of things that don’t foster a beautiful, abundant, compassionate world for all.

Perhaps we’ll have to let go of some of our prejudices, or judgments about people. Maybe we’ll have to work on forgiveness or acceptance. Maybe we’ll have to risk and step into the social justice area or help repair homes in Appalachia. Maybe we’ll have to change our behavior, watch how we use our words with people, make sure our votes take the poor and marginalized into account, or start volunteering. Maybe transformation will ask us to dig deeper into our spiritual lives by reading, going on retreat, learning meditation, coming to worship consistently and doing more to engage the spiritual journey.

Mark Nepo, in his book Endless Practice, shares a story about jazz saxophonist Ken Morgan's first music teacher whose devotion to music shaped Ken’s life. As a young man, Ken’s mentor wanted to become a priest. One day while studying scripture, he heard George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” the classic aria Gershwin composed for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. The young man was opened so completely by this song that he went straightaway to play it on the church organ. The playing of that tune so awakened his heart that he knew he had to be this close to music to stay awake. And so, he left one form of priesthood for another and became a music teacher. 

This is what it looks like not to just believe in something, but to allow it the power to change your life. I encourage you to allow yourself to not simply believe that there is a Source, Energy, Greater Presence at work around you, but to let the experience of God in all the sacred moments in life change you. Let yourself be transformed by that light, that energy of love, that passion for justice. Don’t just forget it and go back to normal. Remember it, recall it, embrace it and let it shape your life and fill your soul and help you become even more than you are.

Love & Light!