. . . in this time of being in the deep waters where things are uncertain, yet the possibilities are life changing, the only question we need to figure out how to answer is….If Jesus asks us to, will we follow?
February 6, 2022
If You Say So
Pastor Heather McColl
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.
If You Say So Luke 5: 1-11
Last night, I went out with a couple of friends for dinner and they asked the infamous question…”How’s church going?” After talking with them for a bit, I realized that what I wrote on Thursday is not what I needed to share for a time such as this. So I am asking for a little bit of leniency and grace because I’m about to go off script. Tech team, I will try not to throw you for any more loops today.
Church, we find ourselves in the deep waters. And for the last two years, we have tried our best to get back to the safety of the shoreline.
Pre-pandemic, we as the wider church ignored the warning signs…We ignored reports of declining numbers of people going to church. We dismissed accounts shared with us of the growing mistrust of our institution because of a naming by many of the hypocrisy found within our communities of faith. We, as the wider church, and yes, we as an individual community of faith, ignored the warning signs. We, myself included, were simply content to stay close to the safety of the shoreline.
Then COVID gave us a swift kick in behind. And whether we liked it or not, it pushed us out into the deeper waters. We realized this was new territory for us but after a while this new territory got old. We started longing for the way it used to be. We began using language like we have never done it that way before. We tried every which way we knew how to get back to the safety of the shoreline, never realizing that our efforts kept spinning us in circles, creating more chaos, never realizing that we were being pulled us farther away from where we wanted to be, never realizing that our efforts were actually pushing us further and further into the deep water, the very place we did not want to go or to be in.
For two years, we have been in this pattern as the wider church and as an individual community of faith. And we are tired. We are more confused than we have ever been before. We are more frustrated with everything and everyone than when we first started this moving out into deeper waters.
Nothing about this time in the deep waters has been easy. Nothing about this time in the deep waters has been sure in direction or purpose. Even now, we are continuing to grasp at straws, trying to make sense of it all. That’s why this past week, when an article in the New York Time shared that if the church really wanted to be the Church again, it should drop its online attempts at worship because that isn’t really Church.
It raised this great debate among the theological circles. Because for some of us, it gave us permission to reclaim and redouble our efforts to get back to the safety of the shoreline.
So knowing all this, before service, I deleted what I had written. I spent a little bit more time with this text and realized how perfect this text is for a time such as this. In our text, we hear Jesus telling the disciples to go out into the deep water and to try again. We hear Simon tell Jesus that they have tried all night. I interpret this as the early version of we have never done it that way before.”
But unlike for us and our circular pattern of trying and getting nowhere over the last two years, Simon does not stop his statement with “We tried”. He goes on to say, “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets”.
For Simon, this was a turning point in his journey of faith. He could have simply said, Jesus I tried and then went about trying to make it back to the safety of the shoreline. But he knew Jesus. He had experienced Jesus’s teachings. He had seen Jesus heal his mother in law. Simon knew that whatever Jesus asked, there was a purpose. There was hope. There were possibilities.
Because at this point in his ministry, Jesus has already started cultivating relationships in and among the people. Jesus has already started transforming the lives of the people which he encountered along the way. At this point in his ministry, Jesus has already started bringing the Kingdom of God near for the people of God.
I’m not going to stand up here and pretend that I know all the answers but what I do know is this…For us as people of faith, for us as a community of faith, for us as the wider church, there have been some deep cultural shifts within our society over the last two year, shifts that will take us generations to figure out their effects.
Yet we as the Church have an advantage over other institutions in these deep waters of transformation if we have the courage to embrace it. We have the Spirit of God moving in and among us guiding us and leading us. All we have to say in response to this challenge of rediscovering who we are, is Jesus, if you say so, we will. Because in the deep waters, what the disciples discovered is that is where the real work happens. In the deep waters that is where we experience the abundance of God. In the deep waters that is where we experience true transformation as we engage the Kingdom of God in our midst.
In this time of being in the deep waters, a time which I believe God is purposely moving us into as the wider church, as an individual community of faith, in this time of being in the deep waters where things are uncertain, yet the possibilities are life changing, the only question we need to figure out how to answer is….If Jesus asks us to, will we follow?
For when we discern this answer, we discover that we are going to need a bigger table. We are going to need a bigger boat. We are going to need a bigger vision of the Kingdom of God so that all are invited to know and experience the life giving, life transforming power of the Word of God for the people of God. May it be so.
See Also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, February 6, 2022 – If You Say So Luke 5:1-11.