Sunday, February 10, 2013
Gospel Text: Luke 5: 1-11
GOSPEL READING, Part 1 Luke 5: 1-3
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore.
GUIDED MEDITATION, part 1 “Being Jesus”
Our Gospel reading today is a story to experience for its evocative power. Put yourself in this story and imagine that you are Jesus, standing beside the lake of Gennesaret. Imagine yourself exhausted from teaching all day in the sun. Feel the crowd pressing closer and closer. Imagine then asking a nearby fisherman to take you out in his boat just a little way from the shore. You need some distance from those calling you to do more and more. Surely you have felt pressured and exhausted by many demands. So you can understand how Jesus might have needed a new vantage point in order to see those on the shore with renewed care and commitment. Maybe, like Jesus, you need fresh perspective. Maybe you need to be quiet for a moment and mindful of what is going on within you—and without. As you put yourself in his place, imagine what Jesus is taking in through all his senses: What might he be seeing as he sits in Simon’s fishing boat? Hearing? Smelling? Feeling? Tasting?
The congregation shares.
Let those images draw you away from the demands in your life. Let yourself grow more distant from the worries waiting on your shore—for just a moment more. Breathe in the sea air. Hear only the call of the sea birds, the lap of the waves against the wooden hull of a fishing boat. Tune out voices that are anxious, angry, judging, unkind. Listen for the voice of peace. Wait in silence as God’s spirit grows stronger within you.
GOSPEL READING, part 2 Luke 5: 3b-4
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”
GUIDED MEDITATION, part 2 “Being Simon”
Now put yourself into this story by imaginatively taking the role of Simon the fisherman, soon to be known as Simon Peter, soon to become a disciple of Jesus—but not yet. You’ve brought your boat in after a grueling but unsuccessful day of fishing. Your muscles are aching from the nets you’ve cast in and pulled out, and from the task of washing those nets as you listened to Jesus teaching the crowd. Then this teacher asks you to take him out in your boat. Your energies are already spent. But for some reason you agree. He settles himself in your steady ark to address the crowds–again. He concludes at last, sends them home, and turns to you. “Go out deeper,” he says. “Go deeper?” you think.
Go deeper. What would it mean to you if the Teacher were to ask you to go deeper? Is there some area of your life where you stay on the surface of things? Are there relationships in your life that remain superficial but could deepen? Are there commitments you’ve made that could be taken more seriously? Are there ideas that you tend to skirt because you just don’t want to plunge into those topics, because if you thought more about them you might disturb the smooth surface of your worldview? What might it mean for you to seek God in deeper places? How might you go deeper emotionally, intellectually, spiritually? Imagine moving out into deeper waters with Jesus.
GOSPEL LESSON, part 3 Luke 5: 5-11
Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7So 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. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10and 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.” 11When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
GUIDED MEDITATION, part 3 “Being a Follower of Jesus”
After Jesus had taught the crowds with words, he then enacted a lesson that the fishermen, Simon and the sons of Zebedee, would understand. Jesus helped them catch more fish than their nets could hold. And after that impressive visual aid, they became, according Luke, his first disciples.
This story, told in slightly different details in all four Gospels, is essential for followers of Jesus. This is the hinge moment when Jesus moves from teaching and healing as an individual to teaching others to teach and heal. If Jesus had not apprenticed others, his ministry would have died with him. This is the pivotal moment that allows the Gospel to move beyond one man and become a movement. That’s the pattern the church is always trying to replicate. We at Open Table are called to apprentice others for the work of social and spiritual transformation. Our ministry is not about one person preaching but about a movement that taps more and more people for teaching and healing.
This story tells us what it means to follow Jesus—vitally important to a congregation that defines our common purpose as following in the ways of Jesus. And this story tells us something about why the first disciples decided to follow Jesus—which may tell us something about why we might want to follow Jesus.
If you asked the average person on the street what it means to be a follower of Jesus, they might answer that following Jesus means going to church or believing certain things about Jesus or conforming to certain moral code or being baptized. But look back at the verses we’ve just read. The first disciples clearly were not following Jesus by doing any of those things.
The church did not yet exist, so the first followers clearly were not following Jesus by being members of the church.
Nor did the first disciples follow Jesus by assenting to particular doctrine. There were no doctrines yet. Jesus did not try to convince them of particular tenets of a new religion –and in fact they wereall already members of the same religion, first century Judaism. Think about it. For Simon Peter there was no doctrine of incarnation, of atonement, of the Trinity, of the resurrection. The crucifixion and resurrection had not happened. First followers of Jesus did not have to attest to any of that. I believe successive followers are also following a way of spiritual and social transformation.
