The Res. Community Pt. 4: The Last Breakfast, or First Potluck (John 21)

This is the message I gave that is a part of a longer series on the resurrection community from a few weeks back.

_The last breakfast on the beach

Post Easter we’ve been talking about the res. appearances of Jesus. We thought it would be interesting to see what Jesus’ appearances have to say about who the church is to become in its earliest incubation stages.

This morning we’re sticking with this final scene in John 21 (3 sections). Where the other Gospels feature the last supper late in their narratives, this scene might well be called the last breakfast. It comes not on good Friday but after Res. Sunday and has some unique features to it.

Query: What are some of the unique features of this ‘last breakfast’ in comparison with ‘the last supper?’

There are a number of ways to understand “communion” in the NT, and this scene gives us a different reading then the one we’re used too with the bread and wine, “the do this in remembrance of me.” What has come to be called communion, that we take from the Gospels, and in the early church, was always meant to be, I think, a real-live meal with many people where Jesus is present. It was to stress two things:

His open table policy, everyone is welcome to come and eat at this table. And his economic policy, God gives enough food for everyone at this table. These two are held together by the very presence of Jesus in the midst, stresses that by doing these two practices, the church gathers around the living Spirit of Christ.

So when Jesus, here in Jn. 21, says, invites them to “Come have breakfast,” he breaks the bread and fish and gives it to his disciples he invites true communion, true sharing and eating together in the midst of the Res. Christ.

This gives us a deeper appreciation for how we might understand “communion.”

The idea of breaking and giving underscores that the res. community does not live for itself but for the very sustenance of others. And that when we follow God’s mission, there is enough.

This idea of “enough” is symbolized in the fish and bread, First, with the abundant catch of 153, but it also reminds us of Jesus’ most publicized miracle of feeding the 5,000. (Jn. 6, 6x)

Taking what we have and giving it to others is the mission of the church. This is meant to be taken literally. They literally ate breakfast. Jesus literally invites his followers to bring their catch, break it, and disperse it. And in the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000, give it to the hungry. The meaning behind the 5,000 is a communion rooted in giving to those in need and having enough to do so.

Following the story in Jn 21. eventually everybody gets to the shore and the place is all set up for their last breakfast together with Jesus. Jesus has fired up his grill — Now one of the biggest questions I have here is: do you think it was a Traeger? (when they still manufactured in the NW?). But if it wasn’t a Traeger, at least it was a charcoal grill. Which, as a guy partial to  charcoal myself, I can appreciate. And by the way, gentleman, here’s your proof that grilling really is biblical. No more need to make excuses for the great lengths you’ll go to just to put some raw meat over an open fire. The reason why eating meat over a fire just seems right is because our Lord did it first.  Who would have thought that grilling is a deeply Christian spiritual discipline?

_bring some: potlucks

Probably one of the most mysterious things about this story is this: Why does Jesus already have the bread and the fish out and still ask his disciples to bring some fish? Was he short-handed? Maybe he didn’t expect to see Thomas? Was he worried they were going to run out of food? If he already had his own food what was with the disciples catching the fish in the first place? And what about the great abundance of the catch (153)?

Why do you think he ask his disciples to: “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught?”

It seems to me part of the issue here reinforces the fact that the res. community is to be a community that listens, rather than a community that finds success in the catch. Maybe Jesus didn’t need the catch, maybe he did, or maybe his beaten down disciples were the ones who needed it. (Ever been like that? You have to do it, see it, experience for yourself?). The fish on the grill then could be a reminder that our primary task isn’t the catch, but to be obedience in listening and being ready. The fish are already there even if we don’t know it.

But there’s something else too.

It’s true Jesus has the grill already fired up. The table is set. He’s got his apron on, while the disciples were fishing he’s been at work.

Then he says, bring some…

“Bring some” is an invitation to his followers to participate, to partner with him, in what is already happening.

Their next move, after swimming to shore, then is to get an invitation to join in. Jesus asks them to put their fish on the fire as well. This res. community is to be as James says, doers of the word, and not just hearers (or spectators or consumers) of it, but practitioners. When Jesus invites his disciples to “bring some” he invites them to a place of intentionality and participation. He wants them to add to what is already there and to make it their own.

This illuminates a point I made at the beginning of the Gospel of John (way back!) when we talked about the “Motion of Love.” The bread and the fish that are already set out on the grill points to the truth that God is already at work long before we get there. We don’t bring God to people, God brings God to people. We might have the fortune of helping, like a midwife, in the birth but that’s it. We’re not the focus, but we’re important to the work as well. While God’s already at work (grilling) we are invited to join in or “bring some.”

So they are invited to share what they have been given. To bring some and offer it.

I find this offering part one of the most difficult parts about life? It’s one thing to listen, it’s one thing to show up, it’s a whole other thing to make an offering, to put something out there for others to experience. (And there are many ways we “offer”).

You know how it is. It’s much easier to be asked for help, than it is to do the asking. It’s one thing to have someone spill their story to you, it’s quite another to tell your own. It’s one thing for someone to trust you, but to be the one to place trust is much harder. It’s always more difficult to be the one making the offering than to have someone else do it.

Why is it harder? There’s many reasons:  one is that we think what we have isn’t good enough (Jesus’ fish are better than our fish). Another reason is the opposite, we don’t like theirs, we’re too good, they’re weird, bad in someway, so we hold back (Jesus’ grilling squaw fish, and we’ have Spring run Chinnook). Sometimes it’s out of a sense of failure that we come. Sometimes we really don’t feel or are not safe: “the last time I was in a situation like this…this happened.” Sometimes we don’t share because we don’t believe there’s enough to go around, we don’t really believe God gives enough, and so we hoard (instead of the God of daily bread, he’s the God we have to protect ourselves from). There’s so many reasons why we hold back.

But then Jesus invites us, bring some. Bring some of what you have.  No matter how tattered, how imperfect, or how good you think you are, we’re invited to come together as a res. community and share what we have and be changed in the process. What you have is needed, even if you have no idea how, or why, bring some anyways. For the res. community to be what it is, it needs all of us, all of our messes as well as our gifts and graces.

The res. community is to be a participatory community where were are fully involved and activated. Where the whole of our lives come into communion with Jesus.

_the first potluck: Conclusion

In other words, This is that this isn’t the last breakfast on the beach so much as the first potluck. Not only do we bring, but we break and we give. That’s right, not only is there justification for grilling in this passage, there’s also justification for potlucking (is that a word?). So while the Last Supper might have been more like going to dinner at someone’s house, the last breakfast is more like a potluck.  And this is a really important difference. One we are guests, the other we are participants.

When Jesus says “bring some” he initiates into the fabric of the new church a participatory culture. The resurrection church is to be a community of participants not just guests. Not people who show up on Sunday to get feed (consumer, spectators), but people who show up to bring some but we give some (ministers, participants, preparation).

So then, this is the first potluck and it’s an image for what the church is to become. A participatory church that shares what it has (break and give). What makes our potlucks so dang good (and we have one on this Sunday) is that we all have different styles, different likes and dislikes, and for some reason it’s just a really good combo. All these different dishes that on their own might seem a bit strange, when we pull them together, make for a really good potluck (or a symphony). And it just so happens that you all make awesome food too! but even still, the important part here is in the bringing and sharing together.

The res. community is called into full participation, it is called to bring some, give some. And by doing both these things, bring and giving, we multiply the grace we’re given.

Open Worship
What do we bring? What do we give? How are we being called to participate?

 

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.