“God Reaches Out to You!”
Luke 5:1-11, February 10th, 2019
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Read Statement of Faith
“Hear now these words from the gospel according to Luke, chapter five, verse one thru eleven.”
1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 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. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 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. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 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.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
“Having heard the account of how Jesus invited some of his earlier followers, whom were fisherman by trade, let us now consider the many ways which God has reached out to us in our lives here is this time period.”
“God Reaches Out to You!”
Before we met, God reached out to me and asked me to follow the lead of Christ. Every morning when I awake, I say a prayer and ask God to shield me from my weaknesses and strengthen my willingness to follow in the pathway of his Son, Jesus the Christ. Then I endeavor to get started in my day, always wondering when God will reach out to me yet again. Our scripture passage, this morning, is an accounting of Jesus reaching out to a group of fishermen. He gets their attention by first honoring their mission of catching fish, as has been their trade for most of their adult lives. The men had had a poor night, they had caught nothing. Jesus got into one of the boats and they pulled out a bit from shore. From there Jesus began to teach the people. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” /Luke 5:4/ The men were tired from a fruitless night of fishing. Yet, here Jesus wanted them to cast their nets once more into the waters. They voiced their disbelief, yet, they did as Jesus asked. The results were astonishing. They caught such a quantity they struggled to pull the nets in, as they were filled to overflowing with fish. It was in this way that Jesus reached out to these fishermen and invited them to join him.
When you start your morning, do you have expectations that God, through Christ, will reach out to you? Do you take time to pray before you start your day? Do you ask for God’s strength to overcome your weaknesses? Do you pray for those who are sick and less fortunate then you? Do you ask for guidance in God’s will, or will you go it alone, yet another day? We each make these choices every day. I certainly pray, that those whom I meet each day will have answered yes to many, if not all of these questions. But, let us now ask ourselves the ultimate question, has God reached out to you? Have you felt the tug of God’s urging, urging you to do, say or be somewhere you may not have planned to be or do? Some of us respond to God’s call, others of us do not. Where are you in this conversation. Are you like a weary fisherman whom has fished all day or all night, never expecting that the outstretched hand of God – may be standing ready to help you – along the shoreline?
Today, our newly elected Church Council members will be meeting for their first time. Five members of the Council will have been chosen to represent their respective ministry team, a team of three who were nominated and elected to serve. All, we pray, shall feel that God has ‘reached out to them’ to be a part of this newly formed leadership group to help guide us, all of us, in this our joint ministry. We have properly installed each one of them, even if they were unable to be here for the ceremony to fulfill the ministries to which they have been called. I suspect they each have or shall come to realize that they are like the fishermen; they have things in their own lives they must tend to, and their nets are not always full of what is needed to fill their needs and that of their families. Yet, prayerfully, they now realize it was God who has reached out to them to serve this their church in a special way, not just a persuasive Nominating Committee member or an arm-twisting Pastor! Either way, let us be grateful we have those whom are now willing to serve our church in this manner.
As we, you and I, live out our day-to-day lives… how do we decide which is more important: the things we put on our busy to do list for the day; or is it that inconvenient extra thing that someone or something caused you or me to rearrange our schedule to do? This is a perplexing question to ponder, as so often, when people ‘reach out to us’ and ask us to do something extra or unplanned, in order to so – we often must let go of somethings we had planned to do – in order to do these other inconvenient tasks. Subsequently, when are we meant to say yes (?) and when ought we say no? Let us look to our scripture and see how they chose and ultimately decided.
In the time period of our scripture fishermen were working to make a living, catching fish to provide for their family and put food on the table. Primarily, they were working to do what most people, just like those whom you and I know, do every day. As we live here in Florida, we also know a lot of folk that have retired and prayerfully, they have planned for retirement in such a way, that they have their basic needs taken care of, now that they no longer work all day to put food and such on the table. I think everyone here knows of what I am speaking. With this said, just how did they, the early disciples, choose or decide to leave everything and follow Jesus? “When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.” /Luke 5:11/ Is this meant to just be a metaphor or is this what they really did? As we follow the story of Jesus and his followers, we come to believe that at least twelve men were to follow him, everywhere he went, as he taught and ministered to the people. What we do not have are the details as to how they managed to get by – without a source of income. Nor do we know exactly what became of their families and such – as they traveled with Jesus. What we do know is that Jesus said and did things which compelled them to overcome the obstacles and rearrange their lives in order to follow him.
