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Sermon for February 6, 2022 — 5th Sunday after Epiphany

Speaking Of Life 4011 | The Story Since Day One

There is power in storytelling. From the stories, we will tell our friends after work to the bedtime stories we tell our kids before they sleep. From the beginning of time, humans have passed on our histories through the stories told by family and friends. To this day, Jesus’ story continues to be shared with everyone. He inspires us with the love and peace that will continue to grow in our hearts as we move along the world.

Program Transcript

Speaking Of Life 4011 | The Story Since Day One
Greg Williams

Do you ever have a commercial jingle or a theme song from a tv show that you can remember perfectly years later? Decades might pass, you will have forgotten libraries of information, but you can still flawlessly recite the opening song. For example, the jingle from the old TV show, The Brady Bunch… “Here’s a story, of a lovely lady, who was bringing up three very lovely girls…”

Stories draw us in, they make us pay attention, they help us remember.

We see Paul using a story for the same reasons. Though, his story is much more meaningful. In his first letter to believers in Corinth Paul wrote:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 15:3-6 (ESV)

At first glance, this may look like more of Paul’s theological writing—abstract concepts in the early formulation of faith. But scholars have looked more closely at the language in the last hundred years or so and they saw an intrinsic rhythm and meter of the words: “that Christ died…he was buried…he was raised.” What they found was an ancient credal formula—a compact, memorizable statement of faith that was probably around long before 1 Corinthians was written.

Notice how Paul set this up: I delivered to you what I received. He was sharing something he had received—this creed, this jingle, this poem—something that was already in place and most likely part of his discipleship process.

We are seeing here some of the first “hymns” the church ever sang. Remember there was no internet and a significant part of the first audience was illiterate. This would be the way new believers learned faith, similar to a memory verse or a simple song, or a creed in today’s churches.

Just like we can sing some of the words to The Brady Bunch jingle, so the early believers could tell the story of Christ in song, or poem form. The story was circulated in such a way that people could remember it and share it. We still tell the story today—Jesus is of first importance. His life, death, resurrection, and ascension are the story we share each year as we worship our way through the Christian Calendar. Each year the calendar reminds us of the story of Jesus—the same story that has been shared since day one.

I am Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 138 ∙ Isaiah 6:1-8, 9-13 ∙ 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 ∙ Luke 5:1-11

The theme for this 5th Sunday after Epiphany is speak the word. In the call to worship Psalm, the poet speaks the echoing praises of God the creator and Lord. Isaiah 6 tells us about Isaiah’s encounter with God and his command to go and speak. 1 Corinthians 15 holds some of the earliest words spoken by the Christian community—possibly the first creed. Our sermon comes from Luke 5 in which Jesus calls his inner circle of disciples to speak the word alongside him.

Put Out into the Deep Water

Luke 5:1-11 ESV

Read Luke 5:1-11 ESV.

You may have grown up with them in your town: The factory workers and trades people after a long shift, headed home with their lunch pails and hard hats. They were blowing off steam, cracking their knuckles, stopping for a smoke. As kids we watched them with fascination and maybe a little bit of fear—someday maybe I’ll be big and tough like that.

We were hypnotized by their worn hands and strong language, wondering what our own future would be like. They had a look of fatigue and focus, utterly at home in what they were doing and exhausted by a hard shift put in.

This is likely how Peter, James and John looked the day Jesus encountered them at the beach. They’d been up all night dropping their nets, over and over and coming back with nothing. So not only were they exhausted, but they were also frustrated, calculating how they would make up for this lost time in the subsistence living they made. “We can’t lose a whole night this month!”

Jesus does exactly what you don’t want to do in that situation. Here he is approaching highly skilled laborers who are likely frustrated and in a bad mood, and he tells them what to do! It is like you going up to the factory workers at the end of their shift saying, “Hey all, hard shift? You know what you should do…” You can only imagine the reception.

Add to this the fact that some of these guys already knew Jesus, and they knew he wasn’t a fisherman. And here he is telling them how to do their jobs. Tradespersons are very careful not to cross such lines – car mechanics don’t tell journeyman plumbers how to fit pipe; truck drivers don’t tell farmers how to plow straight rows.

So, Jesus throws them off. He walks up to them out of nowhere, jumps into their boat and then tells them how to do their jobs. Let’s cast our nets into this story today and see what we bring up. We’ll look at how:

  • Jesus disrupts
  • Jesus arrives with abundance
  • Jesus calls alongside

Jesus disrupts

Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. (Luke 5:3 ESV)

The scene is set with a crowd so large that Jesus had to retreat to the water just to address the crowd. It’s amazing how quickly this becomes not a story of the crowds, not even a story of Jesus’ teaching, but a story of Jesus and Peter.

