May 05, 2019 | Ryan Arnold

Passage: John 21:1-19

My goodness, it’s early May. Where has the time gone? This weekend we celebrate our confirmands graduation. Next weekend we celebrate our high school graduates.

Heck, finals week at Iowa State starts Monday, and Ames public schools finish up the last day of the month.

You know what all that means.

Summer break!

Family vacations!


We take these getaways for lots of reasons. For one, our schedule, at least for many of us, gets leaner. With schools out students and teachers have more down time. Friends and couples find themselves freer to travel. Parents want to make the most of their time with their shorties, and take them to new and exciting places. Often grandparents and great-grandparents join in on the fun too. In this they help usher in grand traditions for the next generation.

We getaway, at least in this part of the country, to enjoy warm weather as best we can. Having lived in South Florida, below the frost line, for sixteen years, our family was used to seeing the annual influx of snowbirds each winter. People would stay for a long weekend, or week or two, or month or two, or half the year. With temperatures that only bottom out in the 40s most winters down there I totally get the draw.

And when weather warms up here? Heck yeah we want to get away to the great outdoors. Heck yeah we want to enjoy it as best we can.

Sometimes we get away to celebrate. Summers can be a reward of sorts. Another year of school successfully completed. Or another year of work navigated. Or an incredibly cold, record-breaking winter in Central Iowa – survived – we did it!

So we pat ourselves on the back, and look to get away. We look to recognize a job well done.

That is the case with our eleven confirmation graduates. Our confirmands have spent the past three years learning about and growing into their faith, making it their own. Confirmation now complete, school year almost over, celebrations now beginning, I’d bet you a nickel that each one of our graduates have some summer getaway plans forming they’re dreaming about.

And sometimes we get away to mourn. That was the case just over two years ago for my family. After being in a call process with a congregation in Chicagoland – for six months! – the call committee opted to not proceed with either candidate. My wife and I were heartbroken. We have family in Chicago. And lots of friends. And the Chicago Cubs. And deep-dish pizza.

Thinking optimistically, we’d even put an offer in on a house there that we adored. It was a mid-century modern home, built in the 50s with an open-concept kitchen, large fireplace and a massive family room with a wood-beam vaulted, slanted ceiling. It was so cool.

But none of that was to be.

Deep in sadness, Kathi and I did something anyone else that lives less than three hours away from the most magical place on earth would do. We took our family to Disney World!

And it was there, kicking it with the mouse, where we began to heal.

Disciples Getaway
Today’s reading from John 20 also features a getaway, and a famous one at that.

By this point the disciples had been part of Jesus’ ministry for about two and a half years. By then they’d pretty much seen it all. They’d dropped their jobs, left their families. They got away to learn from a charismatic man who simply said, “follow me.”

In their time together the disciples saw miracles performed, parables spoken, and travelled all over the place helping to get the message, of a truly great man, out to all who would hear. Over time they slowly began to realize, and then believe, that this truly great man, was so much more.

The last week of Jesus’ life, for the disciples that followed him, was particularly gripping. They were there for Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, complete with palm fronds waving. They dined at the Last Supper, eating of the bread, drinking of the cup. They were present at the Garden of Gethsemane when he was taken away. The were aware of his trial, and death, and had seen him after he’d risen from the dead.

And if that doesn’t make for an emotional roller-coaster, over one week’s time, then I don’t know what does.

It is in the aftermath of all these events where Peter makes a decision.

“I’m going fishing,” he declares. Another half a dozen disciples decide to join him.

Perhaps they got away to celebrate the end of a journey.

Perhaps they got away to commemorate the changing of one season to the next.

Perhaps they got away to reflect, trying to make sense of all that had happened.

Perhaps they got away to mourn, knowing the end of their story, at least as recorded in the gospels, was coming to a close.

Perhaps it was a bit of all of the above.

Rocking the Boat
The first night of the fishing getaway the disciples caught zilch, zero, nada. Now back on shore they saw there a mysterious man who then gave them some advice.

Cast the nets on the other side, the man said.

But not all the disciples understood, as this humorous comic suggests.

It’s a reminder that understanding the voice of God, and what exactly to do with it, can be a tricky thing.

Whether the disciples truly understood or not they decided to take this mysterious man’s advice. And they caught so many fish. 153 to be precise. So many they were unable to bring the net in. Instead they began to drag the net back to shore.

When John saw this fishy miracle he immediately recognized the mysterious man, and exclaimed, “It is the Lord!”

Peter, who had been naked in the boat, threw some clothes on, jumped into the water, and then swam to meet his savior.

It’s a fair question to ask at the point…



He was hanging out with a half dozen of his closest dude friends, wearing nothing but his birthday suit.

Which, as we castanets is a reminder. Scripture is filled with humor. And filled with gratuitous nudity too. Aka it’s anything *but* boring.

Anyhoo, the disciples get back to the shore with their fish. We can presume, I think, that they were all now wearing clothes.

The seven then gather over a charcoal fire, sharing in a breakfast of fish and bread. Spending some time to catch up with Christ. It’s a holy scene, represented by a holy, complete number.

That sounds like a pretty good getaway to me.

As spring winds down and we look toward summer vacations, let me encourage you do to something.

Look for signs, of the risen Christ, among you.
Look for Christ-signs in unexpected places.

Places like planes, trains and automobiles.
Place like boats, cabins and tents.

Look for Christ in nature, in people, in unexpected conversations.

Whether your summer getaways are to celebrate achievements or to re-group, or even to mourn something lost, look for Christ in these special, sacred moments.

While our family mourned the loss of a possible Chicagoland call exactly two years ago, God had something brewing while we traipsed around Disney World, busily getting away from it all. What was brewing was in this cute little town we’d never even heard of before, Ames Iowa. And before long, well, you know the rest of that story.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, look for Christ-signs, for they are all around us. And when you find them – for they are there – remember this. Today’s gospel ends with some of the last documented words of Christ ever recorded. And in those words Christ kept things simple.

When you spot Jesus out and about in this world, in whatever form that takes, may it remind you of something. “Follow me,” Christ beckons. “Follow me.”  Amen.