Fear Itself: A Reflection on John 21:1-19
(Photo: Mr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the “AM” in AM Radio.)
#FearItself is the Podcast for April 10, 2016. The invention of the AM Radio frequency, trust, hope, fishing, and Jesus; how do they all relate? Listen here in this podcast: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #HeIsRisen #Raised #Quit #LeeDeForest #AMRadio #FDR #Trust #Faith #Mission
(This podcast was originally aired April 9, 2016)
Full Text of Podcast, Open Here (For Our Deaf and H/H Brethren)
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 4/10/2016 The 3rd Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read John 21:1-19.
About.com has this great section I like to read about inventions. It has a section on inventions that no one believed in but the inventor. Some people, with their entire fortune at stake, would put their necks out because they believed in the product they were selling. One such person was Lee De Forest. About.com has this to say about De Forest, “American, Lee De Forest was an inventor that worked on early radio technology. De Forest’s work made AM radio with tunable radio stations possible. De Forest decided to capitalize on radio technology and promoted the spreading of the technology.
Today, we all know what radio is and have listened to a radio station. However, in 1913 a U.S. District Attorney began prosecution of DeForest for selling stock fraudulently through the mail for his Radio Telephone Company. The District Attorney stated that “Lee DeForest has said in many newspapers and over his signature that it would be possible to transmit the human voice across the Atlantic before many years. Based on these absurd and deliberately misleading statements, the misguided public has been persuaded to purchase stock in his company.”” (http://inventors.about.com/od/famousinventions/tp/bad-predictions.htm)
What De Forest did was invent the technology to broadcast AM radio stations and to receive those stations in an AM radio. Think about it, every car on the road has an AM radio in it. American politics is greatly influenced by AM radio. Yet, the idea of having anything like a radio, and it was De Forest who coined the word “radio”, was so absurd that De Forest was prosecuted for it. Due to my fanaticism for the Chicago Cubs, I am very glad that De Forest did not give up and go back to whatever it was that he was doing.
That is exactly what we find the disciples doing. We find Peter, James, John, Nathaniel, Thomas (Who touched the Lord’s hands and feet after the Resurrection), and two others fishing. They are not out in the world organizing communities of faith. They are not preaching in the agora. They are not being persecuted for their faith or thinking of ways to evangelize their town or neighborhood. Instead, they went back to what they knew since Jesus was no longer walking in their midst every minute of the day.
We often have this glorified idea that the disciples were people who faced adversity and never quit. When I read this passage, it looks like quitting. It looks like life is too hard when we don’t have the palpable experience of Jesus right in front of us. It looks like the Crucifixion, the Resurrection appearances, and all that were good while they lasted, but now that the disciples were on their own to trust, make decisions, move forward, they were paralyzed.
Fear is the great tool of the Devil. If he can paralyze you with fear and indecision, then he can win. If he can keep you thinking if I just stand her under this bridge, I will be safe, as the earthquake comes and the bridge collapses on top of you. It is the great lie that if we just stand pat, we will be OK. There will come many times in our faith when we are faced with decisions and it seems like Christ is nowhere to be found. It can seem bleak. It can seem frightening. We can think to ourselves that the answer is to go back to what we know, what we are used to doing. We want to return to our comfort zone.
It may very well be that we encounter Jesus in the safe places of our lives. It is indeed a spiritual direction tool to take people in meditation back to where they feel safe to have an encounter with Jesus. Yet, we never leave them there.
Here in this passage the disciples have abandoned their calling and mission, encounter Jesus who reminds them through the sign of the huge load of fish what their mission is, and then reinforces that message by asking Peter if he really does love Jesus enough to make feeding his lambs his life’s work. Being a Christian is hard in this world. Being a minister is incredibly hard. Being the family member of a minister or a priest who lives with them can seem impossible.
The truth is that we go back to fishing because it is what we know. We are certain that we will catch fish and make a living. Yet, what we see in this passage is that we are not making it. We are not getting any fish. We are not catching any fish because we have a new focus in our lives. That focus is Jesus Christ who calls us to go and feed his lambs, catch his fish, bring others into the church and witness by our lives the love of Christ.
It was De Forest’s inventions that brought United States listeners “nothing to fear, but fear itself,” as they were in the grips of the Great Depression. Imagine if the prosecution by the district attorney actually did prevent De Forest from giving us his inventions. Would radio have spread in time for FDR to reassure us that there was “nothing to fear, but fear itself?”
What would the world be like if Mother Theresa listened to the sad and lonesome voices in her heart? What if Saint Catherine of Siena decided not to write Pope Gregory about beginning to extract the papacy from influence by kings? What if Corrie Tenboom had decided that the Nazi’s were too powerful to risk helping Jews escape from Nazi occupied Netherlands?
Like I said last week, we are the Church. Jesus is in our midst. We have the perspective of the universe and the power of the living God. The Lord is our strength and our salvation, of whom shall we be afraid? Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2016.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian