You know, in churches we like to use words like repentance and transformation – all words for making radical changes in our lives. But, the truth is, the church is often the LAST place change occurs. One of my mentors often reminds me that church is often our escape from rapid change that happens in the world… it’s one of the only stable places we can run to. But sometimes, we just are stubborn and afraid to try new things, to take risks, to do it the way we’ve never done it before.
I firmly believe, however, that God is not done working on the people of Immanuel. The Holy Spirit and God’s sanctifying grace are always and every day working to make us better and more faithful. To make us stronger because we are people of the resurrection.
In this series, Rising Strong, we are looking at what it means to be children of the resurrection. What does it mean to let Easter change our lives?
In the first week of our series, Pastor Todd reminded us that we need to be ourselves. You have got to be you. But that doesn’t mean that is the you will be forever. No, as Max Lucado says: God loves you just the way you are… and refuses to leave you that way.
Will you pray with me: (prayer)
What does it mean to live as a child of the resurrection? What is asked of us? What will be required?
As Jesus began his public ministry, he calls out: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
The Greek word that we translate into repent is metanoia… it is a reorientation or a fundamental transformation in the way that we experience the world and everything that God created.
Metanoia is not simply owning up to past sins – although, that is part of it, because repentance is seeing ourselves fully – the good and the bad –through the power of Christ. We see the dark parts of our lives, but we also discover gifts and strengths that have been dormant or hidden. Repentance is a new awareness of who we are and who we are called to be.
As Jesus moved to Capernaum, change started to happen in Galilee. People began experience their faith differently.
People like Simon Peter and Andrew. People like James and John. Brothers who were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee.
I used to think of fishing as a sort of leisure activity – lounging in the sun by a lake, waiting for a fish to come by and nibble. Until the Discovery Channel began to air their series: Deadliest Catch.
The show follows fishing crews in the Bering Sea as they attempt to bring in the most king crabs during the winter season. It’s not easy work. The worst storms occur during crab-fishing season and the waves can be as large as 30 or 40 feet tall! Add that to the frigid 38 degree water and there is plenty of danger.
In fact, more than 80 percent of the fatalities Alaskan fishermen suffer on the job are due to drowning — either from falling overboard or as a result of a boat accident.
While the Sea of Galilee might not be quite as cold – the temperature averages from 60-90 degrees throughout the year – fishing was dangerous… especially considering that it was done without all of the safety equipment of today!
The Sea of Galilee is known for having violent storms caused by wind funneling down into the valley the lake is located in. I read about a storm just over twenty years ago that sent ten feet high waves crashing into towns on the western shore. Try to imagine those kinds of waves on the Saylorville Lake and you get the picture.
Besides being dangerous because of the waters, fishing was also extremely labor intensive.
Nets were tossed into waters by the shore or dropped from boats and then drug to round up the fist. Those nets had to continually be washed and boats kept in repair. Newly caught fish must be sold immediately or smoked or salted for storage.
Suffice it to say – Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John were not lazy young men. They were hard workers whose families depended upon their labor.
But then Jesus came to Galilee… “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
And he called out to these brothers: Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.
Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
You know, Andrew and Peter and James and John didn’t just leave their nets.
They left their jobs, they left their families, they seem to have left everything behind in order to start on this new path and follow Christ. They went all in. They gave everything they had. They let the radical, amazing call of Jesus completely transform their lives.
So what does it mean to go all in today?
Is this call so powerful that we, too, are called to leave families and jobs hanging in the balance?
Thomas Long, a preacher and professor at Candler School of Theology says that in a sense, yes:
“… Jesus disrupts family structures and disturbs patterns of working and living. He does so, however, not to destroy but to renew. Peter and Andrew do not cease being brothers; they are now brothers who do the will of God (Matt. 12:50). James and John do not cease being sons; they are now not only the children of Zebedee but also the children of God. All four of these disciples leave their fishing nets, but they do not stop fishing. They are now, in the nearness of the kingdom of heaven, fishers for people. Their past has not been obliterated; it has been transformed by Jesus’ call to follow.”
These first disciples came to see themselves in a totally new way. When Jesus called them to follow, they saw the potential of who they could be. Not just brothers and sons and fishermen, but a part of the Kingdom of God.
Sure, they were ordinary guys, but they discovered within themselves a new purpose and direction. They just had to use the talents, abilities and life experiences they already possessed in a new way. Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John went all in and became disciples… but they never stopped being fishermen.
When we go all in today, we come to see our lives in the light of the resurrection.
We come to understand that God wants us to use all of the gifts and skills in our lives for the Kingdom.
While other kids in my class would get stage fright or be wary of volunteering for a demonstration… I was always the kid with my hand shot up in the air waiting to be picked. Words just seem to come naturally and I was always comfortable talking in front of others. So I majored in speech and rhetoric communications in college, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to use that degree.
Because, you see, I also love science and math and thought that all fit together if I became a meteorologist. And not just a t.v. weather girl… I wanted to be one of those people you see behind computers doing calculations and teaching viewers El Nino patterns.
I never imagined I’d be a pastor. Even after I decided to go to seminary… I thought I would use my skills teaching in a small college and helping students find their way.
Until I finally heart God’s call for my life. Repent! Shift your thinking! Go All In! You are supposed to be a pastor!
Holy cow, was it scary to think about. It was overwhelming!
I didn’t know what it would mean for my life – especially how it would impact my future husband. I wasn’t sure what it would mean to be itinerant in the United Methodist Church and have little control over where God would send me. I didn’t grow up in the church, how could I ever lead one?
But, when I decided to go all in and give this crazy call a chance, everything started to make sense.
If metanoia is having a greater understanding of the reality that we experience – then I began to see how all of the pieces of my life fit together. And I was able to embrace my calling and followed Christ.
That doesn’t mean that it has been an easy road– but for now – I truly feel like this is my part to play in the Kingdom of God.
I imagine many of you are sitting out there, thinking, well, that’s all fine and good for Pastor Katie or Pastor Todd, but I’m not called to go all in and give everything to God. I’m a normal person!
Well, really, so am I. And so were the disciples.
You know, those four in the boat were fishermen before they heard God’s call to go all in. And God took what they had and who they were and used it for God’s kingdom.
And that same invitation comes to us whoever and wherever we happen to be. A carpenter might hear Christ call out, “Follow me and I will make you builders of people.” A chef might hear Christ call out, “Follow me and you will feed my hungry people.”
Just like those first disciples – we are called to take the best of what God has given us and use it for the Kingdom of God. Our act of repentance is not only realizing the places where we have failed in our lives… but also recognizing the gifts and strengths of who we are and how God wants us to use them.
The message of Christ is not “Help Wanted – Fishermen Only!” As one pastor put it, “The point is that you and I were meant to become a part of the tremendous divine plan to bring light to a dark world.”
Jesus calls out: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!”
How are you called to be a part of the Kingdom that Christ has begun?
What does it mean for YOU to be a child of resurrection in the work you do outside this building?
Just imagine what might happen if every person in this room decided to go all in… to give all of your gifts and skills over to God.
In love, service, and in prayer, God could truly change this world.