Tag Archives: Jesus

The best is yet to come…

This week’s lectionary gospel reading comes from John 2, where we read of John’s first account of a Jesus-miracle; water turned to wine.

John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ 

His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. 

When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ 

11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

It was normal in those days that the best wine would be served first, then once everyone was a bit drunk the ‘not-best’ wine could come out and no one would be any the wiser because they were already a bit drunk anyway. So the idea that the best wine had been saved till last ran counter to the cultural norms of hospitality. It was absurd to think that the best had been saved till last.

I wonder if this is the metaphor John was using when he placed the story of this Jesus-miracle where he did in his gospel. Pointing out to the reader that after many centuries of God providing for the people he calls his, now the next chapter is unfolding, and it is the best bit.

But interestingly, John also tells of mother Mary’s role in this miracle. Jesus is pushed on by his mother to make this miracle happen. Who might God be speaking to you through today, pushing you on to fulfil Gods plan for your life?

Follow up: Reflect on how God has spoken to you through others in your life. give thanks to God for them.


Today’s thought for the day is also available in Worshipping Together, a monthly worship at home resource.

A Sweet Christmas Tale

I originally put together for use during Christmas 2021 at Felpham Methodist Church, and Bognor Regis Methodist Church West Sussex.

Please feel free to use this as a resource, and adapt it as appropriate. If you do use it, let me know, and tell me how it went!

Rev Dan, January 2022

Downloadable PDF

Some notes for use

It takes about 7-10 minutes to perform, depending how you do it.

I delivered it with a large table in front of me, and all the chocolates & Sweets in a basket, bringing them out and holding them up as I referred to them (in red), the placing on the table. The times there is a product in green means you’ve used it once already, so you’ve got to find it on the table – which adds to the entertainment factor!

Alternatively, you could do it with pictures on a screen, or with congregation having to shout out when they hear a chocolate reference.

New Year

New Year.
New Start.
Refresh.
Refocus.

Pray.
Dare to Listen. 

Dare to Dream. 
Dare to Hope.
Dare to Love. 

Dare to Fly.
To soar on wings like eagles.
To run and not grow weary. 
To live in the strength and power of God. 

Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.

For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.

But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.

Isaiah 40:28-31 (The Message)

‘This love we got is the best of all’ – Merry Christmas

I always look forward to hearing new Christmas tunes and carols, and watching the music video’s that come with them. This year I’ve been struck by Ed and Elton’s ‘Merry Christmas’.

Every time I watch this, I see reference to another past Christmas hit. Slade, Wham, Snowman, even a Sausage Roll!

If feels like they’ve looked back at all the classic Christmas tunes that people have most loved and tried to combine all the ‘feel-good’ buts into one video.

It has a wonderful, Christmassy feel about it, but the song is also very real. It starts with the truth that Christmas 2021 is also a Christmas of lament, remembering all that we have gone though these last 2 years…

I know there’s been pain this year but it’s time to let it go
Next year you never know, but for now
Merry Christmas

As we remember the Christmas story, the declaration of angels saying God’s promised one has come, and will transform the world…Mary, Joseph, shepherds responding to God’s message… there was much they didn’t know. But for now, in the moment, they look in awe and wonder at the Christ-child, who is love that is the best love of all.

We’ll dance in the kitchen while embers glow
We’ve both known love, but this love that we got is the best of all
I wish you could see you through my eyes then you would know
My god you look beautiful right now
Merry Christmas

This Christmas I want you to see the Christmas story, not through Elton’s eyes – but through God’s eyes. God who wants us to see and know that in Christ we find the ultimate expression of God’s love.
Love that has no terms and conditions attached,
love that shows no judgement,
Love simply because God can do nothing but love us.

Just as we may well spend some of Christmas visiting or spending time with people we love, so too did God step down from heaven and become human, to spend time with us.
To live as we live, because God loves us.

So as Christmas comes around once again,
here comes the annual reminder of God’s love come down to earth,
and to us.

