Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, February 27, 2022

YEAR C 2022 last epiphany

Last Epiphany, 2022
Exodus 34:29-35
Psalm 99
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Luke 9:28-36

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

I’m not gong to lie to you.  This is a hard Sunday to be the preacher.  We have terrifying world-changing events happening on the other side of the globe, which are somehow very close to us.  We are insanely and bitterly divided as American citizens.  We face catastrophic climate change, and racial animosity, and social alienation.  All that, just as we are finally peaking our heads out from a global pandemic, wondering if it is safe to leave our homes without wearing a mask.

We are living in a hard time.  I just want to be sure you hear me say that.  It is not a lack of faith to say that we are scared.  It is not hatred of our neighbor to say that we despise ruthless international aggression by despots.  It is not to say that we are against peace to side with the Ukrainians who are fighting tooth and nail to live their lives and raise their kids.

These are not political positions or talking points.  Real human beings just want to live their lives without being bombed and killed.  No matter what you think about what is happening, these are people.  Beloved children of God.  People in whom we have promised to seek and serve Christ.  Many times it is in the starkest moments that we are reminded of what we believe.  And, there are many times where the right response is to be silent, and wait to hear what God is saying to us.  Just. Be. Silent.

And so . . . here we have this reading describing what we call the Transfiguration.  What is going here?  What does it mean?  And why does it matter to us?  All good questions.  And . . . I have lots of thoughts.  But let’s start here.

Have you ever had that experience where you realize you don’t know what you’re talking about, but you find yourself talking anyway?  You know, like you’re faced with something overwhelming or incomprehensible, and you just start saying things you wouldn’t normally say?  Where you should be silent, you just start talking, or rambling, or trying to make things better?  I’ll come back to that.

This story we just heard is what we church people call “The Transfiguration of Jesus.”  And, of course, that’s why we sometimes mistakenly call today “Transfiguration Sunday,” which actually happens in August for us—sorry for being a church nerd.  But today is the final Sunday in the season of Epiphany.  The last Sunday before Ash Wednesday.  The last chance to proclaim Alleluia, before we bury that word for Lent.

The church year started with the Incarnation at Christmas, where we could say the Divine joined with humanity.  And today, with this Transfiguration, we could say that humanity joins the Divine.  At Christmas, the Son of God takes human form to walk among us.  In the Transfiguration, the earthly Jesus shares the divine with us.

In today’s reading, heaven and earth are joined in the reverse fashion of Christmas.  In a way, it completes the cycle.  But, as it turns out, the real story is about to begin.  Everything from the shepherds watching their flocks by night right up until today is just prologue for the event that changes everything.  The promise that God makes everything right.

In Luke’s Gospel, this mountaintop experience is set up as the beginning of the end.  Jesus is about to “set his face toward Jerusalem.”  And Jerusalem is the focal point of Luke’s Gospel.  Every important event in Luke happens in Jerusalem, and specifically in the Temple there.  In a sense, this story of the Transfiguration of Jesus is where Luke’s Gospel is about to take off.  The nine chapters that come before today’s reading are like the introduction in Luke—getting us ready for the whole point of the story, where we will walk with Jesus toward Jerusalem, and toward his death at the hands of his enemies . . . which would be . . . us.  But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.  Let’s go back to the mountain.

This whole scene is profound and mysterious.  Exactly who is revealing what to whom here?  I think our immediate thought is to view Moses and Elijah as giving Jesus some kind of instruction before he heads toward Jerusalem.  But it’s just as plausible to view it the other way around—as Jesus giving them an explanation of what he is about to do, reassuring them of the necessary plan.  The way it gets translated in our version is that “they were speaking of his departure . . . ”  That chosen word “departure” here is kind of unfortunate, since the Greek word is exodus, and that seems a little more fitting.  “Departure” to our modern ears sounds a bit like Jesus is going on a trip: like Moses and Elijah are taking him to the airport.  On the other hand, because of our experience with the Israelites’ escape from Egypt, the term “exodus” has more of a sense of being called out, of being led out of something, of heading for something important.  Jesus is going to Jerusalem to accomplish his exodus.  And what is Jesus’ exodus?

