Old Testament Reading
Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13)
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” And he said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate; until the LORD sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land. Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you–unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them–though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 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. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who are partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Last week we listened to 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 – the love passage. It is a beautiful passage and I think sometimes we hear the beauty and forget the lesson. Paul was telling us that desiring spiritual gifts like prophecy, faith, speaking in tongues, generosity, self-sacrifice are good things but they are not the goal. The goal is always love. To love God and love others. The purpose of these gifts is to help us learn how we each as individuals can not only reach that goal, but in a deeper and more real way, that helps us to find our purpose.
Then we heard how Jesus was teaching in His hometown and the people that he grew up with were clamoring for a miracle, and why not? They had heard of what He had done in other places. Why not here among the people he grew up with? It was almost as if they felt like they had some sort of claim of Jesus, that He belonged to them. Jesus reminds them that some of those miracles they had heard about came to people, not because of their relationship with Jesus. Not because of their social standing. Not because they were good. That made them really mad. They were so focused on themselves and what their expectations were of Jesus, that when He didn’t behave the way they thought He would, when He didn’t do what they wanted Him to do, they tried to run Him off a cliff. They tried to kill him.
And “He passed through the midst of them and went on His way.” In a way, he just disappeared. Maybe they got a miracle but because they were looking in the wrong direction, they missed it. I think maybe their understanding of who Jesus was, was very shallow. All they saw was the surface. The miracles they had heard about.
Before church last week, I read the lectionary readings, and because I knew I was going to be speaking this week, I went ahead and read the lectionary readings for this week as well. As I listened to Mark read the scripture lessons and preach, I was already setting both scripture readings next to each other in my head. I felt like there was a message there and that I needed to go a little deeper.
This week we listen as Paul gives a list of his credentials. Who he was and who he has become because of Jesus Christ. He was transformed. He was positive that he was doing the right thing as he tried to stomp out this new Jesus following thing and then he had an encounter and ended up going much deeper than he ever thought he would. It took him being blinded to really get his attention but once changed, Paul was all in for life.
I grew up on a lake in Michigan. It was not one of the Great Lakes but it was big enough that you could not see the other side. If you look on the map , Lake St. Clair would be found near the base of the thumb, between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. So much of life there, revolved around the lake. Fishing, water-skiing, ice fishing and skating, and swimming. So kids learn to swim, partly because it’s fun but also because it was a safety issue. I can remember my dad trying to teach me to swim. My dad was a big guy and he was supporting me in the water and telling me to kick my feet and paddle. I was terrified. My dad was not going to drop me. He was not going to let me drown.
I knew my dad loved me. He was my dad. He had shown me time and time again. I also knew that he was more than capable of holding me up. But I was still afraid. The water was deep (in my mind – in reality it didn’t even come up to his chest!) and though I very much wanted to learn to swim, I just didn’t trust the unknown.
All I could do was play in the sand, or sit in the shallow water at the edge. I could pick up shells and splash around. But I had to stay safely near the shore. I eventually learned how to swim, but I couldn’t learn it from the beach. I couldn’t even learn in the shallows. I had to be willing to trust and go to the deeper water.
In our reading today in John, Jesus has been teaching and wow, did He draw a crowd. There were so many people that He got into Simon’s boat which tells us that Simon was sticking pretty close to Jesus. He asked Simon to move a little way from the shore and then He taught from the boat. I imagine Simon being pretty excited to have Jesus choose his boat to teach from and because of that he had a front row seat to an actual Jesus sermon.
I wish I could write the perfect sermon that would draw so many people that I would have to get in a boat to speak it! Wow. I would be sending copies to every pastor I know and pastors I don’t know. Imagine a sermon that could get everyone “there” Unfortunately, I don’t know where “there” is for each of us.
Even if I did, Jesus knew a spoken lesson would not be enough. Listening to a great lesson might nudge someone to get out their bible and read for themselves and that would be a good thing. It might nudge someone to take on serving in some area of ministry. That also would be a good thing.
But the only one who can draw any of us into deeper water is Jesus Himself. Whew. That takes the pressure off me.
Jesus taught from the boat and then He asked Simon to put out to deeper water and cast his nets. Simon told Jesus that they had been working hard all night and caught nothing but if Jesus says do it? He will. To me, Simon is kind of thinking this does not make sense but he isn’t afraid to say it out loud to Jesus and he isn’t disrespectful, nor is he arguing or making excuses, because the very next words are “But if you say so”. His very flawed human mind is telling him this doesn’t make sense.. But in his heart, he trusts Jesus.
So where are we to this point? Simon stayed close to Jesus. Simon made room for Jesus in his boat. He trusted Jesus.
What happened next? Simon moved the boat to deeper water and cast his nets and he caught more fish than he could handle by himself!
