Deeper

boat

[Public Domain Image]

This sermon was preached at First Presbyterian Church in Saline, Michigan and was focused upon Ephesians 3:14-21 and the story that is told in Luke 5:1-11. An audio recording is above and a written manuscript is below.

“I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth…” –Ephesians 3:18

And so… what if it’s true?

What if there is a love at the heart of things? A love so large, so expansive, and so abundant that is hard to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth? A love that is truly hard to wrap our minds around, and yet a love that is an invitation — a love that is summoning us into the fullness of God, the fullness of community, and the fullness of the vision God seeks to initiate and invigorate even through us?

What if that is actually true?

What if that love is calling us… ? What if it has been calling us all along? And what if it is calling us in new ways — today? now?

This love invites us into fullness:

-This love calls us into community. This love invites us to view our neighbors and live among our neighbors through a vision of kinship — to trust that we are so deeply related that we belong to one another, and that what affects one, affects all. Perhaps today, this love invites us even more deeply into that kind of vision.

-And we discover that this love invites us into what Jesus called the Kingdom of God, what we might also call the Kin-dom of God, one translation of what Jesus was describing. This Kin-dom of God is a connected to a community of people that is seeking — imperfectly, of course — to lean into the direction of God’s vision for this world, which always includes justice, peace, dignity, and belonging. Perhaps today, this love invites us even more deeply into that kind of vision.

-And as we seek to live in this direction, imperfectly, but working at it again and again, we discover that this kinship vision is alive here in our own community at First Presbyterian Church, and that together, we are a household of faith, a household of belonging where we practice the particularity of care — care which involves really and truly knowing one another, tending to one another, including one another, encouraging one another, praying for one another as we seek God’s calling, and dreaming as we ponder what an expansion of this community might look like. Perhaps today, this love invites us even more deeply into that kind of vision.

We might say that this kind of love has been calling us all along. But there are moments when it completely takes us by surprise.

I wonder if that was true for four fishermen in 1st century Galilee. When Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John went fishing on a particular day, they were not expecting any of this. They were not expecting that a loving vision would radically invite and re-orient what their lives would become.

It’s possible that these four fishermen didn’t expect very much. This was a mundane, routine day. This was the practice of their livelihood. They likely went out in those boats with nets day after day. But also, I wonder if their trade had not been doing well overall, and if that was yet another reason not to expect very much.

In this story, Simon Peter says that he and his fellow fishermen had been out all night, and they had caught nothing. Nothing. How discouraging. It would be easy to keep expectations low.

But on this particular day, Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, and a crowd was there, wanting to hear from him. In fact, the story says they were pressing in on him. And he saw these two boats, sitting there. Simon Peter, his brother Andrew, and James and John, two other brothers, were standing nearby, washing nets, again after they had caught nothing.

And then, Jesus got into one of their boats. It was the boat belonging to Simon Peter, and he requested of Simon Peter, “Put out that boat a little way from the shore,” so that people could hear him but with more space and less commotion.

I wonder if Simon Peter and the others had heard of Jesus, or if this was their first encounter with him. Even if they had heard some extraordinary things, they might not have expected any of this to impact their own lives.

But Jesus wasn’t only interested in addressing that crowd there on the shore of the lake. He was interested in addressing and loving these four fishermen who were before him. After he finished speaking, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Put out the boat to the deep water, and let your nets down for a catch.”

Well, this didn’t make a lot of sense… They had already caught nothing. They had already cleaned their nets. This might have been fruitless and inconvenient. But Simon Peter decides to trust just a little bit. He says, “We’ve worked all night long and have caught nothing, but if you say so, I will let down the nets.”

And then they encountered a shocking amount of abundance — so many fish that they could barely pull in the nets. And their boats began sinking!

But this was just a prelude to the kind of abundance they were about to experience in following Jesus. And Jesus reinterprets this moment with an invitation, with a calling into a love that is abundant.

Jesus says, “Do not be afraid. For now on, you will be catching people.”

Of course, this is a bit different than the metaphor may suggest… as if this is an effort to pull people unwillingly into these large nets of entrapment! (I’ve always thought this metaphor was a bit odd.) So no, not that. But this is something deeper. This is invitation to a way of life — finding people, finding people as they are, loving them as they are, and tending to them, and being challenged by them, and together, building each other up so that this community and vision for kinship grows ever larger into abundance.