Well, just before today’s reading, Jesus tells the disciples he must undergo great suffering and be rejected and killed.  And then he says, if any want to become his followers, “they must take up their cross daily and follow me.”  That’s the set-up for today’s reading.  The way of salvation is to Jerusalem, which leads to the cross.  The way “out” is through the cross.  Jesus will not bypass the cross, and neither can we.  Even in this moment of shining glory, Jesus is talking about the cross.  Even when it seems everything is finally getting better for us, we have . . . all this.

Peter wants to build houses for the three of them.  Peter is thinking the story is over.  We won.  The Messianic Age has arrived, and so it’s time to build the permanent monuments of rest from which Jesus will rule.  But, as we’ve already said, this is the beginning of the story, not the end.

But . . . Peter is just lost here.  Peter is committed, and Peter understands.  But Peter will deny Jesus, and Peter does not understand.  And I think it is safe to say, we are all more like Peter than we care to admit.  We rightly call Jesus Lord, and, yet, we will deny seeking him in our neighbor.  We fully understand, and yet we are totally clueless.

Peter gets the bright idea to build booths for all of them, and you can see he regrets saying it, even as the words come out of his mouth.  Let us build booths, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for you, “not knowing what he said.”  Not knowing what he said.  In other words, not thinking before he spoke, right?  He just blurts it out, and probably wishes he hadn’t, even as the words are coming out of his mouth.  

After he suggests the building project, a cloud descends on them, the voice from heaven speaks.  And, “when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.  And they kept silent, and in those days told no one of what they had seen.”  And, I mean, can you blame them?  Remember, this is before the death of Jesus, which means before the resurrection, before the Holy Spirit and Pentecost.  Imagine trying to explain what they had just seen.  Their teacher, Jesus, hanging out with Moses and Elijah, and the voice from heaven . . . sometimes in the midst of mystery, the best thing to do is to keep silent.  When we don’t understand, when we are overwhelmed by what we see, sometimes the best thing to do is to keep silent.

And that’s where all this comes together today.  This is not a story about me or you.  This is a story about Jesus.  But then, it’s only natural to ask: If it’s not a story about you and me, then what does this rather odd story about Jesus mean to you and me?  
I think the answer is in that silence.  Silence can be golden.  Silence is respectful, comforting, appropriate.

Because for something to be overwhelming and incomprehensible doesn’t mean that it has to be glorious.  In our daily lives, it’s often quite the opposite, isn’t it?  We get overwhelmed by financial pressures, by unexpected illness, by the death of people we love, by invasions of peaceful countries.  We cannot comprehend the tragedies in our world, or in our neighbors’ lives, let alone in our own lives.  We stand in a place where words make no sense.  Sure some days are glorious: everybody’s got a job and everybody’s healthy, every country’s people are free to choose life.  But, you know, those days can be rare.  And sometimes, the only appropriate response to what we see is one of silence and prayer and support.  We don’t know what to say, and so we pray for peace, and life, and understanding.

And that response of silence and prayer is what we do.  As we stand at the threshold of Lent, we take up our own crosses and follow Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem., seeking to understand.  We are in a place where words make no sense.   We are in a place where our hearts ache for those who are suffering.  But in the midst of it all, we gather in this place to receive food for our Lenten journey.  We pray for peace, we seek to understand, and we open our hands to receive the bread and wine, the body and blood of our Lord.  Like Peter, we do not understand, and we stand with our open hands in a place where words make no sense, except for one.  And that word is “Amen.”  Come, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

YEAR C 2022 epiphany 7

Epiphany 6, 2022
Genesis 45:3-11, 15
1 Corinthians 15:35-38,42-50
Luke 6:27-38
Psalm 37:1-12, 41-42

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Well, sometimes you love the assigned readings, and all the preacher has to do is amplify the obvious good news.  And sometimes the lessons are a minefield of potential bad theology and misunderstanding, destined to cause great harm to actual human lives, unless we pick them apart for context and bad translations.  Guess which one we have today?

I can tell you that the touchstone for getting these readings right is to think in terms of power.  Who has the power and what are they doing with it?  If we keep our eye on that perspective, we’ll get through this together.

So, let’s start with the reading from Genesis.  You’ll probably recognize this as the “happy ending” to the horrible and dramatic story of Joseph and his coat of many colors.  (Perhaps you’re familiar with the Worst Musical Ever, starring Donny Osmond.)  Before today’s reading picks up, Joseph’s brothers want to kill him out of jealousy, but instead they sell him to a group of Midianites passing through.  You know, standard big brother kind of behavior . . . but on steroids.

Joseph ends up in Egypt, where he gains a high position of authority because of his ability to interpret dreams.  A famine strikes the land, and his brothers come looking for food, having no idea that their brother is in charge of such things.  And then that’s where today’s reading picks up.  Joseph’s brothers come begging, their hats in their hands, hoping to be saved from starvation, and they come before Joseph, not realizing he is their brother, occupying this position where he can choose life or death for them—the very people who sold him into slavery!

And what does Joseph do with this power?  What would you do with this power?  I confess that what I would do with this power might not look anything like what we heard.  But Joseph chooses life, and forgiveness, and compassion.  He chooses to be merciful.  From his position of power, he chooses to restore the broken relationship with his brothers.  Those brothers sold him into slavery, and yet he says, “I will provide for you there . . . so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.”  Joseph does what a loving God would do, you see?  Though his once powerful big brothers meant nothing but harm to him, Joseph uses his power for redemption, and a second chance.

It’s a great story.  But the danger we have to watch out for is this:  Joseph says to his brothers, “And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.”  Which suggests his being sold into human slavery was God’s plan.  This is a very scary way to imagine God, and the world, because it implies human trafficking is sometimes a good thing.  And, I’m sorry, I just can’t worship a God whose plan is to have my brothers sell me as a possession so that I could later save their lives.  I think what’s going on here is just that Joseph has it all wrong, to be honest.  A much better summary of what happened comes a few chapters later, in Genesis 50, where Joseph says to his brothers, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.”

And that gets us around to imagining God saying, “I can work with that.”  No matter what we do, no matter how little of ourselves we are willing to offer up to God, God’s starting point is, “I can work with that.”  That is the good news in this story.  Not that God convinces our siblings to sell us into slavery.  But rather, no matter what others might do to us, or no matter what evil we ourselves might do, God’s starting point is always, “I can work with that.”  Like maybe, although God didn’t get us into this mess, how do we move forward from this spot?  God is always looking forward.  God can work with this.

And then let’s look at the gospel reading, from Luke.  Lots of landmines in this little snippet.  On the surface, it sounds kind of like what we call The Golden Rule, right?  Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.  But this reading has been used—and is still being used—to oppress and abuse people for centuries.  It’s the justification some clergy present to keep spouses in abusive relationships, which can end up getting them killed.  It’s the justification for telling people to let others walk all over them, and remain meek and subservient to someone who abuses their power or physical strength. 

And that’s why we have to approach this reading with the same touchstone of power and how it is used.  The very fact that Jesus is talking about making the choice in these situations implies that you have the power to make that choice.  He is not speaking to people trapped in abusive relationships.  He’s not speaking to underpaid employees with no health insurance.  And the tip off is that he begins by saying, “I say to you that listen . . .”  This is not a message for everyone of every time and place.  This is a message for people who have enough power and self agency to decide how they are going to respond.  Someone with no power cannot even make the choices Jesus is describing.

And in fact, when paired with that first reading we heard about Joseph and his brothers, we might even consider how different this gospel reading sounds when Jesus is speaking to the ones with the power, the ones in authority, the ones who have the most options to do harm in response to harm.  Consider how differently we would hear this message if Jesus said, “If a child strikes you on the cheek, turn to them the other cheek as well.”  Or, “If your employee takes your lunch from the office fridge, give to them your soda also.”  It makes a huge difference in how we hear these sayings from Jesus.

