Resurrection is Transforming Life

Serendipity conspired with crime a number of years ago to provide me with the perfect visual aid when I went to preach at a church for Sea Sunday. Thieves on the roof and a heavy downpour of rain on the Saturday night produced a well-flooded church!

The sea is a constant theme throughout the Bible and provides Christian spirituality with many fruitful themes. The first disciples were themselves men of the sea, and the resurrection appearance of Jesus by the Sea of Tiberius (John 21) has many echoes of earlier encounters with those same men.

Stranger on the shore

The stranger on the shore comes into the lives of the fishermen, unnoticed and uninvited, much as he had done three years or so before. The incredible catch; had that not happened the last time too? That first time it was Peter who, knowing that he was in the presence of someone very unusual, had come out with the odd desire that Jesus should leave him, as he was a sinful man. Far from acceding to the request, Jesus in effect invited himself into Peter’s life for the next three years, and then forever onwards. After breakfast Jesus had business to conclude with Simon alone. The one who had denied him three times now had to pledge anew his allegiance to the Lord he undoubtedly loved. This was not a test by Jesus, but a kind of undoing of the past.

This was the revelation of a truth that resurrection in a marvellous way rolled up history and then spread it back out again, with the weaknesses and sins now the points of growth and glory. The memories of all that the disciples had been through those past three years were suddenly illuminated in a new and revealing fashion.

The past runs out in joy

The past still stands, and its echoes still reverberate in an individual’s life, but now that noise need not be a reminder of doom and failure, but the merry heavenly music of forgiveness and new life. Resurrection restores all our bad, failing echoes in the past, and gives them a glorious future. It was not a callous and cynical Lord who brought so much to the minds and memories of the disciples that early morning. What he was doing was bringing his resurrection to bear on their past and transforming what may have been stumbling blocks to their confidence into stepping stones for their journey to heaven.

That trademark of his, and then of his Church, to break bread, proves to be a visual parable of his power to save. The bread is broken to release the resurrection within the action, and all that seems fragmented and insignificant in our lives can bear the weight of an extraordinary holiness.

Now this is real Good News. No matter what we do, no matter how low we sink, no matter how many times we sink again and again below the waves, so long as the waters are those of the resurrection, our pasts become the beginnings of newness in our futures.

Chris Collins, Vicar of Grangetown in the Diocese of Durham.