Wild Lectionary: Raised for the Great Turning

Easter 3C
John 21:1-19

Bring some fish you have caught and come and have breakfast

By The Rev. Marilyn Zehr

This week I loved reading the resurrection story of barbequed fish and bread on the beach through Joanna Macy’s three narrative lens of business as usual, the great unraveling, and the great turning.

After Jesus’ death and the empty tomb, Peter returns to what he knows best – business as usual. “I’m going fishing,” he announces.  And his friends reply, “We’ll go with you.” They fish all night and catch nothing.  I think of Macy’s second narrative, the great unraveling.  Life on this planet is failing fast.  Recently a colony of emperor penguins disappeared due to loss of breeding habitat. When I despair about oceans that are groaning under the weight of human interference, plastic garbage, and over-fishing, I have trouble seeing and recognizing the man on the beach. Macy tells us to not be afraid of the dark.  We need to look at the very hard realities of our planet’s great unraveling.  It is necessary to do so.

Jesus whom they/we do not recognize calls to them/us from the beach, “Children, you have no fish, have you?”

Peter and his friends and we reply – “no.”  Clearly, business as usual no longer works.

We lament, “After the cruelty of humanity crucified Jesus, (and we crucify everything on this planet), and the empty tomb (and our sense of being alone in our mess) all we are left with is our sense of the great unraveling.”

 “Cast your net to the right side of the boat,” comes the invitation from the shore.

“But there aren’t any fish in these waters anymore.  We’ve overfished and poisoned these waters.”

“Cast your net to the right side of the boat.”

“You mean, listen, do as you say, and change up business as usual?”

 “Yes, and you will find some fish.”

And we do what he says and there are more fish than can be hauled into the boat.

And we turn again to the shore and recognize the man who stands there.

We recognize the one who invites us to wake up glad (as Macy also says).

There is barbequed fish and bread.

“Bring some of the fish you have caught and come and have breakfast.”

Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them and did the same with the fish.

Shared food, simple pleasures, simple joy and the great turning has begun.

Where does the great turning that Macy speaks of begin, according to our resurrection narrative?

It begins when we listen to the One who lives, who was raised after suffering from our cruelty and hauls us into resurrection life with him through shared food, simple pleasures, and simple joy.  And when Jesus wants to check to see if the great turning has really taken hold of Peter, he asks him if he loves him three times.

“If the great turning of love has really taken hold of you,” then “feed my sheep,” he says.  The great love of the great turning carries with it the joy of responsibility.


Cathedral of the Trees celebrated this Easter Sunrise story on a frozen lakeshore on the edge of Algonquin Park, Ontario.   We were a small group of people.  We sang.   We listened to spring bird song and witnessed with joy that the ice of our northern lake was slowly giving way to water.  We heard the story of Peter’s great turning.  Through these things, Jesus was alive on our beach hauling us into life as we shared a meal of barbequed fish and bread.

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 6.45.39 AM

In small gatherings all over the globe the simple yet beautiful love of the great turning threatens to raise us all.


Marilyn Zehr is a 7th generation Mennonite settler, a Spiritual Director and a Minister in the United Church of Canada who seeks to be attuned to the Sacred through the earth and it’s creatures. Marilyn and her wife, Svinda Heinrichs, reside on a 64-acre piece of unceded Algonquin territory where they also lead Cathedral of the Trees Wild Church. This healing hilltop land was once on the shores of an ancient glacial lake known as the Shawashkong and now overlooks a vast river valley in the Ottawa River watershed.  Follow our adventures on https://riseabove470.wordpress.com

Wild Lectionary is a weekly reflection on land, creation and environmental justice themes in the texts of the revised common lectionary, curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territories.

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