But the absolute most important thing to get right here is that Jesus is not telling us to remain in abusive relationships.  He is not telling us to let people mistreat us, or to allow ourselves to be mistreated by those who have more power.  He is telling us that when we do have power, when we do have the ability to do harm to those who harm us, that is when we are to think of these words.  He is not talking to the poor and downtrodden.  He is speaking to the bosses and the people in charge.  He is speaking to those who have the power to make choices, and telling them which choices they should make.

And then there’s a huge translation problem in this reading as well.  The word we get translated as “credit,” is the Greek word charis, which means grace.  We get our word “charity” from this word charis.  When we hear Jesus ask, “What credit is that to you?” it sounds as if there’s some heavenly balance sheet with each of our names on it.  So like, “Love your enemies, so that you’ll get an extra credit on the good side of the ledger.  Once you’ve saved up enough credits, you can trade them in for this lovely pair of wings.”  That’s not how any of this works, thank God.

But back to charis, or grace.  The way this sentence is actually structured, Jesus is asking the question, “What is grace to you?”  And that changes everything!  Because now we can hear this as, “What is grace to you, if you love only those who love you?”  And, “What is grace to you, if you do good only to those who do good to you?”  And now it sounds more like Jesus is asking, “Do you even understand what grace is if you use it in a transactional way?”  “Do you really know grace if you live your life on a quid pro quo basis?”  In other words, we show grace when we treat others as God treats them.  Because here’s the killer line in this whole reading . . .

Jesus tells those that listen, “For God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  Joseph is kind to his brothers, those ungrateful and wicked ones who sold him into slavery out of their jealousy.  God is still merciful even to those most underserving of mercy.  God is merciful to us, to you and me, undeserving as we are.

I encourage you to spend some time this week trying to answer the question, “What is grace to me?”  And then see if you can find ways to answer that question in how you treat the people you encounter in the days ahead.  When I remember that God is always merciful, “What is grace to me?”  And, however you answer that question, God can still work with that.  Because no matter what, God is always merciful.


Sunday, February 13, 2022

YEAR C 2022 epiphany 6

Epiphany 6, 2022
Jeremiah 17:5-10
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Luke 6:17-26
Psalm 1

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

We sometimes call this reading “the beatitudes of Luke.”  They are slightly different from the Beatitudes of Matthew.  Matthew only gives us the blessings.  In Luke’s version, Jesus also adds the “woes.”  In Matthew, it’s the sermon on the mount.  But in Luke—as you might have noticed—it specifically says "Jesus came down . . . and stood on a level place.”  This is one of the themes of Luke’s gospel.  Lifting up the lowly and casting down the proud.  Leveling the playing field, as we might put it.  In Matthew it’s a mountain; in Luke it’s a level place.  In Matthew it’s about blessing the downtrodden; in Luke it’s also about announcing woe to those who are rich and happy and satisfied with how things are.  Go back to the song of Mary, the Magnificat, in the very first chapter of Luke’s gospel.  God has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich God has sent empty away, which then makes them also among the hungry, so God can fill them with good things too.  That’s Luke, in a nutshell.

But first, let’s look at the other readings we heard this morning.  In Jeremiah, we heard something very similar to those beatitudes from Luke.  The prophet writes, “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord.”  And then also, “Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord.”  In less poetic language, we could say trusting in God is a blessing in itself.  Trusting in ourselves is a curse.  And our reaction to that, here in the land of self-made, up by the bootstraps entrepreneurs, is nuh-uh!  From the moment we are born we are told, trust in yourself, believe in yourself, watch out for yourself.  It seems Jeremiah begs to differ: Blessed are those who trust in the Lord.

Then, let’s turn to today’s Psalm.  “Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked . . . Their delight is in the law of the Lord.  It is not so with the wicked; they are like chaff which the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes.”  Again, in less poetic language, the ones who are happy, who are blessed, are the ones stay connected to God, the creator of all that is.  On the other hand, those who are not connected to God have no foundation.  They are like a gorgeous, soaring house of cards.  And though we might be tempted to envy them for their self reliance, and success, and confidence, they will not stand upright when judgement comes.

