Shining Together – Feb. 10, 2019, Rev. Jeri Viera Dahlke
P: The Holy Gospel according to Luke.
C: Glory to you, O Lord.
And then Jesus was standing beside Lake Gennesaret when the crowd pressed in around him to hear God’s word. Jesus saw two boats sitting by the lake. The fishermen had gone ashore and were washing their nets. Jesus boarded one of the boats, the one that belonged to Simon, then asked him to row out a little distance from the shore. Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.”
Simon replied, “Boss, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”
So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. They signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled both boats so full that they were about to sink. When Simon Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Leave me, for I’m a sinner!” Peter and those with him were overcome with amazement because of the number of fish they caught. James and John, Zebedee’s sons, were Simon’s companions and they were amazed too.
Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be catching people.” As soon as they brought the boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.
P: The Gospel of the Lord.
C: Praise to you, O Christ
St. Stephen’s began poolside—up at the community pool. Here we have Jesus doing church at the lakeshore. Just before this passage, we read that Jesus was preaching in the synagogues.
So here he is with a ton of people crowding around him. It wasn’t working. With no helpers yet for crowd control, Jesus found a clever way to make it work for everyone. He got in a boat, went out from shore a bit and spoke from there.
Yes, the synagogue and the church are great places to connect with God and with God’s people. But God cannot be put in a box. These buildings are not necessary for worship. Sacred space is wherever and whenever the people of God and God connect. In the Celtic tradition it is called thin places.
Oh my, there was no scroll! Those all had to stay in the synagogues. Jesus still taught, still preached. Scrolls weren’t necessary for worship either!
The Isaiah text tells us the eight core spiritual elements of worship:
God is seen.
God’s people say, wow!
God’s people say, ugh.
The people commit to serving God.
The people cry out to God on behalf of all who are suffering.
God sends everyone out into the world.
It’s a very counter-cultural thing we are called to do! In worship, we who are self-centered, turn our attention to a power beyond ourselves—to the Holy One. Absolutely we can worship all by ourselves. But from the beginning of God’s people, worship has also been something to do together, even though each one has a different experience.
This story highlights the worship experience of Simon Peter. Simon Peter. The jump in, speak up, and then start thinking Simon Peter.
After hearing the good news, Jesus sends Peter out to fish. He basically replies to Jesus, “Seriously?!” He is the fisherman. This is his business.
This is nothing new in the grand scheme of what God calls people to do in scripture. God’s call often is contrary to what makes sense in our world.
Simon Peter hears this call to go out, and even though it made no sense to him, he did it.
Can’t you just picture the great comedic moment with all the fish and the fishermen trying to haul them all in, the fish and the fishermen slipping and sliding every which way. The boats are a stinking, sinking mess.
While all of that chaos was going on, Peter had a wow-ugh moment. Sometimes, when we see the awesomeness of God, the glory of God like Peter just did, at the same time we recognize what we are not. We look at God and say, “Wow!” Then we look at ourselves and say, “Ugh.” Both are parts of worship.
In the beginning, Peter calls Jesus “Master.” The Gospel writer of Luke is the only one to use this name the disciples use for Jesus. It’s not that of master and slave. It’s a recognition of authority, more like that of a boss. Clearly, Peter has seen and heard something significant in Jesus. But it isn’t his glory. Peter hasn’t seen God in Jesus, even when he was teaching.
What did it? It was the surprising abundance that came instead of the scarcity he expected. It wasn’t in the synagogue, it wasn’t in the preaching, it wasn’t in a meal, it was in doing his job as Jesus instructed. By doing as Jesus said, Peter let go of his own way of thinking and turned to the way of Jesus. He turned away from pessimism and turned to hope. That’s worship. Peter’s partners, his companions on the journey weren’t just amazed. They were filled with amazement. That’s awe. That’s worship.
Jesus told Peter that he was going to be fishing for people. He was sending them out into the world. That’s worship.
Awe is an important element of worship. Yet we are not meant to stay in those inspiring moments. These fishermen left everything and followed Jesus. Talk about commitment to serving God! That’s worship.
