Encounter on the Beach

There is a phrase in the Scottish Episcopal Churches Eucharistic prayer for Easter: ‘welcoming weary fishers on the shore’.

I would be hard pressed to pick a favourite resurrection appearance but this beach breakfast (referencing John 21) along with the Emmaus Road and Mary in the garden are my top three and while I am extremely fond of all our Easter Eucharistic Prayer, this phrase is a pure joy to me.

This year while we were still deep in Lent, I found myself pondering what those fishers were weary of? I can’t remember what started my pondering, however I did find myself thinking as the Holy Week story unfolded, the disciples sounded increasingly tired and fed up, they sounded weary, even before Jesus’ crucifixion.  For me, even though I love this story of Breakfast on the Beach, a big question has always been. why?  Why having seen the Risen Christ, did they return to Galilee and their nets?  This year, however, the question playing on my mind has been about weariness.  (A word that comes from our Eucharistic Prayer rather than the Bible yet a word which, for me at least, will forever be linked to those fishermen on that morning.)

Why were they weary?  Was it their unsuccessful fishing, or the not knowing what was going to come next, or were they hiding from the authorities out of fear,  maybe the simple mundane return to what life once had been, or understandably the emotional rollercoaster the previous days had taken them on had now caught up and knocked them sidewise. The list goes on; are they weary from the physical work of fishing once more after having left their nets three years previously, are they weary of people telling them that they are delusional and of course Jesus isn’t alive again, are they weary from those sons of thunder – James and John – bickering on the boat, are they weary of the questions zipping round their heads, or are they weary simply because they haven’t had any breakfast and their stomachs are grumbling.

What is it that makes us weary?  So weary that we don’t see the obvious standing in front of us.  So weary we don’t recognise the familiar voice.  So weary we don’t even think twice before doing something which makes no rational sense.  So weary we don’t even realise we are weary.  So weary that until we are refreshed by God we don’t even recognise that gentle encouraging Spirit right there in even the most unexpected of places.

We have been on holiday, while there we visited the wonderful Hoxa gallery where Leila Thomson displays her tapestries which you can see along with her and her daughter Jo’s work over on the web site here.  I think, one of Leila’s works called ‘progression’ speaks powerfully into weariness, unfortunately the tapestry and words aren’t on her web site so I have put them below.

transitions through difficult passages
inwardly searching balance and order
lost among the waves
in a sea of pounding progress
smothering the smouldering soul
awaiting breath to fan the flame
an inert state of confusion
a colour; a line ignite the fires
not one answer, but many
on our journey from birth to the grave.

Leila Thomson

But I digress slightly as what I wanted to blog about was my own encounter on the beach and the discovery of why the disciples weariness had been so much on my own mind.

As I said we have been on holiday, in the wonderful Orkney, I had been looking forward to our return to the islands but had been feeling a bit restless since our arrival.  On our third day we set out to revisit a few spots, one of them being Orphir which we hadn’t been to for a couple of years.  Recently a pilgrim path has been created to weave across the islands and Orphir with its historic links back to Viking Christianity is on that pilgrim way, hence a gate has been made in the wall of the graveyard, linking the ancient ruins with other sites in the Isles.  I had no intention of walking the Pilgrim Way, but that gate was so tempting I set off through it, down along the brook towards the coast.  I didn’t really know why I had set out through the gate, nor why I was being drawn with such determination passed the bridge; in need of repair for the pilgrims to get to their next holy site; and onward to the stony beach.  A final few steps and I was greeted with an deserted expanse and felt my whole body relax and my heart lift.  I sighed so loudly the flock of black faced gulls further near the shore lifted into the air as the vista of a couple of miles of perfection unfolded, my restlessness dissipated and a weariness I hadn’t even realised was there fell from my back like the buden Bunyan’s Christian had carried fell when he spies the Sepulchre.  The next phrase from the SEC’s Eucharistic Prayer for Easter is: ‘he renewed the promise of his presence’.

I could now give you a blow by blow account of the next two hours, but I won’t.  Suffice to say this weary fisher was called out of a weariness she wasn’t even aware of, welcomed by someone she wasn’t expecting to meet, and renewed for whatever lies ahead, in her own encounter on the beach. I will however post pictures of two of the things God placed on that beach to encourage and refresh me – a seaweed crown of thorns and an empty tomb.  

John Chapter 21

Jesus later appeared to his disciples along the shore of Lake Tiberias. Simon Peter, Thomas the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, and the brothers James and John,[a] were there, together with two other disciples. Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing!”
The others said, “We will go with you.” They went out in their boat. But they didn’t catch a thing that night.

Early the next morning Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize who he was. Jesus shouted, “Friends, have you caught anything?”
“No!” they answered.
So he told them, “Let your net down on the right side of your boat, and you will catch some fish.”
They did, and the net was so full of fish that they could not drag it up into the boat.
Jesus’ favorite disciple told Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon heard that it was the Lord, he put on the clothes that he had taken off while he was working. Then he jumped into the water. The boat was only about a hundred yards from shore. So the other disciples stayed in the boat and dragged in the net full of fish.
When the disciples got out of the boat, they saw some bread and a charcoal fire with fish on it. 10 Jesus told his disciples, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” 11 Simon Peter got back into the boat and dragged the net to shore. In it were one hundred fifty-three large fish, but still the net did not rip.
12 Jesus said, “Come and eat!” But none of the disciples dared ask who he was. They knew he was the Lord. 13 Jesus took the bread in his hands and gave some of it to his disciples. He did the same with the fish. 14 This was the third time that Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from death.

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One thought on “Encounter on the Beach

  1. Pingback: Orcadian Odyssey 2018 (3) | Flying the Camel

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