Many of the shores of Lake Gennesaret, which is actually the Sea of Galilee, are steep and cliff-like. A boat on the water makes a natural amphitheater, even to this day. This enabled Jesus to address the crowd. But here’s an interesting anecdote: we have no clue what Jesus said in his teaching here; we know only what happened between he and Peter. Have you ever felt that way? As if God was suddenly talking to you one-on-one, almost out of nowhere. You’re in a conversation, you’re in fellowship, you’re going about your day and suddenly you realize the moment is different. Maybe a friend admits a need to you, and you are right there to address it. Maybe you receive direction on something you’ve been praying about through circumstances or through what someone says. Sometimes Jesus meets us in a one-on-one conversation that may even be disruptive and alarming.

And so it is with Peter here. Jesus disrupts his day. Jesus disrupts him after a night with no luck – not an uncommon occurrence for a career fisherman, but definitely not one you want followed by conversation. You want to go home and sleep the morning away. And here’s Jesus wanting to chat!

Then Jesus gets in his boat. The truck driver’s seat, the rancher’s saddle, the executive’s desk – these are not the places you sit! Jesus has already disturbed his work and thrown off his day, and now he’s sitting in his chair! Peter is the boss, the head guy when he’s out there on the water, and Jesus walks right into that situation to meet him.

And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:4-5 ESV)

How many times has Jesus done that to us? We’re there entirely in our comfort zone, maybe right in that place where we draw our identity from, and he comes in there and throws things off.

One April day in Boston in the year 1855, a Sunday school teacher came to visit one of his students at the shoe store where the young man worked. He described the young man’s mind as “spiritually dark.”

The Sunday school teacher told the young man about Christ, and the young man became a Christian. He became a pillar in the church community there. A few years later, the young man went to Chicago trying to make his fortune in shoe retail. But he finally ended up starting a church there and devoted himself to lifelong ministry.

The young man was Dwight Moody, one of the most influential evangelists in American history. Millions of people can trace their spiritual lineage back to him. All because Jesus disrupted him in the world he was comfortable in, right when Jesus was the last thing the young Moody was expecting.

Jesus arrives with abundance  

And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. (Luke 5:6-7 ESV)

Their nets were breaking. Around the time Jesus lived, a lot was being written by the Jewish community about God’s deliverance of Israel. Although they had no prophets speaking at the time, they did their best to draw on their traditions and predict when God’s deliverance would come.

Think about the miracles of Jesus. His first miracle—the wedding at Cana where he made many more gallons of wine than they needed. The feeding of the five thousand—with 12 baskets of leftovers. And here we have the fish so abundant that they were breaking the nets of expert fishermen.

Jesus arrives with a feast—not always, but often. He does more than they could ask or imagine. Look at how Peter addresses him:

Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! (v. 5)

And then after his muscles are aching and his boat creaks beneath the weight:

“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  (v. 8)

Master in verse 5…Lord in verse 8. These two titles are different in Greek. The first is more like boss, the second is more a position of real power, and eventually became the title often used for Jesus.

Peter changes the title he gives Jesus right away. He pivots and changes the conversation because he sees that Jesus is different—that Jesus changed the very laws of nature and physics and arrived with abundance.

We’ve seen this in our own lives as well, when we take that small step forward in faith and Jesus gives an amazing, abundant increase. Think about when you finally turn toward that person you need to forgive, and a real friendship develops. Think about the addict who finally gives God control and finds healing from unthinkable temptation. Think about remaining faithful with tithing to find that the Lord gives you what you need and more.

Jesus calls alongside

And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”  And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:10-11 ESV)

Peter often takes a bad rap for being impulsive and unreflective in his actions. Here’s a consummate Peter moment—him jumping out of the boat and making an immediate decision to leave his career and follow Jesus.

But let’s look at this for a moment. Jesus knew how impulsive Peter was and he used that. Jesus knew that Peter would cut ears off, speak denials before the cock crowed, and presume to rebuke him at one point. He also knew that Peter would be the first to walk on water, the first to start to understand who Jesus was, and a vertebra in the backbone of the early church.

He knew that Peter’s impulsiveness would become boldness, that his hot temper would become fearlessness. Jesus called him from right where he was into the work of the kingdom.

Jesus doesn’t want cost-efficient strategy or mobilized five-part plans; he wants you! He’s not looking for perfect people, he’s looking for you, people!

