The Sunday Sermon: June 6, 2021 – 2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: Luke 5:1-11
Seeking Other Seas
So, on this unique Sunday, let me do something I don’t do very often. Let me actually start this time of proclamation with our scripture reading, found on page of your pew bible. Listen for the Word of God …
Read Luke 5:1-11. The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
If you followed along in your pew bible (something you haven’t been able to do for quite some time!), you will have noted that this chapter and these verses are under the subtitle “Jesus calls the First Disciples.” More specifically, this passage introduces us to Luke’s account of the call of the first disciple, Simon Peter. There are others noted – James and John, and “all who were with Peter.” But Peter is the leading actor in this narrative and the one that we are to identify with. What would we have done if we were in Peter’s sandals? What do we do because we are in the same boat as Peter, as one’s being invited by God, through the Christ, to fish, to listen, to learn, to follow, and to teach? How would, and how do, we respond? Think about that as we explore these verses.
The thing that I find most fascinating about his passage this morning (and I’ve not imagined this as fully on other occasions of preaching or teaching from the opening verses of Luke’s fifth chapter), what I suggest is most intriguing for all of us this morning is that – think of this – Peter doesn’t know Jesus from Adam at his point in our Gospel story. Somewhere in our minds we are thinking Peter always knew Jesus. They, more than most of the other disciples even, are hand in glove in our minds. But, of course, that’s not so. There had to be a time when they didn’t know each other. They had to meet sometime. And it’s here according to Luke, on this lakeshore.
Jesus is standing there with a crowd pressing in and Peter has just come back to shore after an unsuccessful day fishing on the lake. He’s cleaning up his nets and other gear. I’m sure he’s noticed this stranger being surrounded by a “pressing crowd,” but he has no idea who he is or what he’s doing, let alone what he plans to do in the years ahead.
Now, Luke skips over the quizzical looks, or even the almost certain annoyance that Peter and the other fisherman must have expressed when this stranger asks them if he can use their boat to address the crowd, when he asks them to “put out a little way for the shore.” I mean, they just got in. They’re tired, hungry, and I’ll bet anxious about what they’ll eat that evening or how they’ll pay for their needs since the day was a bust. How many of us would say, “Get your own boat, man. We just cleaned up.” Or, “Find a crate to teach from. We’re going home.”
Fascinating to consider here that God, through Jesus in this story, takes the initiative in reaching out to Peter and his friends and in so doing runs the risk of refusal. Peter could reject this stranger. We should wonder why he doesn’t here when this man is a stranger, when in fact, he does reject him later as a disciple, three times as the story goes. As we consider our own calls, we realize we can reject God and Jesus’ call to us, too. In fact we have, and more than three times if anyone here is like me. Like Peter and the others, we have the option to stay “packed up,” to keep our nets clean, and to go on home.
But Peter doesn’t, the fishermen don’t, in this instance. Maybe they feel sorry for this guy. Maybe they wonder why a crowd has gathered and want to hear what this stranger has to say. Maybe Jesus climbed into the boat while he was asking and it’s all just easier this way. But in whatever way and for whatever reason, Peter now has a stranger in his boat … in his life … in his livelihood, teaching the crowd, of which he is now apart.
And, here’s the next most fascinating thing to me in this story. Luke tells us nothing at all about that Jesus “taught” on this occasion. Just that he “sat down” and did it. What do you imagine Jesus is teaching here? He’s pretty fresh out of the wilderness at this point. He has no disciples yet. He’s been baptized by John, tempted in the wilderness, rejected at Nazareth. He’s rebuked a few unclean spirits, he’s gotten some attention, he’s been preaching in the Synagogues. And now he’s here on the lakeshore. But what is he proclaiming do we think?
You know this one! You know the answer to this one. We’ve been teaching and preaching it ourselves since Easter, on the Day of Pentecost and on the two Sundays that followed! What is he teaching this crowd from a boat put out a little way for the shore on the lake of Gennesaret? … The Kingdom of God among us.