Let’s zero in, now, on that sending instruction. The NRSV uses the nicer phrasing of the other gospels, “fishing for people.” However, the original text says Simon will be “catching people.”
Nabbing people is a rather disturbing image. I’m sure this metaphor has been used as justification for forcefully trying to save sinful souls…think some Sunday School teachers with vulnerable children, shelters who force hungry people to worship in order to get food. Though we might pat ourselves on the back for not taking those routes, it’s easy for God’s people to equate the number of people in worship with their success. The author of Luke will use great numbers later in the book of Acts. Surely, bearing fruit is important.
When I talk with folks in different churches, one of the questions often asked is, “What can we do to get more people in worship?” This is the story I lift up. The promise of this great catch story isn’t about what we can do. We can do some things, just like the fishermen had to have clean nets ready to go. The promise of this story is that God is worthy of worship where ever we are. The promise of this story is that God will always show us where to go and when to go. It will likely not be our timing or where we would think to go.
Yes, Luke-Acts talks about numbers—the numbers of things God has done! That’s why Council has begun talking about tracking signs of what God seems to be doing…stories of God’s presence and guidance, God’s courage with those volunteering for the first time at the Nomadic Shelter, and lots, lots more!
Did you notice, too, these companions didn’t haul in the fish on their own? They did it together. Even at that, they did it with Jesus in their midst. With a God worthy of our worship who will let us know where to go and when, and with the knowledge of Jesus in our midst, we can walk confidently in an as of yet unknown direction. Thin places pop up in this Sanctuary, in the classroom during Mosaic Art Class, at home, during a scout overnight, when we serve at the Nomadic Shelter, when we gather at Kalethea Park, when we worship with other people of faith, there are endless possibilities!
A Scottish pastor, Roddy Hamilton, wrote a piece inspired by this great catch story. Imagine now, a few of the New Testament folks here to tell you about how they were caught and called by Jesus. These are not force-full moments, they are worship-full…
“Come follow me,” he said as he walked towards us.
“Leave the nets behind. Become nets yourself.
We have an adventure to be part of.”
And so we left with him not knowing what lay in front of us.
In front of me was a crowd of Pharisees: all of them hypocrites. They knew what I had done and done it mainly with them, yet they were ready to stone me for it.
Jesus called out,
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,”
and there was silence
and one by one they left me with him
who called me to go and find my humanity again,
and so I went more alive than ever before.
She was more alive than ever before, my daughter.
When her father left her to find Jesus
he knew he’d never see her again, my poor daughter,
not able to make it to womanhood.
But Jesus never gave up hope.
We left him with her
and after what seemed an eternity he called for food, ‘Your daughter is alive and hungry”
and so we threw our sadness into celebration
that she had been called back to life.
I was called back to life.
I was once dead,
not the death of eternity, worse than that,
the death of the living.
I am a tax-collector.
My death was the silence and hatred of others
until I climbed a tree,
and was invited back into my own home by Jesus for a meal through which I was reborn,
a new person now called a friend of God.
I was on my way.
We were on our way, ten of us,
unclean with bandaged limbs,
dirty rags covering our hands and feet
that leprosy was eating away.
Everyone avoided us except Jesus who touched us, befriended us and called us back into community, clean once more and acceptable.
I ran back to Jesus to thank him,
it was all I could do.
It was all I could do to say ‘Yes!’
Yes to God asking me to serve:
mother of a child who would be the salvation of the world, who harbored hope enough
to bring down the oppressor and the tyrant
and lift up the poor and hungry.
I was called to be the mother of God
and I said ‘Yes!’
I said ‘yes’
but it wasn’t in some biblical story.
It was now.
I said ‘yes!’ to God’s justice today,
God’s hope now,
God’s intent in me,
to call out the life in me,
and set it free in the world,
to be a follower of adventures,
a follower of dreams,
a follower of love.
Be a follower of love,
and join the fishermen and the sinners,
the women and the children,
the sick and the poor,
the needy and the hopeful:
called to be fully alive in this world, called to be the hands and feet of heaven, called to be all we can be,
called to follow, called to rise and shine!