May 1 2022
Acts 9:1-6, Revelation 5:11-14, John 21:1-19
May 1 2022
Acts 9:1-6, Revelation 5:11-14, John 21:1-19
God you are amazing, and sometimes confusing and surprising. May we always find you, even in circumstances we do not understand. When we read a text like the story of Jacob and Esau and it seems that both parents show favoritism and family members deceive each other and because of their actions, grudges can be held for years. There is pain and separation, from you and from each other and sometimes we can’t see a way through. But you see and though our relationships with others may be a mess that we don’t know how to untangle, our relationship with you, our friendship with you. is forever. You are always faithful, always there, working for the good of everyone and we can trust that, lean on that, and hold tight to you. Amen.
God of Abraham, sometimes You tell us to move and sometimes You tell us to stay, even when staying doesn’t seem logical. But whether we stay or move, if we are being obedient to You, You are faithful to grow us right where we are. Amen
God who created us and know every weakness and every strength that we have even from before we are born, help us to pay closer attention. You work in everyday circumstances while we are looking for big shiny miracles. Without Your guidance, we might give up what You have for us for something as mundane as a bowl of stew. Sometimes You are in the details and if we are not focused on you, we miss those everyday blessings. We ask that you keep our eyes on You because You are the true food that fills us, grows us, and blesses us with the better gifts. Amen
God of Abraham, we confess that there are things and people in this world that we hold too tightly, too closely, and while it is not wrong to love this world or the things and people that You have placed in it, it is hard sometimes, to remember that we are to love You above all. Obey You above all, even when it means handing over those things and people that we hold precious, into your hands. Please give us the wisdom to know when, the ability to know how, and the strength to follow through in trust that you will provide all that is needed. Amen
Holy God, the older I get, the more grateful I become that even with the aches and pains and changes, you still send laughter. Even when I think all is lost, and I am dry as a desert, you send a well in the form of friends who quench a thirst that only you knew I had. Amen
O God, we get comfortable with where we are and you see when our lives need to change direction. Teach us every day to keep our eyes on You and to follow where You are leading. We are often tempted to look back at what was and think it was better, it was easier. Remind us that Your ways and Your plans are always good and while memories can be precious, spending too much time looking back can keep us from what You have for us right now, and cause us to stumble on the path you have set us on. Amen
Gracious God, you see the heart, even when we do the wrong thing with what we think are good intentions, You see beyond our actions and use us for good, all for Your glory. Teach us even through our mistakes, more about you and grow us to be more in your image so more people will come to know You, even through our weaknesses. Amen
O God, we get comfortable with where we are and you see when our lives need to change direction. Teach us every day to keep our eyes on You and to follow where You are leading. We are often tempted to look back at what was and think it was better, it was easier. Remind us that Your ways and Your plans are always good and while memories can be precious, spending too much time looking back can keep us from what You have for us right now, and cause us to stumble on the path you have set us on.
Lord, our redeemer, there are always serpents among us, ready to whisper lies. Lies that we are not enough, that you could not possibly love us, that you are not faithful and true. That we should be ashamed. When we fall, help us to recognize our sin and come running back to you, the one who loves us, the one who washed us clean, the one who knows our heart before we speak, and loves us anyway. Amen
Precious Lord, you knew it was not good to be alone. You created a helpmate for Adam and showed us that we are stronger and better together. Thank you for the gift of community, of friendship, of relationship. We make mistakes, sin, fall down. But in community, we pick each other back up, listen to each other, lend each other our strength when we think we have nothing left to give. Amen
Father God, we praise you with the very breath that you gave us.You took dust and formed amazing and intricate bodies and breathed into that dust and made us alive. May we stop and take moments to just breathe, remembering what a precious gift that is. You poured your breath into us, so that we could breathe you out, with our thoughts, our words, and our actions. Let us remember that you put each of us in a garden that we are to take care of. We feel overwhelmed sometimes because we can’t fix it all. Show us what our particular garden is and how to use our unique gifts to help it grow, all to your glory. Amen
Father, our refuge, our shelter, our strong tower; you created the sabbath. In our busy world, help us to find tiny sabbaths – holy moments in every day, that we may know the peace that comes from resting in you. Amen
O God, you created the heavens and the earth and Your spirit hovered over all that darkness and You spoke light into being. I ask that you hover over our sisters and brothers and when it seems dark, speak light to heroes that they may reflect Your light to those around them. Amen
Old Testament Reading
Thus says the LORD: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the LORD. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse– who can understand it? I the LORD test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ–whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.
