Today we come to what is basically the end of the biblical story.
In the Gospel reading:
Jesus tells his friends that he is going away soon:
That he will ascend into heaven:
And send the Holy Spirit:
To be the reminder of all that Jesus brings.
And we also hear from the last chapter,
Of the last book of scripture:
In the real finale:
The glorious picture of this heaven that Jesus:
And ultimately many others, will ascend to.
John, the author of the Book of Revelation:
Describes heaven as a city:
A city that is the center of the new heaven and the new earth.
He talks about it’s beauty:
The new Jerusalem:
A golden city, and yet crystal clear like a rare jewel.
The wall surrounding this four-square city has a dozen gates:
With three gates on each side:
Each a giant lustrous pearl
Each one guarded by an angel.
It’s a stable city:
Not resting on a single foundation:
But on TWELVE foundations:
One atop another:
Each foundation made of a different precious stone.
Hearing of this new Jerusalem:
As John describes it:
Brings a sense of glory:
There’s a desire for such fancy and regal living in splendor and majesty.
It seems like a picture from a storybook or fairy tale.
And because of that, Revelation has often been overlooked.
But it’s important to know, that this book:
This biblical finale:
Is much more than a fairy tale image.
It can help us recognize glimpses of heaven that burst into our lives.
For when we live by faith:
Heaven is not a far and alien country:
Instead: we find ourselves dwelling--
At least some of the time--
In the suburbs of this New Jerusalem.
And moments come when we are granted sights of its golden crystalline splendor,
Often when we least expect this to happen.
There are three points about heaven that influence these glimpses:
So First, lets talk about heaven as a community.
The Biblical story itself takes us from a garden with only one couple:
To a vast city with a cosmopolitan population:
The New Jerusalem.
This alone tells us to put away any small, narrow, cramped view of heaven.
The new Jerusalem is a city with people of every kind:
From every nation.
It is the capital of the God who delights in diversity.
If you want to catch a little glimpse of heaven:
Go to a playground in a park in the summer:
Where dozens of kids dash about in perpetual motion:
Each on a different trajectory:
That hubbub of activity, and diversity is a small slice of what heaven will be like.
Second: Heaven is a place of healing.
We hear about this as John describes the landscape of the city.
There’s a river:
A beautiful river:
The river of the water of life:
Bright as crystal.
On the banks of the river appear rows of magnificent trees:
Bearing fruit not once or twice a year:
But a super tree:
That’s exceedingly fruitful.
And John even goes on to say that:
“The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
The healing of nations!
So heaven has medicine for the wounds that separate and scar nations on earth.
Meaning that the new Jerusalem is a place of reconciliation.
Heaven is where wounds are healed.
Where brokenness gives way to wholeness.
And hatred gives way to love.
All because of the healing leaves of the tree:
A tree that bears the shape of a cross.
And if national wounds can be healed:
So too can smaller but no less painful wounds:
Strife between families and classes and groups and individuals.
All the wounds we carry through this world are healed in heaven.
So if you want to see a bit of heaven on earth:
Go someplace where reconciliation is real:
Where wounds big and small are treated and healed.
Or bring this heaven to earth yourself.
Work for justice and peace.
Or bring it even closer to home,
And forgive someone who may not deserve it:
Maybe even yourself.
You’ll catch a bit of heaven’s glimmer:
You’ll be in the suburbs of the New Jerusalem.
Finally, heaven is a place of vision.
Did you notice the references about light in the passage from revelation?
Light that allows us to see?
We hear that the light of the new Jerusalem IS God’s glory:
And its lamp is the lamb.
By this light the nations will walk.
The gates will never be shut by day,
And there will be no night.
And through that light:
His servants will worship him:
They will see his face:
And his name will be on their foreheads.
That God’s servants will be marked as ones belonging to God:
Just as the church marks the foreheads of the newly baptized with the sign of the cross:
The seal of the spirit:
Marked as Christ’s own forever.