Further, there’s no mention in scripture that Jesus was teaching a particular morality code they had to live by. Just the law of love. Jesus said nothing about homosexuality, for instance, which some today say prevents you from being a Christ follower.
Finally, none of the first disciples was baptized, as far as we know, so that beautiful initiation rite into the Christian faith was not necessary if to follow Jesus and help others follow him.
Following Jesus is what Christians do. But it might be said that nonChristians might follow Jesus. I believe that one may follow Jesus passionately and primarily but not exclusively. I think many in this world follow in Jesus’s loving ways and are guided by that same Spirit of Love that directed his life without even knowing about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Today’s Gospel story says Simon, James, and John followed Jesus by leaving their nets and boats and everything to pull people from the sea. Catching people is clearly not about converting people to a particular belief system. Rather, fishing for people has a social/economic/political meaning, so following Jesus has something to do with rescuing people from the systems and situations in which they are drowning. I say that because the fishermen’s catch symbolizes the people he and others who follow him will rescue from the waters.
Some biblical scholars explain that the sea, in the “fishing for people” metaphor, represents the Roman Empire. In the time in which Jesus lived, the government controlled all use of the waters and “the government regulated the fishing industry by selling fishing rights to tax collectors or publicans (brokers)” who then sold permits to fishermen. [i] The Lake of Genneseret was owned by Rome. Because of the price fishermen had to pay to fish in the Sea of Galilee (Lake Genneseret) and the frequent storms with which they had to contend, these fishermen were barely able to eke out a living, barely able to keep their heads above water, so to speak. The Empire’s tax system kept the poor drowning in debt. Luke’s first readers may have heard Jesus calling followers to rescue the poor from the waters the empire controlled, from an economic system, in other words, that threatened to drown the poorest of the people. Certainly this metaphor is consistent with the sermon Jesus preached in Nazareth in which, as we read last week, he claimed he had been anointed to bring good news to the poor.
Following Jesus then and following Jesus now is not about—or not primarily about—believing certain facts. Following Jesus is much harder than agreeing to ideas. A Jesus follower leaves everything to follow him in the ways of love.
As we prepare for the beginning of Lent this Wednesday, let’s take a moment to consider something you may need to leave behind to follow more closely in the ways of Jesus.
Simon and friends apparently believed that others deserve “saving,” and they wanted to be part of that saving work. As Luke’s gospel continues, we see Jesus saving people by healing their bodies and spirits, by restoring them to their communities and thus healing relationships, by exposing injustices, by preaching good news to the poor, as he promised. Immediately after this story, Luke launches into a story of Jesus healing a leper–with Simon, James, and John in tow. The first action of the first disciples is to participate in a healing that restores an isolated man to his community.
You are a Jesus follower if you, too, are trying to participate in God’s work of healing bodies, minds, and spirits. The term Christian connotes, for many, an irrational belief system or an oppressive moral code. But that’s not the freedom into which Jesus invited people. You must reach your own understandings about what it means to follow Jesus. I have come to believe that webecome Christians—which means “little Christs”—by dropping all that encumbers us and following the Christ. The hopeful work of Open Table is to to help others safely into a boat that becomes—in the words of the previous hymn—our “common shelter.”
Take a moment to consider in silence what it means to you to follow Jesus.
- PRAYING FOR HEALING
You may come forward to receive from the pastor a blessing for healing in your life—physical or spiritual healing. You may wish to share quietly your specific need. The pastor will place oil in the sign of the cross on your forehead and lay a hand on your head–an ancient sign of blessing and healing. There are no special healing properties in the oil. But touch often communicates more than words. You will know you are not alone in your pain and are part of a long tradition in which faith community members support one another with care and prayer.
- PRAYING AS WE GIVE OUR OFFERINGS
We follow in Jesus’s way by contributing to God’s caring work in the world. Scripture says the first disciples left all they had to follow Jesus. We continue in that tradition when we become less protective of our paychecks and more concerned about the common good.
- PRAYING AS WE RECEIVE THE BREAD AND CUP
We go deeper into the life of faith when we recall Jesus’s life, death, and enduring life in God through this symbolic meal. Jesus asked his followers to follow him and become the living body of Christ. The broken bread we share binds us together in life’s celebrations and sorrows. The healing cup of Jesus has a depth that holds all of life and blesses all who come.
- WRITING HEALING PRAYERS FOR ONE ANOTHER
Using paper provided, you may write a brief prayer for a particular person who may need to hear the hopes you express for him or her. You may name that person in the prayer or not. Or write a general prayer for those who need healing. The pastor will read these aloud to close our prayer time.
[i] Pilch, John. The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1999, p.188