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Picking Up The Pieces When Dreams Have Died

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Third Sunday of Easter - Gospel Reading: John 21:1-19

It all began in a boat down by the lake... the reluctant dream of an impulsive fisherman who actually believed he might be intimately involved with someone who was going to change the world. That dream had come hard -- indeed at first he rejected the thought. Someone like him associated with a holy man like the Carpenter from Nazareth?

Not on your life! This Jesus who had the audacity to commandeer his boat and then tell a fisherman how to fish? "...we have worked all night long but have caught nothing -- (Oh well, what's another empty net in a night filled with empty nets?) -- "Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets."

Then it happened! "...they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break," Luke reports. From that moment on, Simon Peter's life was defined by a dream.

History is filled with people who have dreamed big dreams like the dream of a poor black child, named Jackie Robinson in an all white world. "I will play baseball with a professional team of white players.

The dream of George Washington Carver that began with the prayer, "Lord, why did you make the peanut?"

The dream of a defeated man named Abraham Lincoln who said, "I think I will run for president!"

There is the dream of a diminutive nun named Sister Theresa who said, "I want to touch a poor child in Calcutta."

History will never be the same since the dream of a a young Indian named Gandhi, who thought, "There must be another way to regain our country from the British."

Yet, dreams are not just for those whose dreams make them famous. There are all kinds of everyday dreamers like you and me who dream that somehow, someway, our lives might make a difference in this world. Our childhood images were filled with, "Cinderella," "The Little Train that Could," or any of a hundred other tales that fired our hearts with the notion that we could -- if we hoped, prayed and worked hard enough -- make a real difference in our world!

***

But there is a kind of a "downside" to dreams. They are not always fulfilled and indeed, they sometimes crash and burn. Is there anyone in America who can not identify who said, "I have a dream..." Chilling -- isn't it? I mean what can happen to dreams. What an incredibly painful thing it is when dreams die. Somewhere in most of our lives there is at least one dream that fell apart. Some broken dreams may have to do with major issues that change the direction of our lives -- others are simply a temporary inconvenience, but most of us have been there. The dream that had become the heartbeat of Peter's life was huge. While most of us "have" dreams -- this dream "had" Peter.

Peter's Journey

One way to fully appreciate the struggle of Peter's journey is to examine some of the more powerful statements he made to Jesus during the course of their relationship.

All of us can remember some of the significant things we've said to special people in our lives. For instance, can you remember the first time you said, "I love you" or maybe a time when you said in anger, "I'm leaving" or that amazing experience when you asked, "Will you marry me?" Some of the important statements we've made to others can actually document the development of our relationships -- and maybe even our dreams. By taking a closer look, we can trace, the rise and fall of Peter's dreams in four amazing statements he made to Jesus and one he made at the end to a crowd of bystanders.

"Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" At the very beginning when Jesus had directed Peter to a "catch" so unbelievable, Peter was confronted with awesome divinity in the person of a carpenter from Nazareth and fell to his knees.

"Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." Spoken when a boat full of terrified disciples saw Jesus walking toward them on the water. Peter's life changing desire to step out in faith.

"You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Can you imagine Peter ever forgetting the day he identified the Messiah who then changed his name to "The Rock"?

"Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you." Blurted out when things were coming unglued (at least in the disciple's view), Jesus has just said that all of them would desert him. Peter's vehement response was a heartfelt affirmation of loyalty.

"I do not know the man!" These words must have stuck like velcro to Peter's soul for the rest of his life. They represent the moment Peter's dreams died! The fisherman who identified the Messiah of God and went to the mountain top with Jesus became the disciple who denied the Lord and sunk to the depths of dreamless despair.

***

Peter's Devastation

Peter's dream finally saw him arrive at the worst experience of his life. Hope, joy and expectation, tentative at first, grew into full blown excitement for the "new world order" [the real one!], Jesus was bringing. The Kingdom of God was at hand -- within reach -- the sick were being made well, crowds were discovering "the joy of the Lord" and evil was on the run. The unknown fisherman and his friends from the North were about to be apart of ushering in God's plan for Israel.

The denial was beyond belief! Just to make sure the accusing bystanders believed him, Peter punctuated his denial with curses, "I do not know the man!" Then Peter's world collapsed. He wound up heartbroken and soul sick. It is like that when dreams die. If you have ever had a time when your fondest hopes were smashed or your most cherished dreams were dashed -- you can relate to Peter at this lowest point in his life.

Maybe it is a marriage that failed, a child who turned the wrong way or a career that ended. Whatever the experience and however it came to us -- most of us have experienced the trauma of shattered dreams and broken hearts.