In the new Jerusalem,
The servants are not only marked:
Are not only worshipping God:
But through the light:
They are able to actually SEE God.
This: The sight of God:
Is what above all else, makes heaven: Heaven.
Here in our present life:
We use sacraments and signs,
Images and words that suggest the divine reality to our hearts and minds.
Yet in heaven: we shall see God face to face.
On this earth, we encounter God amid the shadows and uncertainties of life.
In the New Jerusalem, we shall see God in the bright light of eternal day:
And in the delightful rest of eternal Sabbath.
We do not live in that great city right now.
But from time to time we find ourselves in one of its suburbs.
And so, as John might put it:
We catch a glimpse of its golden crystalline walls:
Its gates of stupendous pearl.
And this glimpse may give us a refreshment of hope and courage.
An assurance in time of hardship.
A beauty that delights and longs for more.
The creator of all things:
The lord of all time is versatile in giving us glimpses of that great city:
The great city that is actually a reminder of our true home.
We cannot dictate when these glimpses will happen:
But we can leave ourselves open to recognize and welcome them when they occur.
We can learn and re-learn that heaven is a community:
A place of healing:
A place of vision.
We can long for heaven in its fullness,
And also enjoy the glimpses that appear to us now in moments of vision,
Healing, and community.
Then, when we come to the new Jerusalem, it will not seem like a strange and alien city:
But will feel a lot like home, as we see God, face to face.
At that time, we shall have achieved the purpose of our existence:
And entered into abundant joy from which there is NO exit.
St. Augustine put it well:
“We shall rest and we shall see:
We shall see and we shall love:
We shall love and we shall praise:
Behold what shall be in the end and shall not end.”
May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer.
There’s an old adage,
That “The Opposite of Faith is Doubt.”
Where it originated, I’m not really sure.
But what I am sure of,
Is that it’s NOT true.
A writer named Anne Lamott says, The Opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s certainty.”
Another says, “The Opposite of faith is not doubt, but fear.”
I’m not sure which is truer
Because they’re both pretty true.
They’re both right.
The Opposite of faith is NOT doubt.
Because doubting isn’t all that bad.
It doesn’t mean a lack of faith.
It means we’re humans.
It means we’re searching.
It means that we want something more.
And that is deeply good.
Thomas—one of the disciples:
Get’s a pretty bad wrap.
Throughout Christian history, many have knocked him.
Even coining the phrase, “Doubting Thomas.”
But Thomas isn’t all that bad.
He’s not lacking faith.
He wants something more.
I was actually ordained to the priesthood on the Feast day of St. Thomas.
And I remember being so excited.
Because even on my ordination of the priesthood,
I could identify with the famous “doubter.”
And now, nine years later,
I still look back in gratitude,
That I was ordained on a day that commemorates one of the best saints--
Although one that has a somewhat scarred reputation.
Thomas says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands,
And put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
Everybody focuses on the “I will not believe part.”
And they neglect to realize that Thomas isn’t a bad unbeliever,
But someone who is longing.
Longing with a HOLY longing.
(There’s actually a SUPER good book about this by Ronald Rolheiser: and I think theres even a couple of copies of it in the side office.)
His book is titled the Holy Longing.
And this is what Thomas is up to:
When everyone calls him doubting:
Thomas: is Longing, and desiring,
Wanting so badly for Jesus to be alive.
Wanting so badly, that he craves to touch Jesus.
See with his eyes,
And touch with his hands.
This is not all bad.
This is not lacking faith.
This is desire, springing out of love.
And I can’t figure out where Thomas’ bad reputation comes from.
Because Jesus doesn’t chastise him.
Jesus doesn’t neglect him.
Jesus doesn’t tell him that he’ll rot forever.
Instead: Jesus shows up.
Jesus gives in to Thomas’ deep desire.
And allows Thomas to see, to touch, and to know once and for all--
That Jesus is RISEN and Alive.
