How wonderful it is, when we have become familiar and comfortable with something we feel we know well: and yet suddenly we see with fresh eyes!
On a recent visit to the hillside church at Patrisio, which I have visited many times, I had this experience. Situated as it is, in the Black Mountains of mid-Wales (and not far from my home), I have often called in at this beautiful place whilst on local walks or as I’ve made my way further afield on pilgrimage. Yet, in a church well-known for its medieval rood screen and wall-paintings, on this occasion I took in a detail that I had previously overlooked.
Looking at the lovely memorial window in the chancel, I appreciated for the first time the depiction in stained glass of the charcoal fire already laid, and fished placed upon it as in the well-known story from John’s gospel.
I must have looked at this window (given in the early twentieth century in memory of Caroline and John Powell of nearby Ty’n-y-llŵyn) many times, yet I had never noticed the fish on the fire tucked away in a corner. Looking very realistic, flames lick around their gaping mouths!
According to John’s gospel, this incident on the beach was the third time that the risen Jesus had appeared to the disciples (and this doesn’t include Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene or the many other signs that the gospel writer hints at). Yet, the disciples still have to grasp the new reality of following a Lord who has risen from death. It must have seemed easier to go back to what was familiar: fishing on the lake and hoping for a good catch.
As we approach Easter, we too can feel that we know so well the story that will unfold: the betrayal and brutality of Good Friday, the grief and shock of Holy Saturday and the empty tomb of Easter Sunday. Surely, we have heard it all before.
The disciples, hauling their heavy nets ashore after what had been a difficult night, must have been astounded to not only see Jesus but also a lighted fire and fish already cooking. This Easter, may we be ready to see afresh the risen Lord who beckons us to that charcoal fire already laid, and fish placed upon it, and bread.