When the pandemic recedes, the questions we now struggle with will face the test of a new reality. Much will be familiar, some things will have marginally changed, and there could be a whole world of change. A prevailing question is, “Is Jesus preparing us for a new future ministry and mission? I venture to say that the initial evidence is a resounding yes, and God is preparing us for something new that we haven’t quite grasped. While part of us remains anchored in the inherited church, another part will press into a new movement and a refreshed mission.
I am reminded of a “change story” my dad sometimes referenced in regards to returning home from World War II. As a young man he, along with his father, was working on a large dairy farm. Not long out of high school, my dad was drafted into the army during World War II. From 1942 until 1946 he never returned home. When he returned home, he went back to work with my grandfather on the dairy farm. One of the lasting memories of change that impacted my dad, was my grandfather no longer worked as a teamster, because during the war tractors had replaced horses. The horse barn was empty, and now my grandfather worked as a herdsman, glad for employment, but grieving the loss of draft horses. As my dad would joke, tractors were a lot more convenient, but didn’t respond well to voice commands. My grandfather never really reconciled himself to the absence of horses. He remained a reluctant driver of vehicles all of his life.
In John 21, the first couple of paragraphs speak of seven disciples returning home. After leaving the fear and hiding in locked rooms, they returned home. I suspect as they looked at the Sea of Galilee, Peter resumed his role as fishing captain and led the other six out to sea for a night of fishing. I wonder if they had returned home expecting everything to be the same. Fishing was what they knew best. Jesus had risen from the dead, dispelled their fear. The new chapter had closed on a glorious note, and now it was time to return to fishing. I wonder what mix of motivations the disciples possessed. Economic necessity? A known and comfortable routine? Defaulting to old habits, because they didn’t know what else to do? It was returning home to the almost familiar, until it becomes a fishless night. It is the voice of Jesus from the beach, the Kol Yahweh, the Word become flesh once again, who commands the practical, which results in 156 fish. The disciples eat the breakfast in silence He prepared. “I am the bread of Life” prepares food for seven hungry men.
The home the disciples returned to wasn’t the same after all. The sea was still there, but they couldn’t fish again, at least not in the same fashion. Jesus continued to reset their lives, asked for love and obedience, and I suspect instructed the disciples to return to Jerusalem. Going home wasn’t bad, but it missed the point, and home couldn’t really be home again.
The big questions hanging in the air in every broader churchy circle I listen into is: “How will the pandemic change the church, the mission, the vision, the community?” As one barb worded it: “This will really shake up the corporate-ecclesiastical establishment.” Those big questions are not yet answered. We might need to resist the temptation to return entirely to home, but wait, and pray, and be reformed by the Holy Spirit. I really look forward to walking through the big questions with you, and receiving from our Lord, grace upon grace, as onward we navigate. I pray that I can rediscover that my only true home is in Christ, where in silence I can eat and listen.
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