The opposite of faith is Not doubt.
Because doubt is a huge part of faith.
Doubt fires up our longings--
Urging us to seek for more.
Doubt keeps us on our toes,
Making us pay attention.
Raising our awareness,
And stirs up our desire to touch and see God’s love.
In Doubting—we crave.
We have each other.
(are you ever getting tired of me talking about this? This need that we have for one another?)
In those doubtful times, we see each other--
We remind each other.
We pay attention to each other.
We give each other more.
So if today’ your doubting--
If you’re doubting that Christ is truly risen and alive,
First: Know that it’s okay.
And then look around.
Let the doubt lead you to that place of seeking.
Searching to see and touch something more.
And you can see The risen Christ right here.
In the people you know.
The fact that we are even here:
Alive, and worshiping together,
Is some proof that Christ is risen and alive.
And if that’s not enough:
Then maybe YOU need to BE that proof.
Maybe YOU are called to show your friends, your family,
Or maybe even the world that Christ is truly risen and alive.
The proof is right in front of us.
Sometimes we miss it.
And that’s okay.
Sometimes we doubt it.
And that’s okay.
Because doubting is a part of this faith.
But the proof--
Is always there.
As long as we are willing to be more like Thomas.
To be a seeker.
To want a better world.
To work for a better world.
To BE one who ushers in a better world,
Even in the doubt.
To have a holy longing:
A holy desire:
To crave the touch of the risen Christ.
Today we listened and meditated on the Passion read by Portia.
Holy Week Services
Maundy Thursday, April 14, 6pm
Good Friday, April 15, 6pm
~Stations of the Cross will be included
Easter Sunday, April 17, 9:30 am
~Bring the children! Portia promises a fun activity for children on Easter Sunday
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer.
We’re almost there.
Almost to the climax of this Lenten journey:
We’re approaching Holy week and the walk of sorrows.
Almost to the point of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.
And so there’s no better time to think about suffering.
And this is why the highly poetic words of the psalmist,
So filled with joyful images are also jarring on this particular day.
“Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
Our tongue with shouts of joy.”
And later, the psalmist sings,
“Those who sowed with tears
Will reap songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
Carrying the seed,
Will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.”
This is one of my favorite Psalms.
And there’s a musical rendition of this:
That has gotten me through many hard times.
(If I was technologically advanced, I’d play it for you.. but…)
Listen to the Psalm being sung HERE
It goes like this:
“Our mouths they were filled,
Filled with laughter,
Our tongues they were loosed,
Loosed with joy.
Restore us oh Lord.
Restore us oh Lord.
Although we are weeping,
Lord help us keep sowing,
The seeds of your kingdom,
For the day you will reap them.
Our sheaves we will carry,
Lord please do not tarry.
All those who sow weeping,
Will go out with songs of joy.”
Such a comforting picture on a day when we know suffering is inevitable.
In the Gospel story,
Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem.
We know what that means
He knows what is coming,
Even though those who are closest to him refuse to see or even acknowledge it.
“Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.”
He had just brought Lazarus back from the dead,
Revealing a power and authority that threatened their own religious and political control,
“so from that day on they planned to put him to death.”
It was that stark.
Jesus, knowing this, starts on his way to Jerusalem,
But first, he stops in Bethany to visit his dearest friends.
We don’t know why Lazarus, Martha, and Mary had become his close friends,
But we do know that their love for one another was great.
And we also know that when we are in danger and pain,
We long for someone to sit with us,
To accept us as we are,
To comfort us by just being there;
Someone who will not argue by telling us all will be all right,
But someone who will share in our apprehension, without even having to speak.
Such was the friendship between Jesus and these three siblings.
We already know that they loved having him visit,
With Martha anxious to feed him, and Mary anxious to listen to him.
In that previous meeting when the two sisters argued,
His visit to them was for their sake.
And when their brother died from illness,
His coming to them was for ALL their sakes.
But now, a few days before his arrest and immense suffering,
Jesus comes to them for himself.
