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Guess Who’s Coming to Breakfast?


Isaiah 6:1-6;   John 21:1-19

Our Gospel reading today narrates one of the most dramatic “incidents” with Jesus’s disciples, right after Easter. Somewhere by the Lake of Galilee, a bunch of weary, dispirited professional fishermen lament an unsuccessful night – in fact, they have caught nothing.

Suddenly a stranger appears and gives them some unrequested advice on how they ought to fish. What the stranger says does not make much sense, but they do it anyway, and suddenly their nets are full. They are in shock, yet their eyes are now open enough to recognize the stranger – “It is the Lord!”

I imagine plenty of hugs, pants on the back, handshakes, high fives, big smiles — and some questions. But for one of them, Peter, there were also mixed feelings.

Not only shock, but also humiliation, plus a good quota of guilt the moment he finds himself in the presence of the friend he had denied just a few days ago.


What happens next? you may wonder. Well, Jesus invites them to the shore where he has prepared breakfast with bread and fish, cooked over a charcoal fire. Now, the critical moment of this Gospel “incident,” I believe, is not breakfast on the beach with Jesus — no matter how charming it may seem to us — but rather the revealing question-and-answer session between Jesus and Peter.

They eat together without saying much, but when they finish eating, Jesus asks Peter point blank — “Peter, do you truly love me?”

“Yes, Jesus, you know that I love you.”

Jesus asks again and again, three times all together, as many times as Peter had denied him before the rooster crowed – remember?

It’s the last straw on Peter’s back – too much for him to handle. Peter is hurt, perhaps as much as Jesus was the night of Maundy Thursday. Almost in tears, Peter says, “But, Lord, you know all things, by now you should know that I truly love you!”


Every time I recreate in my mind this breakfast conversation by the lakeshore, I expect Jesus to say, “Good answer, pal, that’s what I wanted to hear from you. Now go fishing, have fun, and get lost!”

But Jesus surprises me as much as he surprises Peter. He surprises me for he doesn’t get rid of Peter – which is what I would have done. Neither does he drills Peter about whatever might have happened between them on Maundy Thursday – which is what I would have done.

He surprises me as much as he surprises Peter by saying to him, “OK, Peter, let’s forget about fishing (meaning “the past”) . . . From this day on, you will take care of my sheep.”


Imagine Peter’s surprise — just a few days ago he had given up on Jesus, now he is caught by the Risen Jesus with the same passion he used to catch fish. And Peter knows what all that means – he has been forgiven and brought back into Jesus’ inner circle, where he used to belong to.

To Peter, everything now may feel like a dream come true. I would feel the same way, my friends, for I can’t imagine a day in my life without belonging somehow with my friends. What Jesus is doing here as they enjoy breakfast by the lakeshore is drawing Peter into a new relationship.

And that’s what the Good Shepherd does with us whenever we get lost on the road — he returns to us if only to draw us back into his care, time and again. As you all know, a meaningful life involves a deep sense of belonging.

But sometimes we forget that it also involves a deep sense of purpose — a reason to get up in the morning. A reason to believe that we can make a difference in the world.

Thus, the moment we answer Jesus’s call — “Of course, Lord, we love you, and you know it!” — what we are saying is this, “Here I am, Lord, please tell me how I could help you?” What a privilege, won’t you agree?

What a privilege, what a blessing — the moment we are welcomed back into Christ’s family we are not only restored, we are also granted a new assignment. An assignment as rewarding as any assignment we might have held before. After three intense years in ministry with Jesus, Peter understood right away. Can we? Can we fully grasp all Jesus has in mind when he stops by us around this table?


“Louise, Sarah, Judith, Ariel, Pam, Jess, Chuck — yes, all of us here today – once this service is over and the “real” service begins, well, go out in my name and take care of my sheep. Make a difference to someone around you – someone in your own family, a neighbor, a friend in crisis, someone.” Go, show them my love for them. Tell them about new beginnings for them too.

And let them know they are all welcome into our love. Three times Jesus says that — I need your hands, your feet, your hugs, your strength, your words, whatever you may have, even your tears.


Do you remember Pope John Paul II, the so-called “Polish” pope who died in 2005? Let me tell you — he loved to sing great Christian songs. Once he was asked which song was his favorite. “Barka,” he responded — “Barge,” or “boat” in Polish.

“Barka,” for him, was a sweet song a Spanish priest had composed while on a tour by the Lake of Galilee a few years earlier.

Now a famous hymn, # 344 in our own Methodist Hymal, and with two titles – the original one in Spanish, and the English translation. “Why do you love this song so much?” someone asked the Pope. “I can see, I can hear Jesus in it,” he explained.

He went on – “And its melody reminds me of the rocking boats by the lakeshore so close to my own home where I grew up within a loving family.” Can you keep a secret? I just found out this song is one of Sharon’s favorite hymns!

It goes like this:

Lord, you have come to the lakeshore,

Looking neither for wealthy nor wises ones;

you only ask me to follow humbly.


O Lord, with your eyes you have searched me, 

and while smiling have spoken my name;

now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me;

by your side I will seek other seas.


You know so well my possessions;

My boat carries no gold and no weapons;

You will find there my nets and my labor.


You need my hands, full of caring

through my labors to give others rest,

and constant love that keeps on loving.


You, who have fished other oceans,

Ever longed for by souls who are waiting,

my loving friend, as thus you call me.

Would you like to sing it as our closing hymn this morning? As we sing, let us imagine ourselves very early in the morning a few days after Jesus’s resurrection. We are by the Lake of Galilee. We are sharing breakfast with Peter, and Thomas, and Nathanael, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples whose names escape John’s memory.

A few days ago, it was our last supper with Jesus. Now is our breakfast with the Risen Christ. And we all get invited. Jesus is fixing breakfast for us! And between bagels and cream cheese, scrambled eggs and coffee cake, pancakes, and orange juice, we can hear his loving invitation “to seek other seas.”