Y’all — HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!! May each of you know that you are LOVED, and that indeed what is sweeter than candy or honey — or anything — is how much JESUS LOVES YOU! (AMEN!) Now — last Sunday we gathered around the table as is our custom. Some of the coffee was a little late in the making — but it was there none-the-less and we also had the joy of a guest facilitator for the morning! We are so grateful for how we can worship with believers from EVERYWHERE & also that we can be blessed by people we’ve never met before! And I know I’m also grateful to be able to worship with friends who I have known for years (even if we’d never worshiped in church together! God is good!).
So we gathered. Anne (our guest facilitator) led us in our opening prayer — thanking God for bringing us together in God’s presence. And we checked-in — answering the question of how would we react if Jesus showed up? Some asked, well do you mean today, as in if this was the first time he came? Or would it be a second visit? Or are we to imagine ourselves back in the day? Others wondered what he would say, how he would come to visit us. Would Jesus jump right in and tell us some things, would he let us get to know him first and then maybe say some things to us? After considering it for a bit — it seems that perhaps the best answer we might offer is that, “it’s complicated.” Some of us would hope we’d be excited to see Jesus, able to recognize him for who he is — and agree with whatever he might say. Others imagine that depending on what Jesus had to say — or how or when he said it — would determine how we would hear him. So we don’t know…we hope we will recognize him….we hope we will listen to him….we hope that even if offended (perhaps we pray for the humility to know the conviction of the Holy Spirit when God is leading us in a way we’d rather not go!) we would recognize the voice of Christ. But our honest answer is we don’t know…we’re not sure….it’s complicated!
Thus we turned as we do to scripture, specifically Luke 5:1-11. The story of some fishers who have been unsuccessful for an entire night of fishing, having Jesus use a boat to teach people who want to listen to him teach & then Jesus telling the fishers to cast their nets….and them telling Jesus — we’ve been unsuccessful/it’s not the right time — but since you say so — we will do it….and so many fish being caught that it started to sink 2 boats & break the nets holding the fish! And then Jesus telling them he would make them fishers of people (not fish!) and that it would be even greater than what they just saw happen! WHOA!
In the hearing of the story we had questions about what Jesus had been teaching about, questions about where all the fish went? People wondering if they had to leave fishing completely for the rest of their lives in order to follow Jesus. We noticed how Jesus told them to go out deep (not shallow, to go further than where they were). We noticed how Peter wanted Jesus to leave. We even noticed how the blessing, the abundance of grace that God brought them though simple (though possibly questioning!) obedience required community involvement to receive it:
They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. (vs. 7A)
And Anne led this conversation & shared some of the realities of her own life. The twists and turns that come. Marriage. Children, Divorce. New jobs. Strained relationship with a child/teenager distancing themselves for years. And as she shared the reflections God has gifted her with in living this life she is realizing God seems to always be asking us to be willing and God works with our willingness, equipping us for what it is God wants to do! We don’t have to be accomplished for God to allow us to be co-laborers in grace, God uses all of what we know (God took fishers of fish to make them fishers of people!) to do the work God desires done! What God asks at times can sound odd….will we follow anyway?
The way of God can be challenging (for a variety of reasons) — and sometimes God wants to give us something that makes us want to react similar to Peter, focusing on how unworthy we are and requesting that God will take the gift and leave us kindly alone. The homework this week invites us to be attentive to exactly that, it asks us to look for instances of abundance that we resist. Maybe it is a gift (unexpected), an unsolicited offer of help, or someone wanting to share something with us. Will we resist this (these) gifts — given in this week when we celebrate Valentine’s Day?! — or might we accept them, acknowledging the blessing and grace that they are? The homework is to be attentive to where this abundance (LOVE) is that we tend to resist. (Perhaps the extra credit — would be to receive the grace God is gifting us with!)
Can’t wait to hear the abundance….
~ Rev. Sabrina Slater