He needs human companionship and human comfort.
And they give it to him.
They call other friends to come join them at a festive dinner.
The siblings don’t know what is about to happen to Jesus,
They simply know that he needs to be near them.
Martha, as is her habit,
Does what she is used to doing:
She feeds the people she loves.
Mary, who probably had known more of the world than Martha did, does something different.
Food is not enough for Mary.
Only the most precious gift will do.
In her symbolic act of pouring the costliest perfume on Jesus’ feet,
She honors him and reveals her deep love and gratitude,
Because he has indeed made her life worth living with his words and actions.
It’s a lovely moment at that banquet of love.
The whole house fills with an exquisite aroma of thanksgiving
A lovely moment spoiled with pettiness by the one who has stopped loving his teacher.
Judas claims that beauty and gratitude are a useless extravagance when there are poor people around.
Whether he truly cared about the poor or not does not matter here.
What matters is Jesus’ response.
“Leave her,” Jesus says.
When a heart is filled to overflowing, don’t quench it.
When a throat sings of love and praise,
Don’t silence it, just because others are weeping.
Jesus is telling them:
An expression of love that rises beyond the absolute necessities of life is acceptable.
This is a special occasion.
He knows that he will not be seeing his friends again.
He will carry with him the aroma of their love and devotion.
As he stumbles with the cross on his back, the stink of the crowd,
Of blood and sweat and ugliness all around him,
He will remember this moment of overwhelming gratitude.
His earthly life has not been easy and comfortable.
This dinner with friends, their laughter, Martha’s good food,
And Mary’s gift of love are the last reminders of what is good in this earthly life.
A last gift, of being among dear friends.
This story gives us permission, to cherish these good gifts:
Love of family and friends:
Food for the body,
And beauty with all its appeal to the senses.
And now, After enjoying all of that,
Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem,
Toward suffering and death.
More than anyone understand these words of the Psalmist:
Knowing what’s about to come:
Knowing all the tears that will fall:
He takes a moment to experience the small and simultaneous extreme joys of life.
“Our mouths they were filled,
Filled with laughter.
Our tongues they were loosed,
Loosed with joy.”
“restore us oh Lord.
Restore us oh Lord.”
“Although we are weeping,
Lord help us keep sowing.
The seeds of your kingdom,
For the day you will reap them.
Our sheaves we will carry,
Lord please do not tarry,
All those who sow weeping,
Will go out with songs of joy.”
We will walk with Jesus in his suffering and death.
There will be weeping,
But as we continue to sow the seeds of God’s kingdom,
But among friends:
There will also be songs of joy.
Today we welcomed Fr. Ed Smith while Rev. Portia is off.
Enjoy her sermon from last week
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer.
We’ve all asked ourselves at one time or another:
What did I do to deserve that?
What did THEY do to deserve such a thing?
How could this happen?
WHY am I being punished?
These questions are one of life’s deepest mysteries:
One of human-kinds most continuous questions:
Why all this suffering?
And what does it all mean?
Jesus knew these questions were on people’s minds.
He knew that everyone wonders about this at some point.
In today’s Gospel reading:
Jesus addresses these questions.
When news comes that Pontius Pilate has slaughtered some Galilean Jews:
Jesus asks the question that’s on everyone’s mind:
Is it because those Galileans were worse sinners than other Galileans?
Is that why they were slaughtered?
Did they do something to deserve such an awful death?
And Jesus’ answer is quite clear:
And if you don’t believe it:
Jesus offers another example:
When the tower of Siloam fell and eighteen people were killed:
Crushed because they stood in the wrong place at the wrong time:
Was that because they were sinners?
Did God smite them?
Jesus again says NO.
And if you don’t believe that:
Think ahead in the story:
Remember that the very same Pontius Pilate who killed those Galileans:
Will also participate in Jesus’ brutal death.
The truly sinless one: Will also die at Pilate’s hand.
