“The High Dive,” John 21: 1-14

I want to describe what I would guess is a familiar situation to you. A family is at a pool. They’ve got a relatively young child. The child wants to get in the pool, but fear has crippled him. He’s on the diving board or right at the edge of the pool about to jump in, but just can’t do it. And so finally a parent, after all the other options have been exhausted, comes up behind and pushes the child into the pool. After the initial panic the child realizes he’s in the water, he know how to swim, everything is fine. I tried to find a video of this scenario for you but the internet let me down, I could not find anything appropriate for this setting. I’m pretty confident you don’t need a visual though, I’d assume you can picture this moment in your head.

That was not the way David and Susan Corley got me to swim. I had the opposite experience. I took lessons, and after the lessons I went into the shallow end with so many floats that no actual skin touched the water, and then fewer floats, fewer floats, finally after an eighteen-month process I was in the deep end alone (Andrew’s Note: this is obviously a little bit of an exaggeration, just go with the moment). It was probably the most cliched millennial part of my cliched millennial childhood, I’m sure I got a participation trophy every step of the way. But it worked! I have never found myself in a situation where I wasn’t confident in my ability to swim and survive in a body of water or where I felt uncomfortable in pool. Except for one time. One year I went to camp. And at the camp pool there was a high dive. And it looked so fun. But I don’t like heights. I enjoy the rush of coming down from a great height like on a roller coaster or zipline or something like that but I don’t love the part right before the rush where you’re aware of how high you are. So a high dive is really my nightmare because you have to climb and then wait for the person ahead to go, there’s a lot time to be aware of how high. And so everyday I would go to the pool and see people jumping off and know that I had to go up there, I had to experience the rush, but I would get to the ladder and look up and my legs would go shaky and I would make some kind of excuse and leave the line and then pool time would be over and I would have missed my chance. This scenario played out every day, until finally, on the last day I sucked it up and climbed the ladder, jumped off, had a great time, and did it again and again as many times as I could before my time ended.

I wish there was a better ending to that story. When I write my memoir I’ll definitely insert some profound moment or wise person who inspired me or something like that but you all will know that that’s a lie. Literally what happened is that my desire to jump off the high dive and feel the rush of the jump overcame my desire not to be up that high.

At the end of the day, if we really want to do something we’ll do it. If we don’t want to do something we can come up with a million reasons not to do, a ton of ways to get out of it, but if we’re faced with something that deep down we want to do the exact same reasons against it will not carry the same kind of weight. We’ll brush those excuses aside and figure out a way through. School starts for a lot of folks tomorrow, we’re always sicker in the morning before school than we are in the afternoon when a friend invites us over, right? I’m a lot more afraid of heights when its time to climb up and clean out gutters than I am on a roller coaster or a high dive. If we really want to do something we’ll do it.

Peter wanted to see Jesus. John doesn’t give us any indication of how much time has passed after Easter when the events of our scripture this morning take place but the fact that this group of disciples are back at the Sea of Galilee is a clue that it has been a while since they last saw Jesus a week after his resurrection. They’ve left Jerusalem and headed north, back towards home, and in all this time Peter still hasn’t talked to Jesus. Mary talked to Jesus. Thomas talked to Jesus. Other unnamed disciples have talked to Jesus, but Peter has not. The last conversation Peter and Jesus had was Peter saying “no matter what, I’ll always be with you,” and then failing spectacularly at that. And even though they’ve seen Jesus Peter hasn’t gotten an opportunity to make things right.

All of that apparently has started to build up in Peter, its started to take its toll on him, because he announces to the group that he’s going fishing. Get out on the boat, clear his head, work with his hands, get his mind right. Some folks tag along, they fish all night, they don’t catch anything but it still probably helped their purpose, and then from the shore someone tells them to try the other side. And they dots don’t connect yet. People make a big deal about the fact that John puts this event at the very end, after the resurrection while the other Gospels that record a miraculous catch have it at the beginning. The explanation that works for me is that John knew his readers had access to those other Gospels and so he was able to appeal to the stories folks knew without having to specifically include them. We don’t see a birth story but he talks about Mary (Jesus’ mother) like someone the reader should know. There isn’t a specific scene where Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist but Jesus is found interacting with him. We aren’t given a record of another catch of fish, but we’re supposed to know what’s about to happen even if the disciples don’t.

And what happens is what happened in the first week of our fish stories, a miraculous catch, so many fish the boat almost sinks, and in that moment the disciples catch on, and Peter wraps up and jumps out of the boat. He wanted to see Jesus that much. He needed to talk to him, needed to be in his presence so much that he couldn’t wait, couldn’t let any more time pass, he had to get to shore to get to Jesus.

When we want to do things, we’ll do what it takes to do them. When we want to do something, we’ll climb up the high dive, we’ll leap out of the boat, we’ll do whatever we have to to do it. We all have things that we’ll leap out of the boat for. We all have things that we’ll pursue and embrace regardless of the cost and regardless of the risks. The question we have to wrestle with is: is Christ one of those things. Is our faith significant enough to us, is knowing Christ important enough to us that we’ll leap from the boat in order to pursue it?

One of the hallmarks of the Gospel of John which we see here is that receiving abundance leads people to recognizing Jesus. This was true last week when we looked at the feeding of the 5000, and it is true at the very first miracle John records where we see Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding. When the disciples receive or experience gifts of abundance they recognize who Jesus is, they see as the one whom God has sent. The life of discipleship, the life of faith, begins by recognizing the gifts we’re given and the one who gives them. Most of us don’t like to think about the things we’ve been given. Most of us, wrapped up in the American Dream, focus on the way we’ve earned everything we’ve got, on how our hard work has gotten us to where we are. And I don’t want to downplay that but I do want to draw our attention to something – in scripture abundance is always a gift from God. Any great accomplishment, any gain, abundance always comes from God. I wonder how different our lives would look if we saw our abundance as a gift. If we recognized that nothing we have has come entirely from our own efforts but that the abundant gifts of an abundant God are presented to us as examples of what can happen if we’re willing to leap from the boat and follow him. Would you pray with me?

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