He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.”Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
We live in a disposable world. Fast food, technology that goes out of date a few years after you spend a fortune on it. Toys that break, clothing fashions that change yearly. Commitments that are dropped as soon as things become difficult. We roll into church, our attention divided because we have plans for the afternoon. Going out for lunch, taking a nap, watching a football game. We work and run and drag our kids along with us. I do not understand a lot of today’s world. I don’t even understand some of the terminology! Chasing after what? We like quick fixes. We do not like pain.. And we like our stuff.
I love British television One of my favorite shows is Father Brown who is an kindly Anglican Priest who solves murder mysteries. On an recent episode, he was invited to a sort of carnival at a camp and when he met the lady who owned it, she told him that she just loved the church. She found the rituals and traditions so interesting. Father Brown told her that she would be very welcome at mass and her response was a very emotional, “I said I was interested. I’m not obsessed!”
I recently spoke at Celebrate Recovery about decluttering your heart and some of you may have been there so you will have heard some of this, but it doesn’t hurt me to hear it again. When I retired, I started going through all of the junk that I had accumulated over the years. I wanted to simplify. But letting go of all that stuff is hard! I am one generation away from the generation that experienced the depression so I grew up with the notion that you never knew when you might need something. My mom ironed Christmas wrapping paper to re-use. Tinsel was put on the Christmas tree carefully and removed carefully because like the wrapping paper, it could be re-used. We didn’t have paper towels, and my mom washed and saved aluminum foil. She didn’t finish high school and so when I was in high school, she took classes at night and got her diploma. My mother grew up in Canada so American History class was interesting. They had some very good discussions because as they went over a lesson, my mother would say “that’s now how I learned it” and so from talking to her, I learned early that history can depend on perspective.
So maybe we end up with clutter, not just our stuff, but our thoughts as well. We are bombarded with messages telling us how to look better, be more prosperous, get better sleep, look younger, get more done, upgrade our car, our home, our wardrobe, ourselves. All to be happy and blessed.But then we come up against the beatitudes and the message is flipped upside down and inside out.
We are interested in getting rid of the clutter in our homes and our hearts but we “are not obsessed!” I “borrowed” (with permission) an illustration from Tony Corso. Imagine if you bought and paid for a house from someone who was a hoarder. But you liked this property. You could see potential, and so you paid the price and took ownership. Assuming the previous owners were gone, the very first thing you would do after the papers were signed and before you moved in would be to clean out the house. You are not emotionally attached to anything left in the house. Bring a dumpster and clean out every room, attic, storage closets…everything. How weird would it be if the previous owner who ‘willingly turned the keys’ over to you stood out front telling you what you could and could not get rid of?Isn’t that like what we do with God?
We pray and ask Him into our hearts, to be Lord of our lives and then He starts the clean up process and we get stuck.The message I took from today is that all those things that we are running after, that we are buying plastic tubs to store stuff in. that we are even building buildings or paying to have stored, are not what will make us truly happy. We are living in what Jeremiah called an “uninhabited salt land.”
My mom kept and re-used things to save money. And I don’t believe that is a bad thing. But we hang on to a lot of unnecessary things and we tell ourselves we have good reasons. We do the same with our spiritual lives. Jesus wants us to let go of the earthly things we cling to because He wants to give us something better, something permanent.
We talk ourselves into believing we have good reasons. We even try to get the Holy Spirit to go ‘start on another room’ because we have stuff stored away and just are not ready to deal with it or we want to go through and decide what WE think is important. Not what Jesus says is important.We forget who the ‘new owner’ is and He is the one that decides what goes and what stays. It does not take long before the truth becomes obvious– we like the idea of God moving in. Just are not ready to actually do it on His terms. And that is what shuts down the effectiveness of the power of the gospel in our lives, because He gives us free will. He is either ‘Lord of All’ or someone else is, when it comes to your life, you can’t serve two masters.We are blind to all that needs to come out of our hearts. God is serious about de-cluttering our lives. What have we held back from God? What is in that box way back in the corner?