I feel it when it comes
Every year helping us carry on
Filled up with so much love
All our family and friends are together where we all belong
Merry Christmas everyone

We’ve had a tough 2 years, and while the landscape is changing it is still going to be tough for while longer… but the love of God we discover in Jesus helps us carry on through the highs and lows of life.

And that gift of love is not only for us to keep and cherish for ourselves, it is also one we are encouraged to share.

There are many ways of encouraging, of giving, of sharing, of caring for and loving the people around us. In our words, our actions, our giving and offering hospitality.

Christmas is a time to give and share and encourage,
Christmas a time to love,
because it is through the best love of all we discover in Jesus
that the world, and we all, can find true hope.

this love that we got is the best of all
I know there’s been pain this year but it’s time to let it go
Filled up with so much love
Merry Christmas everyone

Keep Watching….

The stage was set…
The house lights dimmed…
Silence…
Waiting…
Watching…
Anticipation building.

Then with great gusto, The orchestra begin to play,
The curtain begins to rise…
The stage is revealed, and the show begins. 

I still remember my first trip to the West End.
Anticipation was strong.
We knew the story we were about to witness,
Yet we didn’t know quite how they would do it on the stage.

So as we sat there,
We sat between the known and unknown,
intensifying the anticipation of what was coming…
The knowing made the waiting even more electrifying.
The unknowing made the waiting more exciting.

That image, for me, captures the essence of Advent,
A time of waiting in expectation,
Between the known and the unknown,
Remembering what was.
Waiting and watching for what will be.

Waiting inhabits most areas of our lives, in one way or another.
Sometimes waiting passes by unnoticed.
At others, waiting is a heavy millstone around our necks.

Sometimes waiting can be a joyous and uplifting time,
At others, it can be draining of all life.

And over the last 2 years waiting has taken a whole new meaning for us… waiting for our turn in the vaccine roll out, waiting for another news conference, waiting to know if there will or will not be more changes to the way we live our lives….

In Luke 1:39-45 we read of Mary and Elizabeth.
Both are pregnant…
Unexpectedly pregnant in fact…
Both families have been visited by angels foretelling something of what will happen.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 

Luke 1:41-42

Amidst all the unknowns…
Amidst the crazy uncertainty…,.
Elizabeth somehow knows Mary carry’s God’s promised one…
She doesn’t know how, what, why…
But she knows that this baby would be a fulfilment of God’s promise.

How it must have felt for Mary and Elizabeth,
Having a glimpse of what might be coming,
A glimpse of what God was doing,
Yet not really knowing God’s plan at all.

Confusion. Uncertainty. Fear. Disbelief. Loneliness.
Why them?
Why now?
How?
When?
What?

There must have been more q’s than answers.
But they were willing.
They trusted.
Waited.

2000 or so years on, we’re in a different place…
The promised Messiah came
Jesus came, lived, ministered, died, rose again.
Left the Spirit of God with us.

All could be made well with the world…
Peace, hope, harmony, justice, righteousness, clarity….

2000 years on, perhaps the world isn’t quite so different as we sometimes like to think. Humankind might have progressed, but thw world is still a mess.

While I don’t think any of you are expecting to give birth to a son of God any time soon…we are all also like Mary & Elizabeth.

We’re human.
Still human.
Still live with anxiety, fear.
We live with questions.
We live with uncertainty.

For me, there’s something about the known and unknown of the season of advent, the watching and waiting which reminds me that God is as much in the waiting, uncertainty and the unknown, as everything else.

As Advent reminds us of what was, is and will be,
We are reminded we worship a God who’s work has not finished.
Has never finished.
Advent reminds us to keep watching…
Watching for glimpses of the God in our daily lives.
Watching for the activity of God in the world.
Watching for God’s invitation to us to participate in that activity.

For that is God’s gracious and generous offer to us.
Inviting we watchers and waiters to participate in the continuing work of God.
So, keep watching.
In advent and in all our days…

“Do not be afraid”

A personal reflection on Advent, where I find myself in Minsitry and Gabriel’s words, Do not be afraid’ – with thanks to Tim Lea’s video ‘No to Fear’.