It’s not because of sin.
Surely: It’s not about “Deserving.”
Because it also happens to Jesus.
And if we’re really being honest,
We must also acknowledge that being a Christian is no magic protection against tragedy:
And that there’s much in life that’s not about deserving.
After all: The cross is our central symbol--
Where an innocent man was executed like a criminal.
Christianity doesn’t give us a way out of tragedy.
But it can give us a way through it.
Turning to God is all that we can do:
Turning to God is the BEST thing that we can do.
Tragedy would be never ending without God.
And THAT’s what Jesus is talking about when he says:
“But: Unless you repent you will all perish as they did.”
And once again:
Jesus isn’t talking about deserving.
Jesus does not mean that we must become suddenly perfect and never sin again.
That’s not what repentance means.
Repentance does not mean to confess and be good so that we will be deserving of something better.
Repentance literally means “To turn.”
Repentance is not about us becoming perfect to avoid perishing:
It’s not about deserving.
It’s about turning toward God.
It’s about crying out to God:
It’s about believing that God can help to carry us:
and hold us in times of joy and times of sorrow.
Jesus is urging us to be in relationship with God.
And not be distracted by looking at what happened to someone else.
And not to spend our time constantly wondering.
But to look at ourselves:
And to find God there.
And Jesus also refuses to let us get caught up in judging others:
He refuses to let people question whether or not someone else deserves to suffer:
Instead he directs it back:
What in your life needs turning?
What in your life needs to be turned over to God?
Our own repentance:
Our own turning to God is important.
But not because doing so will make us more deserving of something Good.
Our own turning to God is important because God has already offered us everything.
The true scandal of Christianity is that God ALREADY loves us.
Whether we’ve turned to God or not.
The real craziness is that God doesn’t need a ledger or a tally sheet to check off what we’ve done right:
Or what we’ve done wrong:
Because we don’t actually do ANYTHING to deserve God’s love.
Years ago, I had a conversation with a young elementary aged girl.
She asked me, “If you watch church on TV does it count?”
I remember responding to her saying,
“Well… I don’t know who’s counting.”
We have no favor to earn:
Because God already sees us as beloved.
All we have to do is live in it.
Live in this mystery of God’s acceptance, love, and care for us.
We can’t lose God’s favor--
making bad things happen:
Because we don’t earn God’s favor in the first place.
But we can choose to turn to God or not.
We can choose to cry out to God in times of need.
To scream out “Lord have mercy.”
We can slug through the mud all alone:
Or we can slug through the mud with God.
And no matter what:
God sees us as beloved.
There’s a famous prayer in our prayerbook.
A very OLD prayer that is recited ager the consecration of the Eucharist in the old Rite 1 language.
The prayer says:
“We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord:
Trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies.
We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table.”
Many people today stop there.
And despise this prayer:
Misunderstanding this prayer:
Thinking that it’s merely to make us feel bad, guilty, and full of sin.
And it’s meant to do exactly the opposite:
Because the prayer continues:
BUT THOU art the same Lord:
Whose property is ALWAYS to have mercy.
Not God: Whose property is to give mercy only when we deserve it.
“We are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under thy table. But thou art the same lord who’s property it is to ALWAYS give mercy.”
Because we don’t do anything to DESERVE god’s mercy.
We don’t do anything to DESERVE the tragedies that might befall us.
Yet God is the same God:
Whose property is ALWAYS to have mercy.
Whose property is to love us no matter what we do:
No matter what we don’t do.
Like the fig tree that bears no fruit:
God the gardener has great mercy:
Does the fig tree deserve it?
Of course not.
But it doesn’t even matter.
Because little in life is about deserving.
Yet our God is the same God:
Whose property is ALWAYS to have mercy.
Announcements March Ministry Schedule
Please help us fill our ministry schedule.
Sign-up on the table by the elevator.
Greeters and hospitality needed next week
Mark your Calendars: Holy Week Services
Maundy Thursday, April 14 6pm
Good Friday, April 15 6pm
You are Invited!
