A Sermon for 10 February 2019
For the next several weeks in this season of Epiphany, the lectionary takes us to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Today our reading follows Jesus’ first two healing stories recorded in detail by Luke – one being the healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law when Jesus was at Simon Peter’s house. The gospel next reports that many were brought to Jesus for healing. Jesus departs to pray in a deserted place alone while he’s sought by the crowds who naturally want him to remain to do more marvelous works in their midst. Perhaps because of his time of prayer alone, Jesus declares to them: “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43). He goes on his way to continue his mission, and then we hear in Luke 5:1-11 what next takes place. Listen for God’s word to us through this reading.
“Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret,” (which is the Sea of Galilee) “and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Jesus got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, Jesus said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.”
This is the word of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God!
In a few minutes, Allie will receive the Sacrament of Baptism. Like most of us raised Presbyterian, her journey with Christ begins by parents making promises for her. Family and friends committed to supporting her. A whole community of faith vowing to pray for her and nurture her faith whatever ways we can as she soon goes with her family to their new home in Texas. Like most of us, her path of following Christ will unfold gradually. No dramatic encounter with Jesus as we hear of in Luke’s gospel when Peter and his business partners James and John brought to shore boats overflowing with fish, then left it all behind to live out their call from Christ. I suspect that for Allie, as for most of us, discernment of the Way will unfold more like an opening cocoon. Slowly, when the time is just right. She’ll hear the stories of Jesus as we all have along our way. Learn the songs of faith. Figure out how it works best for her to pray to be connected to The Source in order to discern the steps to take each day.
Maybe I’m pining for the past of how amazingly clarifying it must have been to have Jesus show up on the scene. Walk right into the vessel of your profession to transform a stinky old fishing boat into a pulpit from which he preached. Asking Peter to put out just off the shore that he could tell the good news of God’s kingdom. After Jesus’ Amen, his command to put out into the deep water to let down the nets for a catch, changed Peter’s little boat into a eucharist table – clearly showing the goodness of God! The fish overflowing in such abundance, Peter had to call James and John quick to come help! One commentator reminds that “More than a ‘natural miracle,’ the catch of fish also is layered with eucharistic allusions. (For) fish mean food, and wherever we read about fish in the Gospels, we are reading about the miracle of sustenance for the new community that Jesus is creating in the call of the first disciples” (Feasting on the Word, Yr. C, Vol. 1, Peter Eaton, p. 335). Wouldn’t it be wonderful on our own journeys as disciples to have such a clear, concrete sign of the sustenance we need? The food for which our spirits long that will keep us filled as a community and as individual followers of Christ each day as we serve wherever we are sent. I want that for little Allie – don’t you? And for ourselves. The miracle of the sustenance we need to grow more each day as Christ’s faithful disciples.
That’s what we are. Through baptism: sealed with the outward sign that we belong to Christ. We have committed to being his faithful disciples! . . . But. How often we feel just like Peter does in the story: unworthy of God’s Presence. Not good enough to be put in service like Christ. Ill-equipped to proclaim good news. To speak of God’s work to re-create this world. How often we think our efforts aren’t enough as Christ’s disciples. Or that, like Peter, James, and John, the REAL disciples; the gig’s about leaving it all behind – becoming like a totally different person with a totally different life trajectory. And let’s face it: there’s about 0% chance most any of us are going to leave it all behind dramatically – willingly divest ourselves of our employment, our families, our homes, our investment portfolios to chase all over the countryside healing and teaching and enlisting outsiders in God’s resurrection movement! So, we decide being a disciple was for folks long, long ago. Ones first encountering Jesus of Nazareth when his ministry began. What does discipleship look like today? For folks like us who aren’t being recruited to begin what Peter, James, and John began world-wide because of Christ. What will being a faithful disciple look like for little ones freshly baptized – and for us, some baptized over eighty years ago?
Recently I came across anonymous words that were written by someone on a spiritual retreat. I don’t know much about the person, but it seems the person was wrestling with what discipleship looks like today. The words read: “It is baffling to me, who always has been so driven to achieve, that I find myself at a time of life now in which I am driven to connect. To connect with companions and allow that process to unfold. To connect with the Holy and to allow that relationship to unfold. To connect with my deepest Self – and to allow that process and person to be revealed. So, the intended course becomes much more a following than a driven, planned-by-me direction. Is it all simply about following? Moments to decide still come. But it is as if I have committed to the unfolding – to following the Mystery. The allowing. The listening. The waiting. All shall be well, (as Julian of Norwich reminds). Intentions still arise, but they are different than I ever could have imagined for myself.” The retreatant then wonders: “Is this what Christ meant? Crucify your self – your need for your own plan, in order just to follow? Follow the nudge – the thread? The stirring of what brings you fully alive? Let the rest be. Then, might I heartily be able to say: ‘I HAVE decided to follow the Christ! No turning back. No turning back!’” (anonymous words from a spiritual retreatant).
Is this what discipleship will look like for Allie, and for all of us baptized as disciples of Christ? Following the nudge. Paying attention for the stirring of what brings us fully alive. Allowing Way to unfold – sometimes waiting; always listening. Not frantically groping in darkness at the Mystery; but allowing the Mystery to call to us as who we are and how we are to be in the world each day is revealed through those ah-has. Those awakening insights that cause inner shifts. So, we see the world a bit differently. We willingly try new ways of caring – new ways of showing through action and word the good news of a kingdom in our midst. A reign residing in and beyond us that is the direction of our path.
In a few minutes, little Allie will receive the Sacrament of Baptism. A reminder that the Light of Christ is in her and it is incumbent upon her, as she grows, to shine. Like Peter. Like James. Like John. Like Jesus. Like us: baptized in Christ, disciples of the Way, we are raised to the new life of following the Light to be light in the world for all to see. . . . Come! Let us gather at the font. Let us celebrate the baptism of the newest disciple of Christ!
In the name of the life-giving Father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit, Amen.
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