Monday, April 19, 2010

Let's Try the Other Side of the Boat!

We live in cynical times.
Many people don’t trust the government.
Something like 70% of people disapprove of the job congress is doing.
Many people don’t trust religious institutions.
A recent Harris poll found that only 28% of people trusted religious institutions.
In the same poll only 4% of people trusted Wall Street.
We don’t trust our sports stars, or movie stars.
We are fed a daily dose of scandal, of bad behavior by even those we think might be our heroes.
This leads us to be cynical about what is possible in the world.
But this morning we come to worship the Risen Lord.
We come to see again that in this world, in our lives there are great possibilities.
That a resurrection faith calls us to reorder our lives and look again at what is really possible.

In this morning’s Gospel the disciples have seen the empty tomb.
They have heard Jesus bring them peace and send them out into the world.
And now they are back at work.
They are back to what they know best fishing.
And into their fishing comes Jesus the risen Lord.
They had been fishing all night and caught nothing, until Jesus appears and tells them to fish on the other side.
“Oh the others side”
I wonder why they never thought of that before.
It would have seemed more obvious.
Anyway, they do what Jesus says and then well then they catch a bunch of fish.
You see it is time to return to our work, but since we live in light of the resurrection it is time to do it a different way.

We are sent by Christ not as people that see the bad only.
But as people who see through the bad to a different time and place.
We see that this world is not as bad as some would have us believe.
We see that God can and will do great things through ordinary sinful people.

Let us this morning consider the case of Peter.
Here is the disciple that denied Jesus three different times.
And yet here is the disciple who Jesus sends to be the shepherd.
Jesus sends Peter to feed and tend his sheep.
Jesus is the good shepherd, but he asks Peter this flawed sinful person to do his work.
Feed my sheep.

This is Good News for us.
Because as flawed as we are, we too are called to something greater.
Not because we are great, but because we worship Jesus who is greater than our sin.
Think about it.
Our lives are not useless or meaningless they are filled with value and meaning.
We are called to be Shepherd’s to feed and tend the cares and needs of our neighbors.

What does it look like for us to serve God in this way?
Well, I think it can look different for all of us.
That what God calls each of us to do is different even if the end result is the same.
For some being a good Shepherd might be being a good mother.
It might mean giving up some of what we want in the world to make sure that our children are cared and fed for.

For some it might mean that they serve the world through their work.
A mechanic for example is a great shepherd.
I am always thankful to them for fixing my car so that I can get to work or visit people.
They provide something that no one else can.

I think for the church it means caring about all people in whatever part of their life journey they happen to be at.
I think it means being there for people when they are born, and when they die.
It means caring for the poor and lost.
It means taking in those who have no other way.
It means teaching and preaching about the abundant grace of God.
A Sunday school teacher serves as a shepherd for the kids in her class.

Here is the key that whatever we do we ask what God is calling me to.
That is the key question because otherwise it might just be what we want to do.
As Jesus tells Peter someday he will be led to places he does not want to go all for the sake of the Gospel.
We are led not to where we want but to where God forces us to go.
And that place will look different in the light of resurrection.

I was reading this week about woman named Heather Chester who was homeless.
She was a mother with two kids.
She got into a program called Family promise.
This is faith based program that helps homeless families.
Heather just bought her first home, because of the help she got from Family Promise.
This article got my attention because we are trying to get a family promise program started here in Concord.
But it also caught my attention because it is a good example of faith communities doing what Jesus told Peter to do.
It is a good example of people of faith feeding the sheep of God.

And there are millions of stories out there in the world that are like this.
There are stories of people feeding others people helping others and people doing good for God.
We don’t hear them enough.
We live in cynical times, but my plea is for us not to be cynical.
Instead let us to see our risen Lord standing on the shore telling us to try again from a different angle to cast our nets on the other side.

I once got a fortune cookie that said, “If the world seems cold then light a fire.”
I thought it was excellent advice because that is the only answer of faith is to try and try again until we find what does work.
If we cannot catch fish on this side of the boat perhaps there are more fish on the other side.
If we are discouraged the best answer is simply to go out and feed God’s sheep.
It is to continue to search until we find the right answer.
But the answer can never be cynicism.
It can never be defeatism.
For Jesus is alive.
Jesus is on the beach telling us to throw our nets in a different way.
Jesus is there telling us to feed his sheep even as he prepares breakfast for us.

I have to tell you that all my sermons are meant for me just as much as they are meant for you.
This week I needed to hear this sermon again because well sometimes I fall into the cynical category.
I too despair at times that things are not better in our world.
Twice this week I had to turn away people that came to me looking for help.
In both cases I did what was necessary.
I simply could not help, but it makes you feel powerless.
It made me feel sad that we live in a world where people are homeless because of medical expenses, or losing a job.
It might lead to the attitude that we can do nothing.
But I needed this morning to hear Jesus tell me to throw out my nets again.
I needed to hear Jesus say, “Feed my sheep”.
Because I know that it will not always be so.
I know that someday God will make this right.
I know that there are people in the world trying to do good and solve problems.
I know that God has called this community together to feed and tend his sheep.
I have faith in God and in you.
That together we can and will do what God has called us to do.
And that is why this morning I am not cynical but hopeful, why I am not despairing but believing in God’s good work in all of us.

May we not grow cynical but continue to try again, may we continue to cast out our nets, and feed the other sheep.

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