Bring a friend and join us as we
"Get together for Faith Sharing and Prayer Needs"
This group will meet the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month from 11:30-1:00 in the River Room at Familiar Grounds Coffee Shop in New London.
Contact Sharon Harwood at 920-858-2626 with questions.
Men's Group: All men of the parish are invited to the Men's Group every other Sunday at 8:15 am (March13 & 27). Contact Mike Sperger with questions 920-982-7575.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord our strength and our redeemer.
The ashes are Gone:
We’ve washed them off our faces:
But as we enter the first Sunday of lent:
We may still feel the dust and darkness of those ashes:
Especially as we hear the story of Jesus tempted in the desert:
And his encounter with the devil:
The story reminds us of everything we’ve been taught about sin, the devil, and temptation.
We’ve put away the Alleluias:
And we can FEEL the absence.
And we have 40 long days to think about it:
Forty long days when we’re reminded to repent and be saved.
Is this what Lent is really all about?
If we go back to our childhoods,
We might remember waiting for Lent to be over:
Where we can get back to the real world:
Where we trade in this somber season for the long awaited Easter celebration.
But look at our readings today.
If we really pay attention to what we’re hearing:
There’s a whole lot more light than darkness:
A whole lot more graciousness poured on us by our God than punishment.
A lot less damnation:
And a whole lot more love and acceptance.
We’re reminded about the temptations of sin:
We’re offered the unstopping gift of forgiveness:
And the opportunity to model Jesus in the best way we can.
Lent can help us go deep into ourselves:
Not to make us feel guilty:
But to make us responsible:
To push us to really be who God has created us to be.
Look at today’s readings for proof:
Deuteronomy shows us plenty of light:
God has given the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey:
Which is an image of peace and beauty.
All they have to do is show gratitude through their offerings.
God heard the people’s cries:
And responded with Loving grace.
Today’s Psalm says:
“He shall call upon me, and I will answer him:
I am with him in trouble:
I will rescue him and bring him to Honor.”
This is another image that should remind us that God continues to hear our cries:
Even when they’re moaned from the depths of our sinfulness:
God doesn’t banish us away:
At the beginning of Lent:
We’re reminded that we’re not alone:
God has not abandoned us:
But even more so: God is “so bound to us in love”
That’s what the psalm says:
Bound to us in love:
That even when we are focused only on ourselves:
EVEN to the point of sin:
God is with us:
Bound to us in love:
Ready to brush the ash from our faces.
Paul says the same thing to the Romans:
“The word is near you:
On your lips and in your heart.”
And he doesn’t just mean the word of faith:
But the WORD with a capital “W”
The WORD of God: Jesus.
GOD IS NEAR YOU:
On your lips and in your heart:
“You will be saved,” Paul says:
“Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
What news could be better than that?
This first Sunday of Lent is looking less and less somber!!
And more and more hope-filled!
(As it should)
And that’s not even all:
Notice: In the Gospel story:
That Jesus didn’t send satan:
Immediately to hell.
I mean: couldn’t Jesus just have Gotten rid of the sin-filled tempter?
Just banished him away?
But that’s not what happens.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus only responds to the temptations by reminding his tempter that God alone is worthy of our worship and service?
There was no argument:
No casting out into darkness:
But God alone as the refuge, and stronghold in times of trial.
The gospel reminds us that Jesus, too, was faced with temptations.
He was, after all, fully human as well as fully divine.
He knows what we face.
He knows the power that tries to turn our hearts from God.
Yet Jesus is much better at dealing with it all than we are!
And in this season of lent:
We remember that:
Like the ashes on our forehead at the beginning of the journey:
We are reminded that we are imperfect:
Yet no imperfection is too great for God’s mercy and grace.
We, too, have been promised a land flowing with milk and honey:
As we journey through lent:
To the hope-filled resurrection:
Let us know that not all is somber and sin:
There’s also a lot to be joyful about in Lent.