The angel said to Mary, ‘Do not be afraid, for you have found favour with God. 

Luke 1:30

I took up running earlier in the Autumn. In was loving getting out first thing in the morning and jogging along as dawn began to break. I managed to capture some of those moments in photo’s – but often they photo’s didn’t do justice to the moments – just as the cover photo above demonstrates! it is hard to capture the dawn on a phone camera because light is sparse, and the conditions of the day still uncertain.

Then I got a cold, and the weather turned colder, wetting, darker, and I gave up – but I keep telling myself I will try again in Spring when the conditions are better.

As I joruney through advent 2021, I am finding the conditions around me really challenging. The pandemic began 18 months after I began ministry here on the Sussex Coast and now 22 months later the pandemic is still with us. I think sometimes we forget how much of an upheaval the pandemic has been, turning every aspect of our lives upside down, and challenging every assumption of what normal means.

In ministry right now there are many pressures around us and among us. There are practical uncertainties. There are quesitons about what activity to resume, and how to do it. There are questions about whether the conditions around are right to do something new, or additional, or to resume something else.

And all that comes within a culture that recognises the decline of the church in the UK and a sense of urgency that we must seek growth, numerically and spiritually.  

I’m finding this period the hardest of all the periods of the pandemic so far. This seemingly endless period of of tentative, anxious, uncertain emergence from lockdown and transition to work out how to ‘live with covid’ when we don’t know how to do that well yet is exhausting, and draining let alone factoring in the advent of Omicron and all the anxieties about the future of the church.

I’ve been feeling this for a while, but only more recently begun to make sense of it enough that I can begin to articulate it – largely because last week I actually did have the quarter days I had put in my diary – rather than let other expectations and demands crowd out the space.

Then at the end of last week God has encouraged me through a Fuelcast Video that reflected on Gabriel’s words: ‘Do not be afraid’. I encourage you to watch it if you can by clicking this link

‘Do not be afraid’ – the opposite of this is to fear. I’ve realised that all the conditions of ministry I’ve mentioned above have been feeding a sense of fear within me. In the video Tim suggests fear can kill faith & stifle holy creativity because our eyes become focused on the circumstances we find ourselves in, rather than on Jesus. 

That has lead me to think again about Sabbath, divine and holy rest, offering space for contemplation, basking in God’s presence & opportunity for healing and wholeness. I’ve been pondering whether my focus should be more heavily on rest, on my being, on our wellness – rather than on activity and concerns about the future. 

That seems ironic given we’re in December and I have a whole host of Christmas activities to plan for! 

But as the video reminds us – God’ timing is perfect and will bring things forth at the right moment – if we are making space for God – and we do that through pausing, resting, Sabbath-ing.

Advent is a season of waiting that quite often the church pays some level of lip service to in it’s drive to make the most of the opportunties for mission and outreach. And as admirable as that may be, I wonder whether our desperate rush to get to Christmas means we skip Advent’s spiritual reminder that time is God’s. That just as God’s people both patiently and impatiently waited for Emmanuel, God’s moment came.

Perhaps we need to focus more heavily on rest, on recover, on being compassionate to ourselves, each other, to the church – to allow ourselves space to turn from fear to faithfulness, and trust that God’s moment will come.

Jesus prays for us

Read: John 17:6-19

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‘Fool of God (Christ in the Garden)’
Mark Cazalet (1964- )
Methodist Modern Art Collection 
Image Copyright © Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes. The Methodist Church Registered Charity no. 1132208

Full text

Read: John 17:6-19

As a parent of two young girls, I have a duty of care to them. Before they were born my wife and I would fairly often both be out of the house in an evening; we were both in a choir, my wife did some amateur dramatics, I would sometime have church meetings, most months we would head out for a meal or to the cinema, or have an evening out with friends.

But having children means we can no longer choose to head off on our own paths without considering others, because we now have a duty and responsibility to care for these small people we have the privilege to call ours.