Cut back to Peter. Here’s what I imagine: Head down, or only raised to check the sun in the sky as we would look at our watch. “Are you kidding me? The Kingdom of God is here?” Just the latest fanatic. Or maybe a nice enough guy, but these people will get bored. They’ll turn on him. And if he pushes it, he’ll draw the attention of those he should avoid at all costs. “Why did I let him into my boat, again?” Good question. Let’s leave Peter and friends now because their reasons may never be known. What about ours?
You see, Jesus “stands beside the lake,” on the shores of our lives, took, everyday, asking us if he can “use our boat.” Asking us to listen as he teaches about the Kingdom of God, here and now. And, as we, too, begin looking at our watches wondering when we can go back home, he’s asking us to “put out into the water (the ”deep” water, if we’re really listening). Well …
We are back in our “boat” this morning, a bit bigger than Peter’s surely was, but still … our vessel. It’s easy to imagine we’re below deck, in the hold, inside. But If you close your eyes and imagine, maybe we’re on deck with the setting sun on our shoulders watching a gentle breeze ripple the water below. And this morning – like every morning, but somehow even more notable this morning – we’re being invited to put out into the deep water. This is an invitation not just to return to what we were doing 15 months ago, but to venture onto new grounds, or into new depths. This is an opportunity that points out the possibilities for new mission and new ministries for our church. We are being challenged this morning – as we are every morning, but somehow even more notably this morning – to respond to the urgings of God breaking into our lives anew.
I don’t know yet, what this “newness” might look like. We don’t know. New spaces for our children … new songs from our new hymnbook … new directions in our music ministry … new outreach and mission engagements from all quarters of our community. What else? What more? God knows … and God knows. We “simply” need to let God into our boat. We need to trust that the most profound and significant experiences of God and life, itself, are not to be found in “the ways we’ve always done things.” It’s a comfort to be “back to normal.” But it’s also a challenge to “seek other seas.” How will we respond?
As I always am by the Spirit of God, I’m intrigued at how this Sunday’s scripture and message “line up” with a life event for a group of young people that we recognize and celebrate this morning. I am only sorry that scheduling and the craziness of “getting back to the new normal” has kept more than a few of them from being here in body this morning. But I want to invite those who are here to come forward and I want to recognize the presence of all of our High School and College graduates here in Spirit, through the memories we share with them of all the years they have listened, learned, grown, and shared their faith through this community.
High School graduates: Toby Fletcher, Gabe Weible, MacKenna Williams, Ethan Willis / College graduates: Julia Age, Alison Clark, and August Kingsley.
(With those present standing in front …) Each one of these young men and women, and their parents and wider families with them, are preparing to ”put out into different and deeper waters” in whatever way that manifest itself: into the workforce; on to college or a graduate program, or even through some much deserved “time off.” Each of them, with their families and (listen closely to this, all of you) with all of us – the faith community of your childhood, youth and young adult years are seeking other seas together. And we’re not sending you empty handed.
(Ask Ashia to distribute the gifts) High School graduates – Toby, Gabe, Ethan and MacKenna – our tradition has been, and is, to give you a compass, to help you chart your course and find your way as you set sail for whatever is next and to help you find your way to this place, a community that will never forget you and always have a place for you. Just ask our college graduates …
They received a compass (and they found their way back over the past four years!) This morning, in the humble necklaces and a journal to chart the journey, we celebrate this wonderful milestone with all of you.
Please join me in prayer for all those here and those unable to be present, and for the families that continue to love and nurture them …
Loving God, Our hearts are full as we celebrate the graduations of these young men and women who have answered your call. Thank you for answering our prayers and bringing them to this milestone.
As they seek other sees now, we humbly ask that you would give them everything they need for what lies ahead. When they are called to step out of their comfort zone, when they face the temptation to give up, when they face hard decisions, and when their heads feel fearful, remind them of this place, this vessel, this community who loves them through it all.
Send them out, O God, and go with them wherever their journey takes them. May they go with the grace they have found in this place and the truth they have learned from you.
Use them all, wherever they are and in whatever they do, to more powerfully and profoundly realize your Kingdom on Earth.
We pray these things in the name of Christ, who calls them, and calls us all, into the future. Amen.
As our scripture story ends, our new journey begins: Jesus tells us once again to “be not afraid.” And he asks us once again to “Follow in his Way.” And so we do … Let us sing of our promise for newness together.
Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor
Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / June 6, 2021