Family Liturgies

John 21: What You Bring

by Erika Marksbury

Scripture Reading: John 21:1-13
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.

Memory Verse
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” –John 21:10

It matters what you bring.

I learned this last year from Janice, whose music room is decorated with Post-It notes that proclaim in scribble “mistakes are welcome here” and cross-stitched plaques that quote Einstein: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” These sorts of affirmations are important, because Janice opens that room to kids who come to her to learn to play piano, and violin, and a whole host of other instruments. Once a week, Oscar – my then-seven-year-old – would wind his way through the cats and bunnies and dogs and birds she also housed, back to that music room for a lesson with Janice. And for about twenty minutes, he would sit up straight, and listen well, and follow her instruction.

But near the end of the lesson, he’d start to slouch, or squirm. He’d become suddenly unfocused, unable to hear her instruction. He’d look away. And she would be endlessly patient, and creative, and encouraging.

And one time, as they sat together on the piano bench, he started pecking at the keys. Not playing a song, not reading the music, just listening to the sounds he made when his fingers fell.

piano pic

And Janice sat back, and watched him, and then she played back for him what he played. She told him the names of the notes he’d been hitting. She pulled out a blank sheet of staff paper, and wrote them down, just as he’d played them, about six measures worth of song. She placed it on top of the piano so Oscar could see it, and for the rest of their time together that afternoon, she taught him to play the music he’d composed.

At the end of the lesson, she asked him what they should call it. At his suggestion, she wrote “The Very Fast Song” at the top of the page, and she added, “by Oscar.” She told him to bring it back the next week, and promised they’d work on it again. He did, and she composed a harmony to play along with his melody.


There are already fish on the fire when the disciples come ashore. But Jesus says, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” Maybe there weren’t enough for everyone. But Jesus can do that making-more miracle, right? I’m convinced this wasn’t about quantity. This was about contribution.

It matters what we bring. And we all bring something – a fish, some notes – that, in the right hands, can become a meal, a song.

Questions to Spark Discussion
-Has someone ever named your gifts for you? What did they say? What was it like to hear that?

-What ordinary things do you enjoy? How might those things serve or help or bring joy to others?

-If you were going to have breakfast with Jesus, what would you bring? Why?

Spiritual Practice
Create a collage that everyone in the family brings individual pieces to. Talk about the pieces you’ve each chosen to bring. Notice commonalities and differences, ways the pieces enhance each other, ways they reflect individual personalities. Give thanks for the ways they fit together and make an interesting, or beautiful, or funny, or _____________ whole picture.

Gracious God,
Thank you for inviting us
to bring what we have.
Thank you for using us
to do your work.


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