January 20, 2013

January 20, 2013

January 20, 2013 – First Baptist Church Edmonton – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato

GodStory, Part 20 of 37
Text: Luke 5:1-11
Title: “Caught to Life”

Opening comments:
We continue our journey in the GodStory this week…[let me offer a quick “new years review”]. We’re in part 20 of 37 for those who are keeping count. Living into and out of the GodStory….way back in September we started with creation and the fall of humankind and the cosmos…. Then we walked with the people of God, the nation Israel, a people who obeyed greatly and disobeyed as equally as greatly…and yet God in grace stayed faithful to Israel… this same God who stays faithful to us in the midst of our glory and folly….and then during the season of Advent we started the “Jesus chapter” of the God story… we welcomed anew the living Jesus, the one who was foretold of in the writings of the prophets and then born of a teenager in the midst of poverty and squalor, and yet even before he was born, this human/divine being was being declared as the son of the most high, the saviour of the world, the one who would bring unimaginable hope and healing to ALL the world, but at the same time, this one would shake up ALL things [changing the economy of the cosmos]…., the proud would be brought down….the weak, broken and needy would be exalted…and part of the cost of following and believing in this saviour would be a life of anguish, Mother Mary heard that riveting promise: “A sword too, will pierce your own soul”…but at the same time, angels and prophets would say to her: “You are not alone” and “Be not afraid.”

And these stories that we’ve been teaching and preaching over the past 20 weeks – – these are NOT fairly tales! This is the story of God….a story written for you and me and US…. A story that we live into – – and in the midst of living into this sacred story, we encounter a living God and as we pay attention – – we follow the call and invitation of a God who first loves us, who meets us and invites us to join him in his great plan to make all things new.

And God doesn’t just come as a mist from the heavens with golden scripted books on how to get everyone on the G-train. Instead, God shows up in the person of Jesus. We read in John 1 that God dwelt among us. [message translation: “God moved into the neighbourhood.” He hunkered down amongst us and with us. And that’s why we read and preach the gospels…these are the Jesus stories that not only give us information about Jesus, but they too provide a world for us to live in, to imagine and experience an encounter with the living Christ, and because of that encounter we become a people who are changed (transformed) and then sent out to live a way in the world that echoes and embodies the heart of God.

Last week, we met Jesus at the river Jordan, being baptized by his cousin, John the Baptist. And part of Anne’s challenge for us last week was to hear the call of John and to hear the call of Jesus….an invitation to repent….and invitation to turn from one way and follow the one who will bring life…the one who beckons us to be baptized with Holy Spirit and fire!

How’d that go for you this past week?? Holy Spirit and fire are big themes in Luke and its partner book “Acts” so don’t lose sight of it ok?

But we’re not in Fire today….we’re in water again! We move from one body of water to another….instead of being at the river Jordan, we are at the sea of genessaret (which is simply Luke’s nickname for describing the sea of galilee).

Instead of eating wild locus and honey and wandering in the desert, we are in the water, near fishing boats, on the shores of a sandy cove.

Imagine this scene…

It’s 5 am and Peter and his fishing colleagues James and John have just pulled into shore after a fruitless (fishless?) night of fishing. They are cleaning their nets. These huge nets weren’t filled with fish, but they’re filled with all the gunk and debris that they dredged up as they were being dragged along the bottom of the sea.

Find yourself in this scene? What does it look like? What does it feel like?
What does it SMELL like? Not only does it smell like water-logged rope and twine, it smells like failure.

Failure. Ever been there, done that? It feels like your first university exam, where you look at the mark and you’ve never seen a 38% in your life. It feels like that first job, so full of promise and expectations, and then in a matter of months, getting shot down like a lead balloon. It’s the heavy heartedness of getting scolded, shamed and sent to your room, in isolation where you think everyone in the world is against you.

This is also a scene that is filled with some colourful language. Peter was a fisherman. He was not a butler to the queen. His mouth knew how to keep up with the trash talk of the best of his foul-mouthed fishing friends.

And in this moment in time….Peter and his failed-fishing-friends were keeping pretty quiet. It’s still dusk…and they just want to be alone in their gloom and despair.

But wouldn’t you know it….here comes a crowd of a thousand people. Cajoling, clamouring, rustling and bustling about trying to get a word INTO or a word out of this 30 year-old up and comer, the one who self-described as a modern day prophet of YHWH.

Peter gasps: “Oh….Jesus.”

