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"The Smell of Love Cooking" -- John 21:1-12 (3rd Sunday of Easter)

This homily followed the presentation of a scene from the play "Fish-Eyes," enacting the scriptural story:

The disciples haul onto shore this huge catch of fish – 153 fish – and there, they find Jesus, with a campfire, roasting fish for their breakfast. This Scripture is full of sights and sounds and tastes and smells and sensation. You can almost feel it.

They have been fishing all night. No luck. And then in the chill and dim light of daybreak, they see a man standing on the beach. Out of the silence of the morning, he yells to them, and they yell back to him. They pull up their nets, and, as instructed, cast them over the right side of the boat. They can’t pull the nets back up – there are so many fish – and, in that experience of abundance, the beloved disciple exclaims: “It is the Lord!” Peter gets so excited that he puts on all his clothes, and jumps into the cold water, splashing his way to shore. The others, a bit more responsibly, bring the boat in, trawling the net full of fish behind them.

When they wade ashore, pull the boat in, they find a fire crackling, with some roasting fish, and some bread, and the Risen Christ. And Jesus tells them to get some of the fish they’ve just caught and throw them on, too. They bring the fish ashore, all 153 fish – which basically means a whole lotta fish – and Jesus – the Risen Christ says, “Come have breakfast.”

Maybe the smell of the roasting fish, and the sight and taste of the bread took them back – back to that time when the crowds had swarmed -- thousands of them – and Jesus had asked them, “Where are we going to find enough bread for all these people?” And from the bounty of a boy who had 5 loaves and two fish – there was enough bread and fish to feed 5,000 people, lounging in the green grass – with enough left over to fill 12 baskets. Maybe the smell of roasting fish took them back.

I read someone this week who remembered what it was like as a child to wake up in his grandmother’s house to the smell of scrapple cooking – that Pennsylvania pork and cornmeal breakfast dish. He says for him, it was the smell of love cooking.[1] Maybe that’s what the disciples experience – with the Risen Christ – and the roasting fish, and the bread, and the abundance – what they remember – what makes Resurrection in that moment all the more real and present to them – is the smell of love cooking.

For the past two weeks, we’ve considered the life-changing enormity of that Easter morning – as the women stand at the threshold of the empty tomb with the stone rolled away – and everything is new again. They stand in the midst of a New Creation – the dawn of a new day – where the old powers no longer have power, and everything ahead of them is life. We’ve stood with Thomas, as he experiences the Risen Christ’s gracious offer of himself, and says, “My Lord and my God.”

This story was likely added on later – an appendix to those first Resurrection stories – and it begins – “Some time after these things...” Some time after those initial experiences of the Risen Christ, the disciples continued to experience Resurrection. Here, in the chill of this morning, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee – with the smell of roasting fish, the taste of bread, the warmth of a fire – they experience Resurrection in their bodies. They continue to experience not only Jesus’ Resurrection, but their own. They are part of God’s New Creation – living Resurrection, right here, right now – as palpable and real – as the smell of love cooking.

And Jesus says, “Come have breakfast.” Jesus invites them to the feast – just as Jesus invites us to this feast...

Again and again, Jesus invites them into the experience of Resurrection life.

Again and again, Jesus invites us – and all who have come before us – and all who will follow – to this table – into the experience of the Real Presence of Christ – Resurrection life alive in us.

© 2022 Scott Clark

[1] See George R. Graham in The Upper Room Disciplines: A Book of Daily Devotions 2022, pp.204-05.

Photo credit: Cassiano Psomas, used with permission via unsplash

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