This moment was the entry point into what would follow for them. But that’s true for Jesus too. Jesus inaugurated his vision with partners, people who were participating into this vision of the Kin-dom of God. Jesus called them into this way of life. Love called them into this way of life.

And so, I wonder, how are you feeling called into this way of life now? How are we experiencing that kind of invitation at this juncture in our lives? How are we experiencing it in our collective life as a community? Where do you sense it? Where do you see it?

I imagine we could all tell stories of calling — moments when we left our nets, so to speak, to move in a deeper direction. Maybe it was a choice to belong more fully, or perhaps it was a recognition that we have come to belong even more deeply than we could have known to choose.

Maybe it involved stepping away from something — from a home, from an addiction, from from a tendency toward cynicism, from a belief that we’re not worth very much, or a belief that our body isn’t the right kind of body, or a belief that our gifts and talents aren’t really worthwhile…

toward community, toward relationship, toward neighborhood, toward calling, toward bravery, toward vitality, toward fullness, toward wholeness, toward the very God who holds it all and calls it all into being.

And so I’ll close in the way I began.

What if it is true?

What if there is a love at the heart of things? A love so large, so expansive, and so abundant that is hard to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth? A love that is truly hard to wrap our minds around, and yet a love that is an invitation — a love that is summoning us into the fullness of God, the fullness of community, and the fullness of the vision God seeks to initiate and invigorate even through us?

What if that is actually true?

Renee Roederer

2 thoughts on “Deeper

  1. Renee, a beautiful sermon and completely right.

    But how do we love another without loving ourselves–including our shadow. For if we do not begin to acknowledge and better integrate our shadow into our lives, who those who we might seek to help may regret it. As a consequent, more than half of our marriages end in divorce.

    Probably something like twenty-five years ago, I was motivated by my sense of impatience with a helpful practice. I was thinking about how when we over-react to somebody or situation how that indicates that we are ignoring our own impulses so that we end up blaming the other person or situation rather than our own overwrought reactions.

    Becoming more watchful, I ran into two situations in the same month that has stayed with me:

    The first situation was at the local Ralph’s grocery store that was then near our house. There was this older man directly in front of me slowing pushing his cart. Instead of rushing ahead of him I began to ask how he was doing, or something like that. He told me such a sad story about his situation, about tangential yet key family members and their demands on him, including getting just the right things from the grocery store, that I became very sympathetic to him and attempted to be supportive of him in his situation.

    The second situation, I believe a couple of months later, I pulled into this gas station in Sierra Madre, the city just north of Arcadia where we lived. It was one of those situations where every move I made to put my car to gas it up he pulled in front of me. Finally, I became situated where I could gas up. I started a low-key conversation with him. Like the man in the grocery store, he told me details of the stressful situation he was in. I think he said he had just driven 50 or 70 miles to get somewhere and perhaps he was already late. The short of it was that he was obviously rattled. After finding out about his situation, I told hims something like I considered him a special child of God. He looked at me very strangely.

    The strange thing is that although I am not really cured of my impatience, I notice that I am calmer around those who become impatient. Well, perhaps not more than a little bit.

    How might we deal with our shadow? Well, as the poet Derek Walcott once wrote, perhaps thinking of his and our shadow:

    You will love again the stranger who was your self.
    Give wine. Give bread. Give back you heart
    to yourself, to the stranger who has loved you.

    Do it does all come back to love, as you suggested. But oh our shadow is so difficult to deal with. Even for myself who is an introvert.

    Perhaps we might begin with the thought that to talk with someone we trust and love about our neurotic worries that hits us at odd times. After we voice our troubled worries, we are likely to realize our anxieties, once voiced, are not as troublesome as we had feared. By contrast, those close to us already well know our shadow, and will be likely to respond with something like “Oh, so I guess that makes you human after all.”

    Like

    1. Doug, thank you for this very beautiful and invitational comment. And it is a great and important invitation.

      We’re all on the journey of growing, including coming to see, understand, and nurture those shadow sides and growing edges we carry. We all have them, yes!

      Thank you for these stories too. Very beautiful.

      Now I’m trying to think of ways to add empathy to the moments and people who push my buttons, because those are about my growing also.

      And trying to think of stories where things went differently and opened up, just as you’ve mentioned.

      Thank you for sharing!

      Like

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