READING: John 21:1-19
SERMON : "The Sacrament of The Ordinary"
Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
Most of us are very much the first disciples of Jesus -
which is to say that no only do we share their virtues -
we also share their flaws - .
Most of us are like them in an area that for professed
Christians, one would think we ought not to be in - namely we -
like them - have difficulty in recognizing the risen Lord.
It seems that we - like Peter and James and all the rest are all
too often caught flat footed by the presence of Christ in our midst
- we have a hard time catching on to the fact that he is among us,
and then once we do get it figured out, we, like they, have a
hard time convincing our brothers and sisters in the faith that
he is really here with us - that he has appeared and spoken to us.
Think of some of the resurrection appearances for a minute.
Think about how different followers of Jesus failed to recognize
him for the longest time and about how when they did finally
clued in, how difficult it was for them to get others to believe
that they had met him and at long last recognized him.
- the disciples refused to believe Mary Magdalene when she
told them that Jesus had appeared to her in the garden
outside the tomb he was buried in - in fact she herself for a
period of time thought she had only met the gardener;
- Then again there was the two disciples who took the road to
Emmaeus and during that long walk from Jerusalem spent the
better part of the day talking with Jesus without recognizing
him, - in fact it wasn't till the supper hour, when he
blessed and broke the bread, that they finally realized who
they were with.
And then of course there is the story from today's gospel reading
about how, after Jesus had already been with his disciples on two
separate occasions in the upper room, they end up failing to
recognize him - at least right away - when they are fishing on
the Sea of Tiberius and he comes to the shore and hollers at them
to let their nets down on the other side of the boat.
Why is that the disciples do not seem to recognize Jesus -- at
least right away?
And why is that they refuse to believe other people when they
claim to have met the risen Christ?
I don't think it is good enough to say that the disciples were
thick headed, although the evidence might tempt us to say so --
Nor do I dare suggest that disciples were dumb because - as I
suggested at the beginning of the sermon - we are like them.
I think that the answer lies elsewhere -
I think that the reason that the disciples don't recognize Jesus
in their midst and the reason that we ourselves don't recognize
Jesus in our lives
is that we don't expect to see him, or - if in fact we do
expect to see him - we expect to see him only in certain
kinds of places, and not in others.
When I was living in Sambro - a fishing village on the East Coast
I met a very nice young woman who lived across the street from
the church - she had recently come to believe in God and as a
result she occasionally attended church.
Mary's faith began with the birth of her first child.
As she went through that incredible experience she realized that
there was God, a beautiful God who gives life and joy, and for
her God was always to be found in the laughter of her child.
I asked her where else God might be found for her and she replied
that you might be able to meet God on Sambro Island,
a beautiful, rugged, and lonely island off the entrance of
the harbour on which a lighthouse has existed since the
Halifax area was first settled,
but she doubted that one could meet God in too many other places
- she did not think it likely that God was to be found in the
village of Sambro itself, and even it was even less likely that
God could be found in downtown Halifax.
God, after all, does not hang around in traffic jams, or
associate himself with areas that are dirty and dingy and
crowded. God is to be found in the lonely places - the beautiful
Mary moved away shortly after I arrived in the village,
so I do not know if she ever met God anywhere else than where she
thought he was - but since those days I have met many people who
feel that God is to be found and that Christ is to be found,
only in special places
- in places like this where there is stained glass and high
ceilings and a special kind of quiet
- or out in the woods and by the lakes where the loon's call
and the splash of the jumping fish still a person's heart,
- or even in, as with Mary, in birth of a child and the
special feelings associated with an old lighthouse island.
Where do you find the risen Christ?
Where do you sense that God is - where do go to hear his voice
speaking inside you and to feel his presence comforting you and
giving you renewed strength for the mission that he calls you
We all need special places to go,
places of quiet and of peace,
where we can mediate and pray and think about what it is
that God is asking of us,
places where we find, without too much difficulty, our God
present with us.
We need this - but if we settle only for this,
or think that we can only meet God in these places,
we will end up with an impoverished faith,
we will end up missing the presence of Christ
in all those other places where he is.
And that is sad - it is sad - because if we miss Christ in the
ordinary places of our lives then we also miss all that he can
teach us there and all that he can do in us and through us there.
Where do you find God? Where do you encounter Christ?
Think of where Jesus was found after the resurrection -
- he was found in a cemetery garden
- he was found in a room that was locked and shuttered up - a
room, in which a group of men and women hid in fear for their
- He was discovered on a dusty road outside the city
- and by the seashore cooking and serving a meal of bread and
Some of these locations were special places we might think,
but it is really only our thinking that makes them so -
or rather - it is the presence of Christ there in those
ordinary places that makes them special.
Consider too where Jesus was to be found before the resurrection
at a wedding -- out in a fishing boat -- at the neighbours
house -- in the village market place -- at the temple -
teaching -- at a well - talking with a Samaritan woman --
and in many other places and with many types of people-
Jesus went everywhere and avoided no one. Because of this fact
some people said, before he was crucified that he could not be
the Messiah - he could not be the Holy One because he was to be
found in places where holy people would not go.
They missed recognizing Jesus and they missed the salvation that
he offered them because they did not expect the Saviour to be
found in any places other than the special places they had
identified in their own minds as the right kind of places.
How strange it would be if we, who now believe in him as the
risen Lord, end up missing his presence because we too think
that he is only to be found in special places - in places like
Sambro Island, or our favourite spot in the woods.
God is everywhere,
and our risen Lord is everywhere,
his spirit is all around us,
and if we pay just a bit of special attention, we can see him
and talk with him and serve him and be served by him in all
those places - this very day.
The ordinary becomes sacred, it becomes sacramental
when we are willing and able to see God dwelling in it
when we are willing and able to allow God to transform it.
When you think about it for a moment that is what a church
building is all about -
to those without faith it is nothing but bricks and board and
glass; a building - built in a strange way perhaps, but for
all the strangeness still a building like all others,
But for us here today this ordinary building is a sacred place -
a sacramental place -
not only do we meet and serve God here
but in it, as well, God meets us and serves us,
making us stronger and more at peace than the world that is
The ordinary becomes sacred because we meet Christ in it.
The disciples you know were only a little bit slow in recognizing
Jesus. Ultimately they identified him in and through all the
things he did in their presence.
He showed them where to catch fish, he helped them to get their
living, and they recognized him and thanked him.
He broke bread with them and they recognized him and were
strengthened by him.
He healed the sick and gave sight to the blind, and they
identified him and confessed him as Lord..
He taught with authority and commanded evil to depart and they
perceived that God was working among them.
He loved the unlovable and forgave those who sinned and they saw
that God was working salvation in their midst.
Christ is here today in this place -
and Christ will be with you when you leave -
and Christ will appear before you as you go about and talk
and work with the people around you.
The test of our faith is this -
will you see him where ever you go?
will you hear him calling to you in the words of the hungry and
the lonely and see him working in the actions of the healers and
Will you be in touch with him as you make your living each day
and break your bread at each evening meal?
Or will most of Christ's ministering and loving presence be lost
- because to you those people are ordinary people
those events ordinary events
and those activities ordinary activities?
The disciples were a bit slow in recognizing the risen Christ -
they did not think he would appear to them,
and we are like them - in our flaws,
but we are also like them in our virtues
and our virtues can, like those of the disciples increase
day by day, if we, like they, remember to seek the risen
Christ and to serve him in all the things we do,
in both those things we regard as ordinary and in those we regard
as special. AMEN
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 1008, 2001, 2004
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.