A lot to be grateful for:
And more love and mercy from our Great God than we can ever imagine.
Don’t look at Lent as merely somber:
Consider it to be a quiet moment of reflection:
To reflect on the hope:
And the love that God promises us:
At all times,
And all places:
Even during Lent.
May the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart be always acceptable,
Oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Fishing is big business.
Not just the $100 billion annual that commercial fishing brings.
Recreational fishing is huge.
I know this.
The daughter of a boat mechanic who grew up on the Missouri River in South
We fished ALL the time growing up.
And here in Wisconsin there are almost 1.3 million fishing licenses every year.
That’s about one in every five Wisconsinites having a fishing license.
There’s 54.7 million recreational fishermen in the United states,
10.6 billion dollars a year generated by recreational fishing.
And: 165 million results for the phrase, “rather be fishing” on google.
And you don’t need to take my word for it:
Go into fleet farm or hobby lobby:
(Or my dad’s house) and I’ll bet you’ll see a cute rustic sign that tells you a positive
outlook on fishin’ especially over and against “workin”
And for good reason.
Fishing carries with it opportunities to build community:
Or to get away from the business of life:
The chance for both peace and patience,
Or even the thrill of the fight in reeling in a big one.
And it is, of course,
Emblematic of leisure, of not having to work,
Of being set free to do what you want.
In light of today’s Gospel reading:
You see where I’m going here.
Fishing was big business in Jesus’ time as well.
In many places around the Roman Empire,
Fishing was not great work: because it was largely tenant or hired labor work.
But around the sea of Galilee, or as the locals called it: the Sea of Gennesaret:
Fishermen carved out a pretty nice living.
It was strenuous labor, physically demanding, and requiring maintenance of boats and nets.
(And most fishing was either drag or cast net fishing)
But fishing around the sea of Galilee was also very lucrative:
Especially for the individuals or partnerships that owned their own boats.
And it seems that the apostles that we meet in today’s reading, probably did own their own boats together.
Fish was such big business because it, rather than land meat:
Was the primary source of protein in the diet in that part of the world at that time.
Fishermen at the sea of Galilee would catch a kind of tilapia, carp and catfish.
And any fish that weren’t big enough to be sold would be mixed with the entrails to
create a fermented fish sauce that was used everywhere in the roman empire.
Kind of like a Roman ketchup--
And it amounted to the equivalent of millions of dollars in sales every year.
What was more:
Again, especially those who owned their own boats,
Had significant freedom in how they set their schedule.
Unlike tenant farmers or other agricultural workers,
Fishermen went fishing when they wanted to and stopped when they wanted to.
We even have instances of people complaining that Jewish fishermen would go to
synagogue for prayers rather than go fishing on the Sabbath.
So, a job that NETTED a pretty tidy income:
Let you stay physical fit,
AND gave you freedom to set your own schedule?
I’m sure some of us would take someone up on that offer.
And you can guess that this was that much more envied in the ancient world when
the other option for most people was back breaking,
And generally extremely impoverished farm work.
Which makes what happens in this story pretty incredible.
Here we have Jesus preaching out in the open:
Probably because of the size of the crowds that were gathering,
But also showing that he was not conforming to the standard pattern of preaching
and teaching just in synagogues.
He wants to make use of the good acoustics of the sea of galilee,
And sees some fisherman on the shore mending their nets after a frustrating night of not catching anything.
Jesus was clearly not an unknown quantity at this point,
And he seems to have built up some relationship with Simon, having healed his mother in law.
He had a reputation as a teacher, healer, and exorcist in the area,
And so he was probably embraced with respect by these fishermen.
It probably didn’t take much for them to be willing to take him out--
Maybe being associated with him brought some pretty big social capital.
But Jesus finishes teaching and then tells Simon Peter to put out the nets again.
You can almost hear the frustration in Peter’s voice.