Jesus had really made a splash in galilee county over the past few months. This was the man who was rejected in his hometown and had suddenly appeared on the scene in Galilee, teaching in synagogues, claiming that the “Spirit of the Lord” was upon him, and healing babies, children, deaf, dumb and blind men and women alike. He even casted demons out of possessed people…those who had been in bondage to strange and evil spirits for decades were now walking around and talking and behaving like sane people! The common people seemed to love him and chased him all over the countryside, begging for more and getting caught up in the frenzy of this power, signs and wonders tour. The religious leaders were not so happy with him… Peter had recently heard that a group of Pharisees had tried to push Jesus off of a cliff in Capernaum and had nearly succeeded but somehow Jesus had eluded their death strike.

Peter gasps again… “Oh….Jesus.”

Peter was a fan. How could he not be? Three weeks ago, Peter’s mother-in-law was on her death bed. A high fever that just wouldn’t break. And right before their very eyes, Peter and his wife were watching this woman become weaker, dehydrated, and more desperate.

Being a man who liked to go out on a limb and risk and speak his mind and get what he wanted….Peter had decided to try to get Jesus to work one of his “son of God” signs and wonders. He had found Jesus in the synagogue and to his surprise, Jesus accepted the invitation to come. And then to his UTTER surprise, Jesus entered his mother-in-law’s house and “spoke a word of healing rebuke” to the sickness, and his mother-in-law was healed! Which of course led to another uproar from the crowds and Peter spent the rest of the week caught up in the masses of people who wanted to get a piece of this spectacular spiritual superstar.

But that was 3 weeks ago, and Jesus had taken his signs and wonders show to God-knows where. And now he’s back…. Just when Peter wanted to have a little me-time… some pity-party time in darkness and silence.

So Peter scrambles about with James and John and they toss their ½ clean nets into the boats. The crowd of a thousand presses into the cove area and Jesus begins to share stories about that strange place called “the kingdom of God.” Feeling overwhelmed and a bit claustrophobic because of the crowd, Jesus turns to Peter and gesturing towards the boat says: “May I?”
He gets into Peter’s boat, pushes out into the cove and then finishes teaching a message that Peter’s heard before. Something along the lines of the poor being blessed, weeping turning into laughing…. “blessed are you who hunger now, you will be satisfied.”

“You will be satisfied!” Peter mutters…. “yeah right!”

“I mock your words!” Peter thinks in his mind as he longs for this irritating, noisy, smelly crowd to leave the cove and abandon him to more isolated, net-cleaning, misery.

Once Jesus finishes speaking, he says to Peter: “Push out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”

Ten “no”phrases zing through Peter’s head. 9 of them were filled with swear words so all he’s left with is:

“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.”

Pregnant pause. Peter remembers his healed & healthy mother-in-law…. He rolls his eyes and goes on:

“….But, because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

Peter calls to James and John… “look guys, he healed my mother-in-law. Can you do this for me? Just this once?”

The three men push the boat out into deep water and let the net down.

A weird and scary gurgling and bubbling sound surrounds them…James yells out: “Fish!”

That was an understatement. Their net was so full that it creaked and moaned under the pressure of the flailing masses of fish.

“Alphaus, Jonah, Jairus! Help! Bring your boat and help us! We’ve got too many fish!”

“Too many fish!?”

Peter’s mind harkens back to the Jesus-speech: “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.”

Too many fish? Satisfied? Healed mother-in-law?
Could this really be the son of the most high?

“Jesus….get away from me! I’m not worthy of this! You don’t even know me!
I’m just a fisherman. I am a sinful man!”

Peter had unknowingly thrown himself down at Jesus’ feet…He looks up into Jesus’ eyes.

And Jesus says: “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch people for life.”

Peter’s vocation, life, and destiny will never be the same.

Will our lives ever be the same? Open the eyes of your heart. . .
As the images and words of this story find places to land in your life…
Reflect on the 2 “Jesus phrases” in today’s story:

i) v. 4: “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” What deeper place is Jesus beckoning you to go to?
ii) V. 10: “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch people for life.” How has your encounter with the living Jesus’ become a pathway for others to get “caught up in life”?

CLOSING PRAYER: It’s quite likely that as a YHWH-worshipping Jewish believer Peter would have had this prayer in his religious memory:

A Reading from the Prophet Isaiah 43: 1-5

The Lord who created you and formed you says this;

Do not be afraid for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name, you are mine.
Should you pass through the sea, I will be with you;
Or through rivers, they will not engulf you.
Should you walk through fire, you will not be scorched
And the flames will not burn you.
For I am the Lord, your God and your Saviour.
You are precious in my eyes, you are honoured, and I love you.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you.