The combination of moving away from friends in Cornwall, my becoming a minister, as well as the more recent pandemic means that;

A) only one of us can be out in an evening unless we make arrangements for someone else to look after them for us, and

B) that most evenings now involve Louise and I binge-watching the latest series we’ve take a fancy to on Netflix.

Our commitment to, and love for, our children leads us to ensure at least one us is present to care for them.

Here in these words from John 17, we find part of a long and winding prayer the gospels records Jesus prays to his father for his friends. For his band of disicples, and for all those who call Jesus friend. Because Jesus knows he is about to be taken from them. These people, his friends, who he loves and has been committed to are soon going to be without him.

Jesus is painfully and heart wrenchingly praying to the father for his friends who he will soon depart from. That they will be entrusted to God’s care, that they will belong to God and God will protect them as they seek to live out Christ’s example to them in the world.

I firmly believe in this moment of heart-outpouring prayer of Jesus 2000 years ago, Jesus prayed a prayer that was prayed beyond the confines of time and history – that in that moment Jesus prayed for each of us too.

That each of us who call Jesus friend was held in his mind, his heart, his voice, his prayer. Jesus prays for us, for me, for you.

Jesus prays that just as he belongs to the father, just as he has a close relationship with father – so too might his friends have such a relationship.

So too might his friends belong to God, and all that is light and truth and freedom, while living and serving in the world. 

Jesus makes a distinction between those who belong to the world, who seek and serve the earthly kingdom of materiality, individualism, greed and selfishness, and those who belong to God, people who seek God’s kingdom. Those who recognise, affirm and respond to the stirrings of God’s Spirit abiding within them.

Jesus’ prayer for his friends and for us, and asks that we may be in the world, in the thick of human life and activity, yet belonging not to the world, but to God. That we may be distinctive in the world – ‘sanctify them in truth’ he prays – which means make them holy. (17:17)

What does it mean to be Holy?

We’ll, let’s be honest, perhaps it will take a lifetime of living as friends of Jesus, and experiencing for ourselves what it means to belong to God to know what it means to be holy.

But I suggest to you, that to be holy, as a disticntive of God’s people, is about a heart for seeking God and God’s kingdom. Responding to God’s reaching for us, by reaching for God, and allowing God to inhabiting within ourselves, and bear the fruit of the very goodness and graciousness of God as we live and walk in the world.

And that goodness, that fruitfulness, that abiding connectedness between us and God is what Jesus prays over us.

Reflecting on Vocation

Marking Vocation Sunday 2021. To explore the theme of vocation further head to the Methodist vocation website

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On Sunday 2nd May the Methodist Connexion marks Vocation Sunday. A day when we celebrate and reflect on the vocation of individuals and communities.

What do we mean by vocation?

it’s perhaps a church-y word – but it’s an important one.

it differentiates from the idea of work, of job, and of economic activity.

Vocation connects with our very selves, our identity, our humanity, and says this is what I am created for at this time, in this place. My collection of gifts and skills suits me to this role, this function, this way of being – this vocation.

And of course, all of that, within our faith, is encompassed in the belief that God gives each of us life and breath and gifts and skills. The truth and belief that God gifts us and equips us for the vocations he calls us to.

But not only that, but also the belief that God is active in the world inviting us to notice and respond by getting involved with what God is doing. For getting involved in what God is doing is indeed our vocation as Christian people. Noticing where God is at work, the places where there is evidence of the fruit of God’s Spirit – and joining in.

Words like calling and vocation can scare us sometimes. Perhaps it is helpful to think of it like this: the primary call of a Christian is to follow Jesus, and the journey that emerges from that, for each of us, is our own unique vocation.

Do you see your journey with Jesus as a vocation?

Or do you think that vocations are just for Ministers, and nurses and teachers?

A couple weeks ago my daughter Lydia lost a particular soft toy – dog from TV programme Paw Patrol, – and we searched high and low for it. The last time we knew we’d had it was on a bike ride and we wondered if it had fallen out of the seat it have been sat in.

