|Minister's Sermon - Sunday 10th February 2019|
|Rev Sue Keegan von Allmen|
|Sunday 10th February 2019|
Daniel has made a picture to illustrate today’s reading and I’m using the different elements of it as the starting point for the few words I want to say. They’re words to Harvey, Louisa, Kieran, Lauren, Megan, Rhian, James and James. But not to them alone. They’re for all of us. As our journey as Jesus’ disciples continues.
I want to begin with the fishermen. One day Jesus was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, he saw two boats pulled up on the beach, and the fishermen who were washing the nets. Fishermen were a common sight on the lake. Fishing was one the main ways the people of Galilee earned a living. In Jesus’s day ‘though, because Caesar owned every body of water, the fishing industry was controlled by the Roman Empire. Which collected taxes on everything they caught, and exported most of the fish, leaving the local people hungry. I am sure that changing this situation was part of the reason Simon, James and John responded to Jesus’ call. But you might be wondering why I’ve told you this now - today. Well, when Jesus called the fishermen to follow him, he called real people with their experience of the world, and that influenced the disciples they would become. The same is true for us. When Jesus calls us to follow, he calls us, to come as we are. Harvey, Louisa, Kieran, Lauren, Megan, Rhian, James and James are students at the moment. They come with all it means to be teenagers at school and college in 2019. As well as the knowledge they have of life as it is now. And all they’ve experienced since their birth. Your family and your genes, your school, the activities you’ve chosen or have chosen you, this church, the things you’ve given up, your hopes and dreams for your future. All these are shaping you into the Christian you are and you’re becoming. You’re not called out of these things (unless they harm you or other people). But to become who God is calling you to be through them. And that’s the same for all of us. Whatever our gender, our nationality, our colour. Whatever our job or calling. Whether we’re working retired, unemployed looking after children or parents. Whether we’re married, single, divorced, widowed or living with someone. Whether we’re well or ill or somewhere in between. We bring all of this and more into our life as Christians. And God in God’s grace uses all that has and will happen to us, to shape us into the people we are becoming in Christ, and through the Holy Spirit.
So that’s the fishermen, let’s continue with Jesus. As Jesus walked alongside the lake, the people pushed their way up to him, because they wanted to hear the word of God. He saw two boats on the beach. He got into one of them and asked Simon to push it a little way from the shore. Then he sat in the boat and taught the crowd. Everywhere Jesus went people wanted to hear from him. And some of the people who listened to him became his disciples. The Greek word for disciples means learners. But it’s not the same sort of learning that happens in schools or college, or even TAG or sermons, today. In Jesus’ time, being a disciple meant hanging on your teacher’s every word, following his footsteps, sleeping outside their door, watching how they acted at the table, and how they conducted themselves in the street. It meant hanging around with the master, forming a relationship with him, sharing his life and learning from him – almost by osmosis. And because Jesus was God in human form, he showed them what is possible for all human beings, for we’re all made in God’s image and likeness. In him, we see the potential we have, the best we can be. So, as the disciples accompanied him, they learnt – slowly - what being – becoming - like their master, their Lord, would mean for them. In different times, and in different places, this has been called different things. For Paul it was about “being clothed in Christ.” For Thomas a Kempis is was about “imitating Christ.” Today, Harvey, Louisa, Kieran, Lauren, Megan, Rhian, James and James have said yes, to this sort of learning. To the journey of becoming the best human beings you can be. To becoming like Jesus. As God shapes you into the people you were created to be in Christ, and through the Holy Spirit.
So that’s the fishermen and Jesus. Let’s move onto the water. When Jesus had finished teaching the crowd, he said to Simon, “Push the boat out further to the deep water…” Why is he so specific? Why not, just say, the water? Does it matter whether or not it’s deep? In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament, “deep water” is used as a symbol of chaos. In Jesus’ time, the chaos had to do with the Jewish people, being ruled by the Roman Empire. In the time that Luke’s Gospel was written, the Christians were in dispute with the traditional Judaism, and there was conflict in the church about the direction the early Christians should go. It all felt chaotic. Deep water is a symbol of the things we struggle with. And that we’ll always struggle with. Whether in the wider world, among our families, friends or the church, or within ourselves. In time, Harvey, Louisa, Kieran, Lauren, Megan, Rhian, James and James, will experience failure, illness, doubt, betrayal, and death and much more. You’ll experience them because you’re human. We all do. They’re part of life and to our journeys of faith. They’ll cause you to doubt and question and wrestle. And that’s good! Because as we wrestle, our faith is deepened, and what we once said “yes” to, with our heads, become things we trust in our hearts. And all that’s unnecessary gets left behind. As God shapes you into the people you are becoming in Christ, and through the Holy Spirit.
But what of the nets that dominate Daniel’s picture?! Jesus told Simon to “Push the boat out further… and you and your partners let down your nets for a catch.” “Master,” Simon answered, “we worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will let down the nets.” They let them down and caught such a large number of fish that the nets were about to break. They’ve worked all night, and found nothing, but now that they throw their nets into the deep water, their nets are so full of fish that even a strong fisherman like Simon Peter finds the catch heavy. This is amazing, excessive, fantastic generosity. Debie Thomas says, “Food for all, food security for all, justice for all, nurture for all.” And in the context of the Roman role of 1st century Palestine it was overwhelming. In this image, Jesus shows Simon, James and John what God’s kingdom will look like, when it’s fully established. There will be no empty nets, no empty tables, and no economic exploitation. God’s kingdom will mean good news for all. Harvey, Louisa, Kieran, Lauren, Megan, Rhian, James and James, the image of the full nets offers a way of looking at your discipleship in the years to come. Is the way you live good news for all? Or is it only good news for you, your friends, your family, your country or group? If it is, are you open to being challenged, to see, to change and to grow? I think that that maybe what Peter recognised when he told Jesus to leave him because he was a “sinful man.” But Jesus didn’t. Jesus didn’t leave him. And Jesus won’t leave us. For that’s not the God we worship. Remember these words I said to Kieran earlier:
“…for you Jesus Christ came into the world; for you he lived and showed God's love; for you he suffered death on the Cross; for you he triumphed over death, rising to newness of life; for you he prays at God's right hand: all this for you, before you could know anything of it… ‘We love, because God first loved us.’
“We love, because God first loved us.” God love us whatever happens to us. Whether we fall or fail. Doubt or disagree. Succeed or suffer. To all of us, even before we know who we are, God says “don’t be afraid.” And invites us to come with God to Jesus’ followers to share in establishing God’s kingdom on earth. Harvey, Louisa, Kieran, Lauren, Megan, Rhian, James and James, you have taken one more step on your journey with Christ today. I pray that as you take more, your nets will be filled, and you will help fill the nets of many others. Amen.
Sue Keegan von Allmen