This conversation looks very public—who knows how many people were watching? But in the end it was more private. Jesus and Peter seemed like the only two people in the world for a moment, and Jesus greeted him with words that will sound familiar to Bible readers. Anytime in the Old Testament that God or angels interacted with someone, which usually put that person into fits of terror, they said the same phrase: “Do not be afraid.”

Then he called these imperfect men into work with him. He knew all the failures that were yet to come, but he called them to walk with him. He didn’t just fix them and move on—he called them to walk with him and join him in this adventure. They left everything behind that they had known – the nets, the sea, and for all we know, that huge, wriggling pile of fish they had just caught, and they followed him.

Do not be afraid…

Jesus disrupts: Is he disrupting you today somewhere that you’re comfortable? Like he did with these professional fishermen who had just had a hard night? Maybe there’s a habit or a mindset he’s working on in your life. Maybe you’re in some place where you think, although you probably never put it into words, “I got this, Lord, you can move on to the next thing.” Maybe he’s coming right there, showing you that you can be more present to your spouse, more patient with your kids, more loving toward the world and yourself in some way.

Do not be afraid…

Jesus comes with abundance: And when he comes to you in that part of your life, calling you to the stronger, better life, will you “put out into the deep water”? Will you listen to where he tells you to cast? He may ask you to step out in faith, like he did with them. Putting out into deep water was not usually a good move for fishermen, especially professionals, and yet they did. And that’s where the miracle was, that’s where the abundance was.

He often calls us to stretch goals, trusting that he will guide us and take care of us. We didn’t just “get saved,” and that’s it. He calls us over and over to “put out into the deep water,” trusting him with our decisions and our way of being in the world, transforming our relationships, our decisions, our state of mind.

Do not be afraid…

Jesus calls alongside: Where is he calling you today? Make no mistake, he is calling you. This isn’t the practiced handshake of the executive who wants to interact with you as little as possible. This is Jesus picking you out of a crowd, calling specifically on you, with your gifts and abilities, even your shortcomings. Let him redeem those things for his kingdom – turn your impulsiveness into innovation, your hotheadedness into passion, your passivity into patience.

Do not be afraid…

The deep water looks dark and empty and mysterious. He’s the only one who knows what’s there. Cast your net.

Gone Fishing! w/ Kenneth Tanner W1

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Gone Fishing! w/ Kenneth Tanner
February 6 – 5th Sunday after the Epiphany
Luke 5:1-11   “Gone Fishing!”

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Program Transcript

Gone Fishing! w/ Kenneth Tanner Week 1

I’m going to read our first pericope, Luke 5:1-11. It comes from the NRSV. It’s a Revised Common Lectionary passage for February the 6th. It reads:

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.

As an aside, I couldn’t help, but think of Lionel Richie when I said, “all night long,” but that’s an 80’s music reference. So, my first question: Simon Peter’s response was “yet, if you say so I will,” and that seems remarkable to me considering the fact that they’d been fishing all night and had no luck. What can we take away from this?

Kenneth: I actually got really emotional reading this morning, and I am now too. I think, it’s just beautifully set. I love the detail of the lake and that Jesus has come down and the boats and the nets. It’s just so vivid.

Jesus is a walking, talking tree of life, and Peter has seen. He’s healing the sick. He’s casting, he’s setting the oppressed free. This is the one who says, “Where are we to go? You’re the one who has the words of life.”

And he’s a professional fisherman. He and the Zebedee’s are not poor people. These are businesses that have thrived. The father of John and James has made a good living fishing. But, when you can’t catch any fish, it’s not just that you can’t make any money, but there’s people who are desperately hungry that need you to catch the fish, so they have food. And so, it’s a real crisis. It’s not just about running the business. It’s about, these are families dedicated to the feeding of the people around Galilee.

And so, it’s a crisis, that they haven’t caught any fish. He is willing because of the character and what he has seen of this human, that if he asked him. Even though he knows he’s not a fisherman, he’s a carpenter and a teacher, rabbi. He knows him as a rabbi. If you tell me, I’ll go. And that’s beautiful.

Anthony: Yeah. I know a lot of people right now who probably feel like their nets are coming up empty. And I’m curious, Kenneth what encouragement can we share with those who frankly are feeling let down by God?

Kenneth: Yeah. I do think that sometimes what we need are people in our life who see the abundance that is everywhere, even though we might be experiencing scarcity and who can point out where our nets are full in areas that we’re not paying attention to, because the need of not having a particular net full is so pressing in on us, as it can be in small and large ways. And so, it’s helpful to have companions in the journey who point to the abundances in the world that always outpace the lacks and the scarcities.

