Sunday, 9 February 2014

Taking our place at the net

Epiphany 5 year A Sermon 
Matthew 2:18-23  and 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Did you catch that? Paul says to the Corinthians …summarising all the wisdom… all the good news he brought to them during his fishing trip to Corinth…

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ… and him crucified.

Yes… Paul’s was a fishing trip!!!…just like the one Jesus invites Simon Peter…Andrew, James and John to go on …there in Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee …the sort of fishing trip which is… part of any Christian’s personal mission statement…right we’re to fish for people aren’t we.

Jesus cousin John had emphasised repentance during his ministry…but Jesus adds new dimensions doesn't he …teaching, healing and bringing about the reign of God.

I think Jesus’ choice of fishing trips…is a good metaphor
for the work of discipleship… don’t you?  Using it…
we can imagine the community of Jesus followers
like a boat…a vessel of God’s Shalom…
of well-being and equality…and peace with justice…

a new kind of family…formed by people who've heard and accepted the good news embodied by Jesus Christ…
that everyone is welcome at the Table…and loved by God … where everyone is served and celebrated...

There’s a strong sense in which all of us here today
well…we are this boat…this vessel… of Shalom…
not our building of course…but our community of faith. Called to follow Jesus…we as a people… are to be
a place of healing and restoration where no one is left out….

That’s why the invitation… to learn to fish for people
made so much sense to Simon Peter… and Andrew and James and John…and the metaphor worked for them… because they were used to fishing with nets…not hooks

As Jesus disciples their aim would be… to get all the fish they could into the net…so the more the merrier
could celebrate God’s grace and invite even more people in.

Jesus parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin make it clear that no one is… to be left out. In Jesus revelation of the will of God…and in Jesus interpretation of the Hebrew Bible… it’s clear… God doesn’t want anyone to be left out …God wants every last one in the boat.

This becomes a problem when we wrongly identify the boat with a church building…because… then our mission becomes getting people into the building…getting people to worship with us here on Sunday morning…
getting people to join our church…

Those are great things to  do…
But the boat we’re trying to get people into…
isn’t a building at all…it’s a new way of being family
side by side with… others created by God…learning to live and love like brothers and sistersall those
made in God’s image. A family…a kingdom… of love

And the nets in Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John’s
method of fishingwell these nets…help them understand what Jesus means …we’re not just fishing for a particular variety of fish…as you would with a carefully selected lure
We’re not just fishing for good people or people from a particular ethnic groups or religious backgrounds …
because Jesus’ good news is for everyone

That’s why we’re using nets and not fishing rods.

And just as Paul did in Corinth…you and I are holding onto …a part of the net of the good news…of the Gospel…
you and I… take our place at holding onto the net …
when we decide to be an obedient follower of Jesus

…side by side… you and I… grasp the net of God’s love
and walk the walk Jesus taught us to walk… until every last person in the world is scooped up…until every last person in the world…understands the meaning of the incarnation and the cross of Christ…until every last man and woman and child… knows God loves them…and joins us
in holding the net for others. [pause]

But before we can go on this fishing trip… before we can take hold of the net… we may have to let go of
some of the things we’re already hanging onto…otherwise our hands are full..

letting go of these things…turning from these things…
are one way to describe repentance…letting go of whatever prevents us from talking hold of the net of God’s love.

Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John…
all had to leave some things behind…they had to walk away from some of their security…let go of the cultural and religious prejudices which… kept them from becoming fishers of men…the way Jesus’ meant it…

They had to learn to accept people they’d kept away from before…and hold on to the net
right beside people who were different…even offer God’s net of love…to their traditional enemies

They had to leave behind what they’d always considered to be normal attitudes and ways of living… ways that weren’t consistent… with life in God’s kingdom.

