Sunday, February 10, 2019

“A New Direction” The Sermon for SUNDAY, February 10, 2019 - Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany


Our Gospel message comes to us today from Luke the 5th chapter, beginning at the 1st verse.

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11, NRSV)

All mighty God, we thank you for your word and the way that you in it revealed to us who you are and what you've done for us in Christ. Now as we open that word we pray that your spirit may be present, that all thoughts of worry or distraction may be removed and that the Spirit will allow us to hear your voice. And so, oh God, fill us with your spirit through the reading and proclamation of your word this day. We pray in Jesus name. Amen

“A New Direction”

I. INTRODUCTION

Where do we go to encounter God? This question has been debated and attempts made to discover the answer for centuries. Some people have followed the example of John the Baptist and traveled the deserts and wildernesses of the world. In the middle ages, it was popular to enter a monastery or convent. When I was growing up, in the sixties, many thought that the path to god was through drugs. Today we have New Agers making pilgrimages to Sedona and its vortices.

Better places to encounter God may be found in worship services, Christian retreat centers, or Bible camps. Certainly it is our prayer that everyone encounters God in our readings and devotions at ichthusfellowshipministry.org. I personally appreciate the ministry of retreat centers and avail myself of them every chance I get. Thousands upon thousands of Christians had encountered God as young people during a week at a Bible camp.

None of these places rank in the top five places in Scripture.

II. THE MUNDANE

The story of Jesus and the calling of the disciples reminds us that most often we encounter God in the mundane activities of life. The disciples were cleaning their nets. Moses encountered God in a burning bush while he was tending sheep. Paul had his encounter with God when he was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus in order to persecute more Christians. Martin Luther encountered God traveling during a stormy night.

For the residents of a sub-division called El Amor De Cristo in Peoria, AZ, they have seen God as they worked with hundred of others who built them their homes through Habitat for Humanity. Others have caught a glimpse of God while walking for cancer. People have experienced God in the scores of casseroles that were baked for them when a loved one died, the cards and letters they received during a difficult time, or in the words and actions of a co-worker.

A small group that I participate in at times ask the question, “Where have you seen Jesus this past week? It is a question that encourages the proper perspective on life. God is not a distant God. The God whom we worship is here among us. We need to be attentive to that reality and see the world through the eyes of faith.

III. HOLY GOD/SINFUL HUMANKIND

Peter’s response to catching the shoal of fish catches us by surprise. “Wow,” “Cool,” or “Awesome,” might be possible responses that we would make. Peter asks Jesus to leave because Peter is a sinful person. God’s goal in revealing himself and his glory to us is not to impress us, or entertain us. God reveals his glory in order to draw us closer to him.

When we encounter God we are immediately aware of God’s holiness. At the same time, we become aware of our sinfulness. Peter isn’t the only example in Scripture of this truth. When Isaiah was called to be a prophet (Isaiah 6) he responded to see the Lord fill the temple by saying that he was a man of unclean lips. Paul, perhaps the greatest theologian and missionary of the Christian church identified himself as the chief of sinners.

Mature Christians are not those who strut around in their self-righteousness proud that they are such good people who have so few sins to confess during their times of prayer. True mature Christians are a humble crew. As they grow in their relationship with God, they are more and more aware of God’s grace, love, and holiness, and of their sinfulness. These “saints” are constantly aware of their need for Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and they cultivate an attitude of gratitude for God’s gracious, unmerited movement in their lives.

IV. CHANGE OF DIRECTION

There is a third consistent element in God’s revelation, or epiphany, to us. Not only does it usually occur in the mundane, and cause us to be awesomely aware of God’s holiness and painfully aware of our sinfulness, but there is also a change in the direction of our lives.

Peter, Andrew, James and John, didn’t continue in their fishing enterprise and bore their families and fellow fishermen with tales of the great number of fish that they caught—their number and size increasing daily. Rather they left their boats and followed Jesus along a path that they did not know where it would lead. They certainly didn’t think it would end at the cross and an empty tomb.

Moses stopped tending sheep and became a leader of his people. Paul stopped persecuting Christians and became the greatest advocate for Christ. Martin Luther dropped his law studies and became a priest and a leader of the reformation.

When we see Jesus, we might realize that we haven’t been living in a relationship with him, and chose to accept his forgiveness and his offer of a new relationship with God. We might experience God and become aware of other gods—gods of this world—in which we have placed our faith and trust. Encountering Jesus may make us aware of our refusal to take up our cross and follow him, or our decision to love only a select few and to be harsh and judgmental with others.

Encountering God puts our lives in God’s light, and when we see ourselves as God sees us, it is difficult to remain the same. Encountering God is a life-changing experience.

V. CONCLUSION

We cannot control when God reveals himself to us and we see God in all of his glory, but we can be watchful and observant, and open to God’s movement in our lives.

God is with us not only in a Sunday morning worship service, but up also in the world in which we live and work.

Amen

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The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.
Encountering God puts our lives in God’s light, and when we see ourselves as God sees us, it is difficult to remain the same. Encountering God is a life-changing experience.

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