But take note:  The wicked do not perish because they are being punished.  They perish because they are not connected to God.  They do not have the one thing that matters in this life.  And here’s the problem:  We think of these as those who are happy, or blessed, because we have a fundamental misunderstanding of what truly matters.  According to the Psalmist, the truly happy ones find their delight in the law of the Lord, and they meditate on his law day and night.  The law of the Lord.  The wicked are a law unto themselves.  And not to put too fine a point on it, but the word autonomy literally means “self law.”  Yikes!

These are harsh things to hear in a nation that so puts self-reliance on a pedestal.  But according to these first two readings, building myself up does not equal happiness; the goal of life is not self-sufficiency; and getting what I want does not equal prosperity.  Even though you have probably heard the opposite from the first day you waddled into your kindergarten class.  Relying on God is wisdom; relying on yourself is foolishness.  And when we doubt that is true, all we have to do is take a walk through any cemetery.  All the earthly success, all the fortunes passed down to their kids, all the streets named after the ones buried in those graves is not going to help them if they are not connected to God.  Mastering the power of positive thinking and reading “Your Best Life Now” will not raise us up from death.  Sorry.

So, that’s the first two readings.  Now let’s look at the words we heard from Jesus a few minutes ago.  Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now,  for you will be filled.  Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”  It’s important for us to notice that Jesus does not say, Blessed are the poor because you are poor!  Being poor is not what makes them blessed.  You know why the poor and hungry and weeping are blessed?  Because Jesus is blessing them.  Jesus sees them with the mercy-filled eyes of God, which is a completely different view from what you and I have.

You and I—living here in the land of self-reliance—would tend to say, “You know who’s really blessed?  Those who are rich; those who are full now; blessed are those who are laughing now.”  You see the problem, right?  We equate blessing and happiness with everything that is the actual opposite of what Jesus is saying.  Every self-help book and better business practices manual tells us that Jesus is wrong.  That Jeremiah is wrong.  That the Psalmist is wrong.  Which is why when this collection of readings comes up every three years, we all lose our footing and start thinking, “Well, that’s not really true Jesus.  You’ve got it all backwards.  Blessed are the rich and woe to the poor, Jesus.”  We don’t want to think about these lessons because these lessons stand opposed to everything we’ve been taught from the moment we could be taught anything at all.

So what are we to make of all this?  How do we reconcile what we see in the world with what God is telling us in these three readings?  Well, maybe our main takeaway is just that:  Things are not as they appear. Because God’s perspective is different from ours.  What we call rich and famous, God calls selfish and despised.  What we call poor and downtrodden, God calls blessed and admirable.  And, not in some future pie in the sky kind of way, but right now.  Today.  God does not see the world as we see the world.  God does not judge people the way we judge people.  And that is good news, believe me!

Because this means that when people reject you, God calls you blessed.  When you find that people are leaving you out and putting you down, God is drawing you in and lifting you up.  In those times when everyone you know is turning away from you, God is turning toward you, because God sees what mere mortals cannot:  That you are precious, honored, and loved.  Blessed.

And here is the most interesting thing of all.  If we could see with the mercy-filled eyes of  God, if you and I could see things as God sees them, we might also say, what the world calls powerful, we call weak.  What the world calls successful, we call failure.  And, more importantly, what the world calls ugly, we call beautiful.  And what the world rejects, we seek out and embrace.  

Being connected to the Creator of everything that is, seen and unseen, this is what truly matters.  Whether you are rich or poor.  

Trusting in God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, that is what truly counts.  Whether you are hungry or full.

Living our lives in the hope of the resurrection is what makes life worth living . . . Because what the world calls dead, God calls alive.

Listen again to today’s Collect:  O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed.

May God give us the grace to put our trust in God, who is our only strength and our redeemer.  You are treasured, and honored, and redeemed—no matter what the world around us may say—because you are connected to the one true and living God.