Why would Jesus tell us “to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:24) That tells me that some of this is not going to be easy. And maybe this is not true for you but it sure is true for me. It is not a one and done deal. I have a lot of closets and tubs and just stuff that has been put away for so long, I don’t even remember it’s there. But Jesus…
in Luke 13:34 we are told that Jesus longs to gather His children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. We are to love God with ALL our heart. When I refuse to repent or turn from an area in my life (sin in my heart) I am basically telling God I love that sin more than I love Him. Now it has become an idol. Jesus won’t be ‘one of my idols.
We have lots of company in that. John 6:66 says “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” (vs 66) The road got too narrow and not as comfortable in that flesh nature. That may be where some of us walk away from our recovery. Things get real, real fast. But then we read what Peter says about that. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”
If I am walking with Jesus, that is a good thing. I am walking in peace with the Prince of Peace. Walking with Him means I am not leading. Obeying Jesus…is not a ‘work’ that saves me. It is the fruit of my love for Him.Remember the story in John 5 of the man lying near the pool who had been paralized for years? Jesus asked him “Do you want to be made well?” He did not ask him if he believed Jesus could make him well. For that matter, Jesus could have just made him well without saying anything. But he asked him. Do you want to be made well? And Jesus is asking us the same question today. And being well means we have to let go of some stuff. But it isn’t all giving stuff up. Jesus is going to give us much better things! We “get” to have fruit. Fruit of the spirit! We get to have joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. I used to think that was a kind of “to-do list of things I was supposed to work at having. So, the question, do you want to be made well was an odd question, but it was a legitimate question.
There is another. Acts 3, where a man – “lame from his mother’s womb was carried, and never could get to the pool. Maybe you have tried this Jesus thing before and all you got out of it was sitting in a pew but still essentially lame. Still cluttered up with stuff. Trying to declutter your heart and your life on your own. 1 John 2:6 says “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” Jesus is our road map, the way, truth, and the life.We assume because the man was there, near the pool, that of course he wanted to be healed! But how many of us come to church every Sunday and listen to a sermon, sing a few hymns, pray for some folks, leave our tithe and then go home and live the rest of the week completely unchanged, still running after the world? That perspective thing is interesting. What we assume about ourselves, about others, and even about Jesus, often comes out of the heart and in Jeremiah, we are told that the heart is deceitful. Our hearts can fool us.
If you have seen the movie The Princess Bride maybe you remember the part where they take Wesley who has been tortured, to Miracle Max and Miracle Max tells them he is not dead, only mostly dead. Mostly dead means he is slightly alive. Who wants to be mostly dead? Who wants to be slightly alive? “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17)
So here is why Jesus poses that thought provoking question “Do you want to be made well?” We are told in John 3:19- that ‘light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil…and would not come to the light”. If I am not ‘willing to come to the light’, I cannot be made well. If we are not being honest, if we are hanging on to our denial…we can’t move forward. If I plant a fruit tree and keep it in the dark, it will never produce fruit.What have we been “loving more” that has kept us from experiencing the power of God’s abundant life and the truth that sets a person truly free?
The Pharisees loved the praise of men more…The rich ruler loved his wealth more….What have you been ‘loving more’ and holding onto for so long? Is it pride? Anger maybe, or resentment or bitterness towards someone who damaged you? What hurt, habit, or hang up is cluttering up your life? What have you been keeping in a drawer for years? Changed jobs, changed addresses, still lugging that thing around with you.Would you truly like to ‘take up your bed and walk’ as Jesus walked? You can. But you DO need to choose. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” – (Luke 5:31) Repentance means to change direction. It has TWO parts. Stop doing one thing and do something else.
Oh, one last note about our friend by the healing pool who responded to Jesus and took up his own bed and walked once again. We read where ‘Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” John 5:14He did not tell him to ‘sin less’ or ‘try harder’. He told him to “go and sin no more.” Walk like Jesus walked. If I will truly love Him with ALL my heart, I can. Because it will be Him doing it…in me and through me. In you and through you!
There is a C.S. Lewis quote that says. “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes to rebuild that house. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but he is building a palace.”
We just have to come to the light and leave the darkness behind. Stop hanging on to the clutter. Start walking with Jesus. Let the new owner have all of our hearts. Be doers and not just hearers of the Word. If we trust God with ALL of our stuff, all of our hearts and lives, then instead of living in an uninhabited salt land, we will be like the tree planted by the water and we will continue to bear fruit. And our fruit is how we are known. By others and by our Savior.Not just on Sunday, not just the stuff we have piled up in our homes and our lives, but in our hearts because that is where Jesus does His best work.
Old Testament Reading
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.
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.