Change isn’t always easy to deal with, and that’s certainly the case for the disciples of Jesus. They had been with him for three years, night and day and learnt so much, but then all of a sudden he had been literally torn from them, tried in a kangaroo court and strung up to die by crucifixion – an excruciating death. All this left them reeling in shock and grief. To make it worse they began to blame themselves – thinking of how they failed to defend Jesus, or stand up for him.
Peter was very much a leader among the disciples, and while he had had more courage than the rest and had even gone into the courtyard of the High Priest where they were judging Jesus, he nevertheless failed Jesus in the end by claiming he never knew him. Denying you know your best friend is cowardly, and Peter knew that, and had really wanted to be able to set things right with Jesus – but the opportunity never presented itself.
Now he and the disciples have to live with their failure and guilt on the one hand, and on the other deal with all the changes his death brings.
One of the first changes we see is in their confidence. They hide behind locked doors, afraid for their lives. Another change is in their vision and hope, now dashed and broken beyond repair. Everything in their lives seems to be in turmoil, and they live with uncertainty as those that suddenly find themselves adrift at sea without a rudder or oars, or a sail to propel them. Does that feel familiar to you?
We live at a time of history where we have all experienced so much change over the course of our lives. Some of us still remember horse and cart deliveries – the milkman, the baker, or Georgie the Chinaman with his horse and cart full of fresh fruit and vegetables that he has grown on the outskirts of the town. We live in an age of social media, false news, cyber bullying and so much more.
Even within the church there has been so much change, in the way we worship, the songs we sing, the inclusive language we use, but also in some of the big decisions made around sexuality that have pushed many to new insights and other beyond their comfort zone. All this can leave us frustrated, anxious and at times angry and certainly unsettled. Surely the church should be a place where I can feel safe from all the changes happening around me?
Yet in the church we are always being challenged to grow and be stretched. There is a wonderful image of God as a TAILOR, who makes clothes for us which are too big for us, so that we have room to grow into the people God made us to be. I like that image, but I also struggle with many of the changes, and that is natural and all part of being human.
The disciple Peter resisted the changes in his life and tried to go back to where things were more familiar – to being a fisherman. Our Gospel reading tells us that for all his effort, Peter caught nothing – even though he fished all night! And then a figure on the shore told him to throw his net out on the other side of the boat and they hauled in the catch of their lives. The figure on the shore of course was Jesus, who will always lead us from emptiness to fullness, which is what he promises repeatedly in John’s Gospel – to lead us into the fullness of life.
In the midst of all the changes in our lives, Jesus is the one steady constant, the same yesterday, today and forever, who will hold us firm in all the turmoil we experience, and lead us into the future with confidence and hope. May you know God’s presence and strength in the midst of change and uncertainty.