Simon was a fisherman. He knew how this should work. Fishing is what Simon does! He falls to his knees. Simon Peter knew that even the fish obeyed Jesus and he also saw how helpless he was next to Jesus. Jesus told Simon not to be afraid and he gave him a new job. He told him he would be fishing for people and they brought their boats to shore and left everything to follow Jesus. They had just accomplished the catch of their lives and they walked away from it, fish, boats, nets, all for Jesus.
So Simon stayed close to Jesus, he made room for Him, he listened to him, he trusted him, and he obeyed him. And then? He really put out to deep water. He gave up everything from his old life for a new life of following Jesus.
Simon knew how to catch fish, but now he is going to be walking with Jesus and learning what we learn when we are willing to go a little deeper.
Even then, Jesus didn’t throw Simon Peter into the deep water by himself immediately. He took him with Him. Simon walked with Jesus and saw how Jesus loved people. Not just how much, but actually how He did it. Jesus knew that we all need time walking with Him and He also knows when we are ready to go a little deeper.
Years ago when our kids were small, we started attending a church. I think we had only been there for a few weeks when I was asked to do children’s ministry. I said yes even though I had reservations. On the surface, it seemed perfect and I felt like I was supposed to serve. My kids were small so I was going to be involved in some capacity anyway. But I really had no idea what I was doing or why. The truth was that I was pleasing people, not Jesus. Looking back, I feel like I jumped into deep water before I was ready to swim.
I think sometimes, as the church in general, we plug new members in too quickly. Sometimes people need a little time walking with Jesus before they figure out how to fish. That doesn’t mean we don’t include them. We just don’t need to scare them either. Just because it looks like serving in a particular way would be a perfect fit, does not mean that is the way someone is called to serve or that the timing is right. I may get fired for saying that and I know that most of the time, the harvest is plentiful, but we are short of helpers and so we do what we can, don’t we?
This little church does some amazing things. Even through a pandemic, we have continued to serve safely. Each other, our community. And when one of us is unable to fill a need, someone else comes along side. We might be small, but to me that is the kind of love 1st Corinthians 13 talks about. And just a little side note, Jesus didn’t tell Simon to take his boat to a bigger sea. He told him to go to deeper water in the sea he was already in. There are so many needs in our community. We work at filling those that we can through the grace of God.
Simon had already seen what Jesus could do. Jesus had healed his mother-in-law. Many of us have seen what Jesus can do. Paul knew what Jesus could do. Paul went from being a mortal enemy of those who followed Christ, to planting churches, discipling new Christians, and writing about a fourth of the New Testament. Jesus had perfect timing with both these men, and His timing is perfect with us. He didn’t tell either of them that He would give them completely new gifts. He took Simon’s ability to fish and Paul’s passion and taught them how to use the gifts they had for the kingdom. The gifts were tools. The relationship with Jesus was primary and that relationship is defined by and flows out of, the love He demonstrated for us.
Both Simon and Paul had a relationship with Jesus. The relationships were as different as the men were. Each of us has a different relationship with Jesus. Their relationship with Jesus grew and the more their relationship grew, the more they trusted and the more we trust, the deeper we can go and Paul reminds us that we don’t do this of ourselves but by the grace of God, through the good news of Jesus Christ, who was born, lived, died, and was resurrected and because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
We know that Simon Peter accepted Jesus. He stayed close. He made room. He trusted. He obeyed. And then we know that he left everything to follow Jesus so he was changed or transformed by Jesus and while you will have to come back next week and the week after and maybe even go read more in your own bible to know the rest of Peter’s story, we know that Peter stuck around. He was not perfect and sometimes he misunderstood. He made mistakes. But he stuck with Jesus. He was abiding in Jesus.
Both Simon Peter and Paul lived in times where there were troubles. There was poverty, disease, politics were a mess. People were doing crazy things. We live in a time of troubles. There is poverty, disease, and politics are a mess and people are doing crazy things. So what can we do?
Maybe like Simon Peter, we stay close to Jesus. We make room for him in our lives. We trust in Jesus. We obey when the Holy Spirit is stepping on our heart or nudging us to do something that may be obvious or may not make sense to us. We listen for the voice of Jesus so that we can grow in our relationship with Him so that when we are called to go deeper, we know who is in charge of the waves. We let Him change us, transform us, even when it might be uncomfortable and then we follow Him. When the water gets deep, we abide in Him. When we mess up, we repent and abide in Him. When we feel completely lost and no matter how hard we work the fish just are not biting, we abide in Him. The funny thing is, I think if we do these things we will be swimming in deep water before we have time to be afraid.
The biblical definition of abide is to continue in a place. So when we abide, we don’t just sit there. We continue. We love God and we love each other so that when you hear the Holy Spirit say “whom shall I send?”, you will be ready to answer “Send me!”
Father, some of us are strong swimmers and some of us are just treading water, waiting for rescue. Thank you so much for giving us the church – the body of Christ so that we can come alongside each other and help each other along on our way back to You, our Creator, our Redeemer, our God.