We looked and looked but could not find it anywhere. After 4 or 5 days of looking, Louise and I had just about settled that it was lost, and gave up looking. Then, one evening Louise noticed something behind the pedestal sink, and there was the toy. We’d been looking in the wrong places.

Do we sometimes look for a sense of vocation where it is not?

In John 15 we read of Jesus presenting himself as the true vine and that those who follow him are the branches.

A vine is a plant that bears grapes. For a vine, or any plant to grow strong, it needs to be well fed with nutrients, water and sunlight. Different plants can require different combinations of this food to grow and, if fruit bearing, to produce fruit.

On this Vocations Sunday, I wonder where our life is bearing fruit.

‘could this be evidence of my vocation?’

Sometimes a plant needs its branches cutting shorter, to be pruned – because this helps the new branch that grows to have more fruit. Sometimes there are things in our lives, and the lives of our faith communities that were once bearing abundant fruit, that were once our vocation, but are not anymore.

Are there things you are doing or were doing, possibly in the name of God and church, that are actually now a burden & chore that bring a sense of gloom, and either don’t bear any fruit or the fruit is no longer abundant and juicy?

If so, it might be time for change, time to have those branches pruned.  Sometimes pruning plants looks and feels brutal, but it is sometimes necessary if the plant is to grow new and delicious fruit.

Vocation is not only something that is about you and me as individuals; it is also about the vocation of the church.

As we emerge from lockdown, this is the time to ask, what is the vocation of my church in the time and the place we find ourselves?

Footnotes

Some material in this weeks reflection developed from material for celebrating Vocation Sunday 2021 vocations-sunday-2021-english-language.pdf (methodist.org.uk)

Called Deeper

Part 3 of a 3-part series reflecting on the ending(s) of John’s Gospel, ch20 & 21.

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Last week our journey through the ending(s) to John’s gospel took us to the shore of Galilee to Peter and some of the other disciples having fun fishing on the lake, meeting the risen Jesus and enjoying fresh fish with him around a campfire. Friends enjoying breakfast together as the sun breaks on the shore.

This week we pick back up where that scene left us, because as breakfast is finished and the campfire moves from flames to glowing embers, Jesus turns to Simon Peter and asks him ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

It feels like a change of pace in the story – we move from an intimate breakfast with friends perhaps having fun and laughter together, to an intimate and deep 1 to 1 between Jesus and Peter.

“Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” comes Peters’ reply.

I wonder how he spoke those words. What his tone and body language was? Was Peter filled with confidence and conviction, as he must have been moments before when he had jumped into the water and waded to shore. Or was he filled with remorse and guilt, his denying Jesus that night in the Jerusalem courtyard coming back to haunt him?

This conversation repeats, 3 times in total Jesus ask Peter do you love me, each time Peter responds, “yes Lord you know me, everything about me, you know, you know I love you.”

It is interesting and perhaps not surprising given how we often find numbers used within scriptures storytelling, that after Peter 3 times denied, Jesus asks him 3 times ‘do you love me’.

I wonder if, for Peter, there was something redemptive and transformative in that being asked 3 times – if it helped him to find forgives and wholeness after his 3 times denying Jesus. But let’s not get Jesus wrong, there is no suggestion here that our wrongdoing, our guilt, our sin, needs to then be corrected by actions, words and works that go in the other direction – as if we have to rebalance the scales. That’s not how Jesus’ love and care for us works.

Jesus is not reprimanding Peter. Yes, he is asking a question, but it seems to me that this conversation is a gentle, friendly, loving one between 2 friends in a corner on the beach after sharing fish sarnies.

Each time Jesus responds to Peter in a similar way.

Feed my lambs. (v15b)

Tend (or shepherd) my sheep. (v16b)

Feed by sheep. (v17b)

Different words – and there may be some significant to the nuances there, but a common thrust. In just a few small words Jesus calls Peter deeper, responding with love, acceptance, welcome, forgiveness and commissioning to serve the flock of Christ.

