Today’s poem draws on the time after Jesus’s resurrection when he had breakfast with seven of the disciples (John 21:1-14). The disciples had been fishing all night and caught nothing, but when Jesus tells them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat, they catch a large number (of large fish).
There are various ways to take this story. You could say the disciples were returning to what was familiar to them, though I’m more inclined to think they were doing it to relax as much as anything else. I also think the large catch was an affirmation of what they were doing.
The liminal time between Jesus’s resurrection and Pentecost seems to be one where the disciples didn’t really know what was going on. This story shows distinct progress in their thinking (they were not locking themselves away in fear), but there’s still that uncertainty. John 21:12 says no one “dared” to ask him who he was (because they all knew).
For me though, the thing I could never shake with this story is how the resurrected Jesus cannot be contained. On the one hand this is absolutely right: it’s not for us to try and keep him with us or to ourselves. But on the other hand, I have this overwhelming sense of sadness, like the golden age has passed and things can never be the same.
I’m not sure whether today’s poem fits with how the disciples actually felt that morning. But it captures some of my experience of longing and lament. In particular, it’s the feeling that I want to be with Jesus, and I want to be sure that he’ll be with me, but I don’t have that certainty.
And all the miracles of the past and present are no substitute for that assurance.
The morning after
There was a time I dared to tread
Upon the tails of scorpions,
Commanded demons without fear
And bid all fevers cease and flee.
And yet for all those times of might
There came an hour when I failed
And now I do not dare to speak
Of wonders or of miracles.
I don’t deny these things were real
Nor do I think that they have ceased,
But now the rapid pace has waned
And crowds have gone their separate ways,
I find that I cannot be sure
The way that I was sure before.
I hesitate to make claim
To say you’ll be there, when you won’t.
I feel so hollow and so bland
Awaking hard to hostile day
An anti-climax of my life
Where every future’s painted grey.
And yet, and yet, we share this meal
Al fresco in the morning chill,
A fire and fish to break the fast
While all around is calm and still.
I want to speak, but dare not ask
How you will spend your time today.
Do you know I want to know
How long you plan to sit and stay?
I’m overwhelmed by just how much
That, still, I do not understand,
And all these fish cannot compare
To making footprints in the sand.
All poems in this series can be found via the tag Easter2021.
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