2017-01-22 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
“We Are the Net”
As many of you know…I was in Israel for a Holy Land tour about 14 months ago. And the Sea of Galilee (or as Luke called it “the Lake of Gennesaret”) was one of the highpoints of the trip for me. And we learned that Jesus would push out in a boat, away from the shoreline, because then, as the crowds gathered, there was a natural amphitheatre formed along the shoreline as it quickly turns into a incline/bowl of surrounding hill-line.
And this is where we find Jesus today…
He has just come from his hide-out space…what Luke calls his “deserted space”… but the crowds have found him and they are pressing in on him, pursuing him, asking him to tell more amazing stories…
“tell us more of the upside-down kingdom! … good news for us poor! Release for us who are captive under the oppression of Rome! I’ve even heard that you’ve given sight to the blind…heal me, Rabbi, heal me!
Is this not Joseph’s son who some say is the Holy One of God?!”
Chant: Jesus of Nazareth…Jesus of Nazareth!
The crowd is pressing in on him….it’s only 9 o’clock in the morning and yet 500 people gather along the shoreline, clamouring, clinging, shouting…
Jesus sees 2 boats along the shoreline and calls out to one of the fisherman.
He’s cleaning his nets, but of course a little ticked and distracted by all the noise and calamity.
Jesus sloshes towards Simon Peter and jumps into his boat.
“Push out a little way from the shore.”
Easy enough. Can do, Joseph’s son.
And Jesus speaks to the crowd…
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…and he has anointed me to bring good news!”
“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…
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
– – – – –
As he finishes speaking to the crowd they pump up the volme of their rowdy fervour… and rather than press into the crowd, Jesus looks at Simon Peter and says:
“Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”
“Teacher, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.
Yet if you say so; I will let down the nets.”
He calls out to James and John in the other boat and tells them to put down their end of the net. The rower/laborers in the boat with Peter push out further into the lake and in matter of minutes the 100-foot net stretches and creaks as it is overwhelmed with over 150 fresh fish!
The nets are bulging and ready to break!
Peter tells his rowers to go back towards James & John’s boat and cries out “help!”
James and John and now 2 sets of laborers are frantically and frenetically grasping at the nets with all their might, pulling the nets into each boat and spilling their silver-scaled treasures onto the floorboard of each vessel.
Now that the boats are only 20 meters from shore the crowds clamour again.
The nets have stayed together,
But Peter has come undone.
This small town teacher who has spoken with such authority and power has dismantled Peter’s ______ and pride.
Could this really be…the son of the most high?
Could this really be…the son of David?
Could Jesus really be…the one we’ve been waiting for for 500 years??
Oh God…if this is you…powerfully present in the person of Jesus…I am undone!
I’m a sinful man! Go away from me Lord…I’m just a lowly fisherman!
You don’t want to have anything to do with me…and though you show me favour,
I don’t want anything to do with you.
There’s lots of others that you can change and call…but not me…not me…it can’t be me!
And Jesus answers:
DO NOT BE AFRAID; from now on you will be catching people.
As the new people of God, we know the rest of the story.
But on this day, Peter, James and John are astounded.
They are amazed by the abundance.
They are confounded and confused by the call.
And they choose to leave their vocation and livelihood behind…to follow Jesus.
And here is the good news, yes?
Right when we get to the “aha” or “ooooooh” point in our interactions with Jesus, right when we get to the “I know who you are and I’m pretty sure that getting mixed up with you is going to mess up my life”…
Right when we start running for the exits…or better yet, telling Jesus to “exit, stage right…get outta town!” [this couldn’t be for me, you must have thought I was someone else…]
Jesus says: “Do not be afraid!”
When was the last time we heard “do not be afraid” in the Lukan gospel story?
Terrified, low-life, blue collared nobodies…shepherds…keeping watch over their flock by night.
When these low life’s cry out “NOOOOOOO…not us! We’re doomed!”
The angel of the Lord says: “Do not be afraid; for see – – I AM bringing to good news of great joy for ALL the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Peter had probably heard this story for 30 years!
And today, it’s not an angel of the Lord, it’s the capital “L” Lord…standing before him…
“Do not be afraid!”
“From now on you will be catching people!”
This call and miracle is not for someone else…
This call and miracle is a sign and wonder that will change Peter’s life forever.
And what about us?
After all the drama of Christmas…how has our vacation set us up to return to our vocation?
The good news of the gospel, today, is that Jesus stands before us and says:
“Do not be afraid.”
And today’s Jesus’ story also pushes us and propels us to remember that we are called to be people-catchers.
A strange term…but it’s not that we’re trying to get people by hook or by crook…
As followers of Jesus, as bearers of good news, as a people who are bringing good news to the poor, to the captive, to the blind and oppressed, we are gathering people “in” to the goodness and grace of Jesus…
Not in our own powers or skills or clever plans…we are just ordinary fisherwomen & men… [underprepared for the task!]
But, we’re all in this together.
This is not an individualistic, I can catch more fish that you competition.
And that’s why I’ve titled today’s sermon “We are the Net.”
I am the net, you are the net, we are the net together.
We are following Jesus, we annoy each other with all our scratchy fibers,
Yes, we are the net together!
We’re in this together.
Drawing people in…to the heart of Jesus.
The Generosity of the Father.
The Gracious ways of the Spirit.
NT Wright (“The day the Revolution began”) talks about our Christian vocation…
As we be the “net” together…Wright says that…
“The gospel stories give us energy and the sense of direction to be BEATITUDE PEOPLE for the world…”
“The gospels invite us to make this story our own, to live within the narrative in all its twists and turns, to see ourselves among the crowds following Jesus and witnessing his kingdom-bringing work, & to see ourselves also in the long-range continuation of that narrative that we call the life of the church.”
“Beatitude people proclaim that Jesus’ way of peace and reconciliation is more powerful than all the powers of the world.”
FBC, as we continue to move through these first steps of 2017, as we pay attention to what God is revealing to us in this present season of Epiphany,
May God meet us, surprise us, amaze us and empower us…
So that we might draw people “in” to the good graces and the big net of our Lord – –
Who speaks to us with care and kindness, even when we feel undone…
Jesus’s promise and words are our food for our journey:
“Do not be afraid!”