Instead…just like Paul…they had to adopt ways…
that by the standards of the world are foolish – loving mercy, living justly… sharing what they had…so everyone has enough…forgoing arrogance and pride…walking humbly with God…and forgiving others…just as they were forgiven

In other words… in order to fish for people
they had to be the good news for them…embody the good news…personify the good news…to the poor and the sick and those living in darkness. [pause]

You see there’s no bait in a net is there…only the net

…the net…the lived example…of the community of good news…the community of love…the community of the Gospel…and you might just say…fish know they’re in the net…because they can’t find a way out

In the same way people know they’re in the net… because everywhere they turn…there is love…[pause]

Some find taking hold of the net easy
they look forward to participating…in the net of love that catches people up in the good news. But others are afraid to go fishing…because they’ve misunderstood
what fishing for people is…and they shy away
Slide words
Today I want to look at three misunderstandings or false beliefs… that may be… preventing you
from taking your place at the net…

First is the false belief that God doesn’t love you unconditionally …that you’re not good enough to be a disciple.
Second is the false belief that fishing for people means converting them so they won’t go to hell.
The third is a fear of contamination from extending love to the wrong kind of people…unclean people…

If any of these three false beliefs can prevent you from taking your place at the net…If you suffer from one… you might like to note that one down on your service sheet. We’re going to deal with them one by one
along with the remedy provided by Christ.

First let’s say you suffer from the false belief God doesn’t love you unconditionally…you think you’re not good enough to be one of those at the net on a Jesus fishing trip.

Usually we believe this diabolical lie…because we’ve been taught the heresy of a works based salvation …taught there are things we have to do to get God to love us…to earn God’s love…taught that…
if we give God what God wants…God will give us what we want...

but that isn’t what Jesus teaches in the parable of the prodigal son…in face he teaches the remedy for this false belief…in the parable…the father offers love before the son can say or do anything

If you want to ditch this false belief and take your place at the net of love… fishing for people

find someone who understands the grace of God and ask them to pray with you and for you…to help you embrace God’s unconditional love for you.

Once you get it…then your joyful response...will be to eagerly grasp hold of the net…because you want everyone to discover what you’ve discovered. 

Or let’s say you suffer from the second false belief…that fishing for people means you have to convert so they don’t go to hell by getting them to accept a set of spiritual propositions.

But here we need to remember that Jesus is trying to inaugurate the Kingdom of God on earth …so life wouldn’t be a living hell. The remedy for this false belief about fishing for people is to learn that when Jesus talks about hell, he’s not talking about a place in the middle of the earth where people burn for eternity…and he certainly isn’t talking about saving people from what God’s going to do to them…

Baal temple slide
In Capernaum there was a temple to the Baal…a kind of religious night club where sexual acts were performed with the priests and priestesses…the name of that nightclub was The Gates of Hell…standing right outside their doors is when Jesus says…to Peter…upon you I will build my church and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

Gehenna valley slide
Another time Jesus refers to Gehenna… a place outside ancient Jerusalem one of the two principal valleys surrounding the Old City.

Rubbish burning slide
In the Hebrew Bible, the site was initially where apostate Israelites and followers of various Ba'als and Caananite gods, including Moloch, sacrificed their children by fire. A place that was considered by the Jews to be cursed.

So if what keeps you from fishing for people is a reluctance to talk to people about hell…you’re not alone…just don’t do it… again find someone who understands the grace of God and get them to help you understand that Jesus came for the salvation of the whole world for God…not to save people from God.

Once you get that…then your response…in joy and gratitude will be to grasp hold of the net…because you’ll want everyone to discover what you’ve discovered. 

3. The third thing that stops us from fishing for people is the false belief that leads to fear of contamination from extending love to the wrong kind of people…unclean people…

Jesus and the woman caught in adultery slide
Now this contamination we fear seems to take several forms. Sometimes we actually fear the people themselves
maybe they’ll hurt us or laugh at us…sometimes we fear
we’ll be judged as unclean for associating with them.

But if we’re simply carrying the good news of God’s love it’s much easier to go fishing…isn’t it. Hi I’m a follower of Jesus…we can say…
and I believe that he revealed God’s love for everyone
calls us to a way to live that will bring about the salvation of the whole world…and from the Cross…spoke the forgiveness needed to end the vicious cycle of retribution and revenge that makes our world such a violent place.

Again if you suffer from fear of contamination or judgment…find someone who can teach you to understand the grace of God…and the perfect love
that casts out fear…

Fishing slide
All the time they followed Jesus…they got to watch how their Master…sought to bring wellbeing and peace to individuals and communities… through his presence with them.

Jesus taught them and teaches us… that we have the potential to participate in bringing about the kingdom of God on earth…to join in the healing of the nations and relationships and play our part in the changing of lives. Teaching us to pull people… out of their deep darkness and up into the boat…

Jesus slide
My prayer is that you will leave behind anything that stop you from taking your place at the net…and join Jesus in the fishing.

Let us sit in silence for a while to hear what God is saying into our hearts.