When God reaches out to us… it is an act of faith to respond with a resounding yes! There was, there is, something special about the man Jesus. Even when we read these gospel accounts, especially when there are pertinent details that we think are missing, we cannot say that there was nothing special about the account. When you consider how difficult it was – to get any of the story of that which occurred when Jesus walked amongst the people of his time – there had to have been something very special about him and each story that has been recorded for us to read, discuss and ponder. Can anyone here, tell me of something special that happened thirty years ago, without looking up where it might be written down? Or has someone told you about an occurrence way back in time, twenty or thirty years ago? I suspect that in these memories will be the essence of the outstanding points of what occurred, and a lot of details will be missing. It is possible you may add a few details trying to make the story more plausible. The details are not the critical factors when discussing a biblical story! It is the heart of the story in which we need to focus!
The heart of our lesson today is that Jesus said or did something that caused hard working men to respond with a resounding ‘yes’ and they radically changed their lives to follow him so they could become part of his movement, his teachings! When has something like this happened in your life? Or perhaps it has not. Rather, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ has reached out to you in the past and you brushed it aside, as too much of a burden or too inconvenient to consider! What excites me about our fellowship of faith is not the details, not the things that get undone. Rather it is that out of ‘who we are’ that we do as much as we do! If they were to write about us, what would they lift-up and remember about us?! Might they say about us we are “A friendly and warm congregation, whom welcomes all people to join them in their desire to think openly, believe passionately, and serve boldly!” Or will they say “They were a nice bunch but…” What is the heart of this church? Historians capture the highs and lows of things. Seldom do they lift-up a particular-detail or story – unless it speaks to something unique about that which they are writing.
When Jesus reached out to me inviting me to follow him, I did not know where the journey would take me. Neither can anyone of us be sure what will come of our willingness to accept the invitation to serve Jesus, to serve a church or simply serve the needs of another. No, it takes a spark of willingness or a least a smidgen or even a mere morsel of faith – to respond to something we are not sure what it will bring into our lives. When we are reading from scripture, we are hearing what the writer thought was important about a given occurrence. When someone tells you about a moment in their lives, they are not going to tell you the details, rather they shall tell you the important points of their memory about what occurred! When Jesus interrupted me in the midst of my life, changing me forever, I want you to know it was a profound moment for me! It changed my understanding of what was important and what was not. My priorities changed! It was at that apex in my life when moving toward God and the teachings of Jesus, became more important than other less important details of my life, which did still need to be cared for!
Discernment, understanding and insightfulness about what responding to God meant – came later. Judging how to respond to God’s open invitation came after I said yes. The details do matter, yet, they can be worked out along the way. A friend calls on the phone and says “Pete’s wife said you, Pastor Tim, you can come visit him in the hospital and pray over him.” Helen was reaching out to me. I responded by altering my plans for that day. I rearranged some priorities and then got in my car to drive to the hospital where my friend was. The details came after. Thankfully, there was gas in the car, and I had already had a meal that afternoon. The details were: I would take the longer route rather than the more efficient way because I thought the traffic would be easier, however, I was wrong! That detail is irrelevant to the story. I pushed through and got there about fifteen or twenty minutes later than I might have. Because I had been practicing my faith and picked up the tools of ministry along the way, I was able to give Pete and his family what they needed at that moment. This is what we are meant to do when someone reaches out to us. Private life, public life, personal faith, communal faith, they all blend together in the overall picture. The details do matter but they are not the central point.
The point is, when God, through the Spirit, through the teachings of Christ touches your heart and reaches out to you, the needed response is a willingness to respond as best you can, as best we can. And with the help of God, we shall!