And of course, raised around a charismatic setting, sometimes there were a kind of denial of lacks, and it’s just about recognizing the abundance and you just need to tap into this or that, or the other thing. You don’t have enough faith or there’s something that you’re not doing. It’s always on you, this lack, the scarcity is your fault.

So, I’m not talking about that sort of thing. I’m talking about within a clear-eyed view of the situation, of lack and not a denial of it, people who point us to trust that God has what it is we need.

And the timing of that may not be what we are expecting. But it is God who is the source of life and light, and he’s infinite. And sometimes, it’s also about sharing our abundance. This is what God is inviting us into. His abundance is sharing our abundance with those who have lack.

Anthony: I think I’m the evil one speaks fluent scarcity. And it seems to me, the Christian walk by the Spirit is having (to use Pauline language) the eyes of our heart open to see the abundance that is ours in Christ.

So, Kenneth, I’ve heard a lot of sermons, too many sermons frankly, from this pericope that give me sort of like the seven step process of evangelism, catching people and here’s the bait you need to use and that sort of thing. Please tell us there’s a holistic Christological way of thinking and acting toward people who don’t know Jesus.

Kenneth: Yeah. He says set out into the deep, and that they’re going to catch people. And the participle there is catch them alive, from the tumult, from the storm, from the deep. And I do think that the disposition of a lot of Christians towards people who don’t share our faith, fails to recognize that Jesus has already related himself to every person we ever meet in two fundamental ways before we share anything about the good news with them. And that is that he’s the creator of every individual that we come into contact with, as he is the Word by which, all things were spoken into being and the hand by which God creates. And there’s that but also, he’s become the human brother by entering the womb of the virgin and by walking and living among us as a human being, he’s also the human brother of every person that we encounter. Again, before anything about the gospel is either witnessed by the way we live or heard by the way we talk about him.

So what can happen is that we think of these people as somehow unrelated to Christ, and we need to bring about relationships. They are related to Christ. Of course, God wants to have an intimate connection with them and for them to understand the fullness of this relationship. Hopefully by the way that we live and hopefully by the way that we speak we can participate in what God is doing, but remember God is the one who fills the nets. God is the one who saves. God is the one who causes us to catch people alive. So, we are just participants and (silly to say, just participants) but yes, we are participants in the work of God. I think there’s also sometimes this idea that we’re the one; if we don’t do X, Y, and Z, people are not going to be caught alive. And I just think, if all the human beings who God loves and wants to be in relationship with them are going to be redeemed, it’s got to be God’s work.

Anthony: Amen, brother. Even though it was well-intended, I can remember being on short-term mission trips, where the conversation went something like this: be prayed up because we’re going to take Jesus to these people we’re going to go serve. And I think about that now, and I just cringe because Jesus, he’s already there at work, wherever we go, in the community, in our neighborhood, with our neighbors, he’s there by his Spirit. And that’s such good news! That takes the burden off of me that he’s the Savior of the world not me.

Kenneth: And just quickly, it’s a little bit deeper. In Matthew 25, he says he is the poor. He is the prisoner. He is the hungry, he is the naked. He is the foreigner or the immigrant and so forth. So, we’re going to meet Jesus, I think is maybe perhaps a better way of framing it.

Anthony: Yeah. And what you just said is going to be an important identifier as we talk in other passages about blessing those who are poor, those are hungry because Jesus is there.

Small Group Discussion Questions

Questions for sermon: “Cast Out into the Deep Water”

  • Jesus was a carpenter; these disciples were fishermen. Have you ever had someone from another job come and tell you how to do yours? How did it go? How do you think it might go?
  • Do you ever feel like Jesus has “disrupted” you the way he disrupted these fishermen disciples that morning? Has he ever come into a place where you were comfortable and thrown things off, drawing your attention to something new?
  • Have you ever seen God “bring abundance” when you’ve taken a step out in faith? Maybe turned a distant relationship into a true friendship or a ruined day into a beautiful memory?
  • What does it mean in your life to “cast out into the deep water”? Where is Jesus calling you to cast out in trust?

Questions for Speaking of Life: “The Story Since Day One”

  • Do you remember any commercial jingles or TV theme songs decades later? Isn’t it amazing what sticks in our memory?
  • The credal formula in 1 Corinthians 15 indicates that these beliefs were the earliest in the Christian community, well established right away and not—as some have criticized—developed over time. Why is that important?
  • The gospel never separates the historical Jesus of Nazareth from the miracle-working Christ the Lord. Yet some people do. Why do you think that is tempting?

Quote to Ponder:

“A faith that moves mountains is a faith that expands horizons, it does not bring us into a smaller world full of easy answers, but into a larger one where there is room for wonder.” ~Rich Mullins

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