If someone read the two verses that precede our gospel story this morning and did not already know anything else followed them, that person could close the book and think that was the end. But at least in the form in which it has come down to us today, the Gospel According to John has another chapter tacked on after that apparent ending, like coda at the end of a symphonic movement. That added chapter contains this morning’s gospel story, and if we read the whole chapter, we notice that it doesn’t really end; it just says that Jesus did and said so many things that they could not all be written down.
So the gospel about Jesus never ends – our author this morning just wrote down two endings and then gave up. As Jesus appeared to his disciples going about their business in our story this morning, so Jesus continues to be with all his disciples in their daily lives throughout history, until today, and will continue to be in our lives and the lives of his disciples who come after us, and the disciples who come after them. We could add new chapters every day.
Jesus is always with us, but we don’t always recognize him. Like the disciples fishing this morning, it took something out of the ordinary to make them finally realize that the man standing on the shore was Jesus; so it often takes a stroke of good fortune or a tragedy for us to either thank God for the good fortune or ask him why he allowed the tragedy to occur. There is nothing wrong with doing either of those things, but our lives would be much fuller if we recognized Jesus in our midst every moment of every day, rather than waiting for those special times to wake us up to his presence. If we did that, we would be more comfortable talking with him, and so we would be able to thank him not just for the unusually good things that come our way, but also for the usual daily goodness of simply being alive. We would also be more adept at thanking him for other people=s good fortune, instead of coveting it. The more we got used to having Jesus around, the more we would also be able to grieve with him at all the tragedies that occur in our lives and the lives of others, and the more boldly and intelligently would be our conversation with him about why those bad things happen.
One way to learn to see him always is to take the meal he offers us at this altar, and then remember at the next meal we eat, whether or not it is at home, or at a restaurant, or in our car, that Jesus is with us there, as well. If we do that enough, we will slowly start to remember that he is also with us when we do not eat. In a similar way, as we take Jesus into ourselves at this altar, we remember that the people up here with us are doing the same, so that whenever we see them, we know that Jesus is in them, as well as in us. If we do that enough, we get used to the fact that Jesus is with us whenever we are around others, and even when we are alone.
There are many other ways of getting used to sensing the presence of Jesus in our lives. As we get used to having Jesus around us in our lives, we grow to realize that he will also be with us in our deaths, so that most mysterious part of life loses much of its scary and unsettling aspects. We come to know that whatever awaits us in life or death will be ok, because Jesus will be there with us, always. As the Gospel According to John never really ends, so the Gospel According to Us need not end. Jesus is with us always. We just need to look up and see him. AMEN