Peter's Road to Recovery

Hang in! Just like the saying goes, "It ain't over 'till it's over!" If Peter could rise from the ashes of his devastation, there is healing for broken dreams that is available to you and me. The road to recovery for Peter went something like this:

1. Roots: Back to the Beginning

Some commentators believe this episode from the conclusion to John's gospel to be simply another expression of Luke's story of the amazing "catch". (Luke 5) The problem with this approach, however, is that it is too stuck in a thinking mode and does not does not consider the very natural and even necessary flow of the way our emotional lives work. The most natural thing in the world, when trouble and trial come is to go back to the beginning of our experience.

The fact is, Jesus meets Peter at the beginning point of their relationship. Of course Peter would go back to fishing. Of course we want to go "home" when something terrible hits. The key point here is: God will meet us at the point where we first began to dream.

2. Recognizing Christ in our Lives

There are a number of incidents in the gospels where followers of Christ have difficulty recognizing who he is. The disciples on the Emmaus road, Mary in the Garden and now these fishermen are somewhat uncertain of just who it is that calls to them from the shore.

Where was Christ at the beginning of your dream? Was God involved in the shaping of the dream? The point of our gospel story is a strong one: "Did you see me at the beginning of your dreams? How did I fit in? Do you see me now in the brokenness?

If we open our spirit to the still small voice within, we may hear the voice of the Lord, "Come back to where you began. I was there in the beginning and I am willing to be with you now. Recognize me and involve me in your present and I will be with you in your future!"

We can not find healing for our broken dreams until we open up to ("recognize" ) the presence of Christ in our circumstances. The point of the gospel lesson is... "Christ was there when it all began -- He is present now -- even when it is difficult to recognize him. A sure beginning step in recovery is to pray, "Lord help me to see you here and now in the midst of my difficulty."

3. Reestablishing Our First Love - The Meaning of Threes

Sometimes dreams die and we have absolutely no control over the events and forces that bring about their demise. Sometimes we have used bad judgement or otherwise contributed to the demise of our own dreams. And then again, sometimes we've been just plain foolish.

[Like the guy whose dream was to have such great faith in God, he would be able to prove God's existence to others. He felt such an opportunity for great witness came when he had joined others on the lookout floor of a giant skyscraper. He announced to a startled crowd that he has such faith in God's love that God would cancel the law of gravity for him. The he jumped over the fence and plummeted to the ground. As he dropped past the twentieth floor, he was heard to exclaim, "So far so good!"]

Peter contributed to the demise of his own dream by trusting too much in his own strength. He made the very natural mistake of saying, "Lord, I will be strong for you!" Instead, he would later have to learn to pray, "Lord, give me strength to serve You!"

There's something about the number three. "Three strikes and you're out," or "Third time's a charm." After breakfast on what must have been an incredibly joyful reunion on the Northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, there is a bit of unfinished business to take care of. Interestingly, the gospel says, "This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead." Then, as if to take him through the three denials -- face him with his need for grace. Jesus asks Peter three times, "Do you love me?" And true enough -- the third time was the charm. "Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time... 'Do you love me?'"

In other words, Jesus finally had Peter's attention and was able to help him put his life on track to regain the dream. Only this time it would not be Peter's personal, private dream. It would be the dream of God within him -- the dream of "Good News" for all who would receive it.

Jesus' final instruction to Peter is the essence of simplicity and brilliance. "Follow me!" The greatest thing in all the world -- the thing that can bring the greatest joy and fulfillment of the most magnificent dream is the great commandment Jesus gave some time before this early morning breakfast... "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength!" In other words, love God with all you've got and your life and dreams will line up with God's design for your living.

Love of God -- deep within our lives can become the driving force of our dreams. As with Peter's recovery, we too may need to look carefully at just how central God has been in our living and in our dreaming.

See Also:

Lovest Thou Me?
by Rev. C. H. Spurgeon

Do You Love Me? Feed My Lambs
by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

Forgiveness for Peter Moments
by Teresa Fry Brown

Restoring Simon Peter
by Rev. Fr. George T

Do You Have A Genuine Love For Christ?
by Rev. Fr. Gheevarghese John

Do You Love Me More Than These?
by Rev. Fr. Mathew Chacko

Devotional Thoughts on Second Sunday after the New Sunday
by Rev. Fr. George T

Devotional Thoughts for Second Sunday after New Sunday
by Rev. Fr. Mathew Chacko

Devotional Thoughts for the 2nd Sunday after the New Sunday
by Watchman Upon the Wall

Devotional Thoughts for 2nd Sunday after the New Sunday
by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

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