Here you have this guy who doesn’t know anything about fishing,
Telling experienced professionals how to do their job.
But, maybe because of Jesus healing his mother in law,
Simon Peter maybe senses that he owes Jesus something.
So he humors him.
You can almost hear Simon Peter saying, “Oooooo…. K…. We’ll do it.”
And then under his breath, “but we’re not going to catch anything.”
But then something astounding happens!
The nets are so full,
They are bursting.
They are at risk of capsizing.
They even need to get help from the other boat.
And then something changes in Simon Peter.
You can almost see a dawning coming over him that this Jesus isn’t just some
wandering wonder worker.
He may actually have power over nature itself:
Something that is in only God’s perview.
There’s something extra special about this Jesus.
And so we get a little sense of fear from Simon Peter:
As he begins to understand who Jesus is.
Get away from me Jesus! I’m a sinner!
Now: This doesn’t mean that Simon Peter thought of himself as a terrible person.
Instead it’s likely that he just lived his life in a state of perpetual uncleanness:
Like most of the people in Galilee.
To be ritually clean:
Or “not a sinner” in this ancient Jewish world was something that was reserved for
the extremely rich.
So Peter is probably afraid,
Knowing stories about what happens when uncleanness gets in the presence of
But here’s the even more astounding thing.
Jesus calls these fishermen to engage in his ministry.
To go about catching people FOR life with and under him.
And the fishermen leave their boats and nets behind.
But not just that:
They leave them behind after they had what could have been the catch of a lifetime:
One of the most astounding and lucrative single hauls they ever had.
They walk away at the top of their careers before they even get the payout.
And this is the degree of command that Jesus exerts on US.
Our call to follow him is not one that sits among many other considerations in our lives.
It is all encompassing and takes precedence over all things.
When Jesus calls us,
He is Lord.
He has absolute command.
And that means you stop doing what you’re doing,
And do what he tells you to do.
If he calls you to do something else,
To leave your career or life behind:
You do it.
It’s possible that the disciples followed Jesus precisely because they thought they
were in store for some more lucrative opportunities.
Perhaps it wasn’t as simple as “Jesus told us to do it, so we did it, regardless of the
But regardless of what the initial point of them leaving everything behind,
They quickly learned that Jesus had called them from a quite pleasant,
independent, and well paying profession:
To a much much more difficult life.
As we follow these disciples through the rest of the story:
We see them face ridicule, prison, persecution, and great uncertainty.
And all the autonomy that they had as fishermen is given over to Jesus.
They’re not setting their schedules or lives—Jesus is.
And what’s more, by tradition,
Three of the four apostles Jesus calls here die martyrs deaths.
The astounding thing is not really that they leave everything behind:
But that they continue to: as they stick with Jesus to their own deaths.
When Jesus calls us to leave everything behind:
(And all of us have this call whether literally or figuratively)
To be engaged in his ministry:
To snatching people up to new life in him:
We may have various reasons for doing this.
But the thing that keeps people growing deeper in relationship,
Suffering loss, deprivation, and giving up their own autonomy:
Is that there is something about this Jesus that points to the better.
Jesus is worth it.
More worth it than any of the material comfort or gain that gets left behind.
This is, I think,
The real take away from this story.
Not that we have to have pure and perfect motives for picking up and following
But rather that we give it a try.
Many and varied are the reasons people chose to submit themselves to the call of
Which can involve giving up quite a lot.
But what matters is sticking around.
Sticking it out.
Being in it for the long haul.
Because if we’re in it:
If we stick with it:
Then we find that all the deprivation and loss was worth it.
We give up the easy life for a REAL life.
We give up freedom to choose what and when we want to do things,
For the freedom that comes with BEING chosen:
Of being what we are supposed to be.
And what’s more:
Jesus doesn’t call us to understand.
Or to have all the right answers in order to start down this path.
All that Jesus asks of us is a willingness to leave behind everything.
And follow him into whatever he is calling us to do.
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