Sometimes I wonder if, as we see this encounter move from the fun and laughter of breakfast to this 1 to 1 with Jesus, we think Peter is expecting to get his comeuppance for his denying. But Peter knew Jesus, and I wonder if Peter would have been expecting the exact opposite. Expecting Jesus would forgive and love and accept him, and still call him deeper – and feeling guilt and shame because he didn’t think he was worthy of it.

I wonder if this challenges some of our assumptions as Christians about how we think about our own worth. I wonder if we too often feel guilt and shame more intensely than we should or than Jesus ever intended us to. I wonder if we expect reprimand when Jesus just wants us to receive his love, and love him too. I wonder if we have allowed the notion of sin to become a barrier in our relationship with Jesus and our responding to his call to go deeper.  

Jesus says to you today: do you love me?

Friend, no matter what I love you. I forgive you and I still call you. Come deeper with me, serve me, follow me.

What’s your ‘fishing’?

Part 2 of a 3-part series reflecting on the ending(s) of John’s Gospel, ch20 & 21.

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Last week we began exploring the ending(s) to John’s gospel with its first ending (John 20:19-31). The disciples are gathered in a locked room together, surrounded by anxiety, fear and uncertainty, and into that space Jesus appears and offers them peace and breathes Spirit upon them, to encourage them and continue to teach them more of the story, to help sustain them as they keep on believing.

Now into chapter 21, the start of the second ending to the gospel, some of the disciples are gathered again, not in a room, but on the shore of Galilee. Peter says, ‘I’m going to fish’, and the others who are with him say they will come too.

Peter, and many of the others, were fisherman. So going to fish was familiar to them, and perhaps, after 3 years following Jesus, had become something of a past-time. Sometimes this moment can be described as the disciples going back to old ways, perhaps even turning their back on Jesus’ call to them to fish for people, and instead fishing for, well, fish.

Fishing: Life-giving fun

There can be merit for us in reflecting on that interpretation, but I’m not sure that’s the only way to hear the story. I wonder if Peter and his friends are not do much going back to old ways, but going off to spend time looking after their wellbeing. Why? Because I think we could quite equally read and hear the story as one about a group of friends going off to spend time doing something from their past that they love, enjoy and in the past found life-giving.

But yet, they have a bad night, this band of friends, and catch nothing.

As dawn comes, a voice comes from the shore – ‘children, you’ve not got anything to eat have you?’

‘No’, comes the reply.

cast on the right side of the boat’ says the stranger.

And so they do, and FISH! – the nets are bursting.

And Peter dives into the lake – for ‘It is the Lord’.

Once the rest of the disciples manged to drag the net of fish ashore, Jesus has a fire going, and says ‘bring your fish, let’s have breakfast together’.

and so they spend time together, in dawns morning light.

My Paraphrase, see John 21:1-14 for the full story
Fishing: A Children’s game

I love the fact Jesus, intially as a stranger to them, calls children to them. They weren’t children as we would see them, they were probably young adults by all accounts, but I love this image it leaves me with of someone standing on the shore, watching a group of friends playing around like children, having fun fishing together, despite the fact they’d not yet caught anything.

But then, with a bit of encouragement from this stranger, the disicples are blessed with nets a-bursting, and their fun and games bear fruit.

Fishing: Jesus in our everyday

I reckon this story demonstrates to us just how interested Jesus is in us, in our wellbeing, and our every day. Jesus blesses his friends with direction to get a bumper catch after a long and relaxing night as friends on the lake, doing something they love and enjoy.

Then what happens? Jesus invites them to bring what they have, and to share breakfast together. To enjoy the fruits of their leisure. There’s no teaching here, no lesson to learn, no parable told. Jesus just spends time with them, enjoying a meal together as the sun breaks on the shore.

For the disciples, their life-giving, enjoyable, fun-time-together activity was fishing, and Jesus was with them as they did so, enjoying its fruitfulness with them. What’s your ‘fishing’? What is life-giving for you? What fun is Jesus enjoying the fruitfulness of, with you?