February 6, 2022
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
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.
| Centering Prayer |
They left behind the largest catch of their life
Just to follow Jesus.
Not that the fishing bug ever left them.
They returned for a one day outing after the resurrection
Where Jesus found them, shared breakfast on the beach, and questioned Peter’s love.
What would cause a person
To leave everything behind …
Family, job, hometown, home, everything …
To follow Jesus and
Transition from catching fish to catching people?
Had their pump primed
By what they heard:
Jesus teaching the crowd
While they quietly listened as they washed their nets?
It was the supernatural miracle
That pushed them over the edge …
At Jesus’ command
Both boats were filled with fish
Such that they began to sink.
Recognizing the fact that Simon Peter
Found himself as an active participant
In the miraculous whirlwind of God’s direct intervention at the hand of Jesus,
He self-consciously drops in submission
Like a sack of potatoes.
“Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Simon Peter, Luke 5:8)
That wasn’t going to cut it.
Past sin doesn’t disqualify anyone.
No one gets washed out due to prior history, criminal record, or past sins.
The only thing that qualifies a person for discipleship
Is being chosen by God.
God at work.
God overcomes every obstacle,
Overlooks every transgression,
To bring God’s chosen into discipleship.
That’s how discipleship works.
A few thoughts.
1. You and I didn’t choose to follow Jesus.
God called you and me,
Just as God called James, John, and Simon Peter.
We don’t make disciples of Jesus.
Our role is to catch people,
Into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
God’s role is to convert that individual into a disciple of Jesus.
My call began
When the Lord warmed my parent’s heart,
Leading them to bring me to my baptismal waters.
I was an infant and don’t remember my initiation into Christianity.
I do reaffirm the vows they made on my behalf at every subsequent baptism.
God’s call to follow Jesus evolves over time,
At least, it has with me.
In my experience
The call is new every day.
That’s a heavy responsibility.
The first conscious memory of my call
Came when I answered an altar call by Billy Glass,
A traveling evangelist.
I was probably about three years of age.
Hands were laid on my head.
I cried, and said, “Yes, Lord. I believe.”
After church during Christmas 1965
I walked past the Pastor’s Office
And saw H. K. Gaiser taking off his robe.
He saw me and invited me in.
He asked if I had a Bible.
I did not.
I hadn’t gone to kindergarten and had not yet learned to read.
He gave me this Gideons New Testament, with Psalms and Proverbs.
I was three and a half years old.
God was at work
Leading others to fish for me.
In the congregation today are two types of people:
Those who have already answered the call
And those who will.
If you’ve answered the call
And take following Jesus seriously
Reflect on how God called you.
Who did God use to catch you?
Tell God, “Thank you!”
How were you brought to acceptance of God’s invitation?
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.
That moment when you responded like Isaiah, saying,
“Here am I; send me!”
Your sins were forgiven, and eternal life began,
Brought to you without personal cost
By the selfless death and resurrection of Jesus.
My question to you is this:
What are you doing to catch others,
To reel them into God’s presence,
So God can do His conversion thing?
If you are one of those who have yet to answer the call,
What are you waiting for?
2. Past sin didn’t disqualify Peter,
And it isn’t disqualifying you, either.
Growing up a preacher’s kid,
I sowed my share of wild oats.
I attended church because I had to, but I had no idea why.
I did some things that would probably land me in jail today.
Out from under my parent’s thumb,
My first two years of college were out of control.
It was a college chaplain
Who stood me up,
Looked me straight in the eye, and asked,
“Todd. What are you doing with your life?
Where are you going?”
He was fishing.
Where was my life headed?
Where is your life headed?
I didn’t know,
But my spiritual antenna tingled,
calling me to attention.
I swerved to avoid the ditch.
I drove a carload full of fraternity brothers to Boston to cheer on our college hockey team.
Between games I visited a friend and fellow “preacher’s kid.”
She was a graduate student at Boston University and gave me a tour of the seminary.
Exiting the door of the chapel
I stood before the Martin Luther King memorial statue
And knew immediately where God’s call was leading me.
I was called to be a pastor,
A spiritual leader of congregations,
Just like my father,
Just like James and John, and Simon Peter who went before me.
Most individuals caught by disciples,
Called and converted by God,
Do not go on to become pastors.
Only some of us do.
As the Apostle Paul recognized
The trajectory of one’s call
Is defined by the spiritual gifts that God gives
And the disciple develops
For the common good
Throughout their life.
Are you called to pastoral ministry?
If you’re wondering, come see me.
Perhaps you’re given the gift of wisdom
And your call is to teach;
In the classroom, in Sunday school, in your writing, or in the coffee shop.
Perhaps you’ve been given the gift of healing
And your call is to the clinic, the bedside, the operating table, the back of an ambulance.
Where is God’s call for you? And
What are you doing to develop that call,
Learn, grow, maximize the talents God has already given you?
Answering the call
Is an ongoing process of discernment.
Ask God these questions:
Who is God calling me to become?
What does God want me to do?
Where is God sending me?
When and what’s the time frame? Because timing is everything.
How am I going to overcome every obstacle and ensure success?
Why not me?
Though I answered the call to ordained ministry forty years ago,
I’m still answering God’s call for my life
Every single day.
What are you doing today
To discern and
Answer God’s call for your life?
3. Fishing for people and
Reeling them into God’s house
Is our common, equal responsibility.
The ditch digger,
The welder, plumber, and electrician,
The car salesperson,
The drive-through window employee who takes your order,
Are all called to fish for new disciples of Jesus.
The prisoner and their guard,
Even the politician (pun, yes even the politician)
Are all called to fish for new disciples of Jesus.
If we are fishing,
But God isn’t catching.
That’s on us.
One does not just walk into Dick’s Sporting Goods,
Buy a rod and reel,
Stop by the bait store,
And immediately start filling up the cooler.
One must be taught to fish.
Teaching how to fish is done by those who have experience at successful fishing.
There are many different ways to achieve the same success.
There’s fly fishing (the only true kind of fishing, pun),
Downrigger fishing from a boat, and
There’s pulling copper.
(You can tell I’m a child of upstate New York)
Likewise, when fishing for people to become disciples of Jesus
There are many different techniques.
Learn what’s successful.
Learn what isn’t successful.
Don’t do that.
Fish smarter, not harder or longer.
Use past experience to make improvements in future efforts.
In my experience,
What brings people to Jesus?
A lot of things:
A desire to turn life around.
A need for relationship and love.
A need for forgiveness.
The quest for eternal life.
A desire for sobriety.
Recognition that you’re in over your head.
Longing for meaning.
Searching for redemption.
That’s the kind of tackle that
Has brought me success.
What brings you success? or
What’s it going to take to bring you to Jesus?
Prevenient grace is
That mustard seed size of grace that God planted in your life
Before you knew it was there or that it was needed to grow into something greater.
You and I didn’t supply it.
God already primed your pump.
Put the effort in.
Fish for people.
Bring people to Jesus.
Leave the rest up to God.