John 21 meditation

Version for Grace 'Breakfast' service May 2003 [original for Greenbelt 1998]


we're going to do a meditation based around the last chapter of john's gospel, which takes us right into the situation in our imaginations. i'll be reading it, but at a slow pace and there will be periods of silence to give you space to follow the scene in your mind's eye, or pray

consequently the meditation will last about half an hour
this is a long time to be still and quiet, although i hope that you'll be so absorbed that you won't notice
so there are pens and paper scattered around if you want to draw or write during the meditation to respond or think or pray
but if you do please do so quietly
so as not to disturb other people

make yourselves comfortable
find a position in which you can relax and be still
and when you have found that position
close your eyes

now take a deep breath - long, deep, fill your lungs
hold it for a few seconds then breathe out - all the way out

and again a deep breath in - hold - then out again

now become aware of the space around you
let the walls of the building fade away
leaving you exposed to the night sky and the cold...

several weeks ago, your world fell apart.
when the big test came, you just couldn't cope
you blew it for yourself
and you blew it for someone else when they needed you more than ever.

and so you left the city and came back to a place where they wouldn't know what you'd done
and took up the job you'd left in the days of hope

and now it is after midnight
and you are alone
in a boat on a lake
the net is over the side, submerged in the water
and you are waiting.

draw up the net.
how do you feel when the net comes up empty?

let the net down again
watch it slip away silently into the water

and wait. watch the water. watch the sky. and listen.

then draw up the net again.
it is still empty.
how do you feel?
let it down again into the water, maybe in a different place.

and wait. watch and listen.
are you sleepy or alert?

draw up the net
how do you feel when it comes up empty the third time?

row the boat to a different place
let the net down again
are you hopeful? are you resigned? frustrated?


draw up the net.
it is empty
how do you react?

you have come back to something you know well how to do, and now even that skill has deserted you.
how does it feel to be a failure?

it is beginning to get lighter.
the sky is turning from black to blue
it is cold
there is a mist drifting in patches on the lake
above it you see the hills silhouetted against the slowly brightening sky.

far off on the shore, you hear a bird start to sing

what kind of song is it?
is it melodious or harsh?
few notes or many?

at first it is alone
then another starts to sing, a different song
then two more, then many at once and you cannot count them any more.
listen to the dawn chorus.
there is no other sound except the gentle waves against the boat.

something moves on the shore.
you cannot make it out clearly through the drifting mist.
there it is again.
what is it?
an animal? or a person?

it is a person
how do you feel?
are you glad to see them or not?
do you want to meet them?

suddenly the person on the shore is calling to you
asking you if you have caught anything.
will you lie to them or admit your failure?

now they are telling you where to let down your nets.
how do you feel? you are the fisherman. who are they?
are you going to take their advice?

row the boat to a different place
let the net down again
are you hopeful? are you resigned? frustrated?


draw up the net.
it is full
how do you react?

the net is too full to drag into the boat, so you start to row towards the shore, hoping it won't break.
suddenly the first light of the rising sun breaks over the hills and across the shore, full onto the stranger.
and you see who it is.

it is Jesus.
the friend you have hurt.
how do you feel?
are you glad to see him or not?
do you want to meet him?

as you approach the shore you see that Jesus has already lit a fire
there is a smell of cooking fish
but you don't understand where he got them

as you step out of the boat he comes to meet you
your eyes meet

what do you see there?
how do you feel?
what are you going to say?
he seems not to notice your feelings
he offers you breakfast
you eat in silence

after breakfast, you and Jesus walk along the shore.
he asks you if you are really his friend.
how do you feel? what is your reply?
he asks you if you are really his friend again.
how do you feel at being asked twice? what is your reply?
he asks you if you even like him.
how do you feel now? how do you reply?

he has something he wants you to do for him.
how do you feel?
how do you feel when he tells you this is something only you can do?
when he tells you that this time you won't fail?

what is it that he is inviting you to do?
that only you can do?
ask him about it
be open about your fears and questions
what are his answers?
are you going to accept?

when you have decided
say goodbye for now to Jesus
and get back into the boat

put out into the lake
in the blazing sunshine of a new day

the sun is warm
and your eyes are closed

slowly become aware of the building again
as you do so
bring with you
any insights you have had

now open your eyes

[invite people to eat grilled fish and drink]