Sunday, February 6, 2022

YEAR C 2022 epiphany 5

Epiphany 5, 2022
Isaiah 6:1-8
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 5:1-11
Psalm 138

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

I love this gospel reading we just heard.  Because it makes no sense!  Everything about it is just plain wacky, like nothing goes like you’d expect it to, and no one one knows what’s going on.  I guess some part of me is just partial to chaos and post-modern drama.

But let’s start with Simon—the guy who will one day be called Peter.  Simon is a fisherman, and likely the son of a fisherman, and the grandson of a fisherman.  All his friends are fishermen, and they spend every day of their lives doing what fishermen do: fishing.  If there were a fishermen’s union, they’d belong to it.  Simon probably comes from a long line of highly trained fisherman.  He knows what he’s doing.  He knows how to fish. 

Simon and his fellow fishermen have been fishing all night long but have caught nothing.  The professionals who have spent their lives fishing know what’s up, and there are no fish to be caught.  And along comes this Jesus fellow, the son of a a carpenter, who wants to say some things to a crowd that has gathered.  He just climbs into Simon’s boat (weird) and asks him to push out from shore so he can address the crowd.  Much to my surprise, Simon goes along with it.  And Jesus teaches the crowd.  Then we get to the really weird part.

Jesus tells Simon to go out into deep water and let down his nets.  Jesus is the son of a carpenter.  He might know how to build boats, but that is not the same as fishing in them.  We can’t tell the tone of Simon’s voice when he answers Jesus, but my money is on a sort of passive-aggressive sarcasm.  He says, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”  At best, I think he is just humoring Jesus.  Like when the technician tells you to reboot your computer.

So, the fishermen lower their nets on the advice of a carpenter, going against everything they know about fishing, expecting nothing just like last night, and . . . they catch so many fish that their nets are beginning to break.  They fill both boats to the point that they are beginning to sink.  Which obviously gets us to wondering, how much is two boatloads of fish worth, right?

Well, after reading a very long and very boring academic paper called “Papyrology and the Construction of the Ancient Economy of Roman Palestine,” I can now tell you that 500 fish would “net you” (sorry, but Dads gotta Dad Joke) . . . 500 fish would bring you about 150 drachmae, which is about two months pay.  Simon and his partners are not going to eat two boatloads of fish, but, financially this is a significant haul.  

So, let’s review: the professional fishermen have worked all night and caught nothing.  Jesus tells them to try one more time, and they bring in enough fish to take the rest of the month off.  Celebrations all around, right?  High fives and champagne right?  Well actually . . . Simon Peter fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”  What’s going on here?

Let’s try this.  Have you ever stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon or some natural wonder and just been overwhelmed by the immense beauty of it?  Or, have you ever walked into a stunning cathedral and just been overwhelmed by how small you feel?  Ever read about someone like Mother Theresa and realized how incredibly selfish you really are?  I think that’s what is going on with Simon here.  Being in the presence of the holy abundance that Jesus brings makes Simon see himself as he truly is.  Sitting in a boatload of fish next to God in the flesh, the Word who was there at the beginning of creation . . . Simon Peter fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”  In the presence of Jesus, Simon sees himself for what he truly is: a sinful man.

And, I don’t know about you, but if I were in Simon’s shoes, I would expect Jesus to say, “You know what?  You’re right, Simon.  You are a sinful man.  I think I will go away from you.”  Or, I would expect Jesus to say, “Go and sin no more.”  Or, “Now sell everything and give it to the poor.”  But what does Jesus actually do?  He says, “Do not be afraid,” and then prepares Simon and his partners for ministry.  Do not be afraid, because despite your sinfulness, I am going to do great things through you.  You do not have to become perfect, or even slightly better for God to use you.

But here’s something else about this story.  What about the crowd?  Remember how at the beginning there was a big crowd?  And that’s why Jesus went out in the boat?  We don’t know what happened to them, since we don’t hear anything more about them.  And you know what else we don’t hear anything more about?  Two giant boatloads of fish.  At the end of the reading, Simon and his companions just walk away with Jesus.  If you put those two things together—a crowd of people and two boats full of fish—we have a sort of accidental feeding miracle on top of everything else!

And it gets even better.  Because in order to accomplish this feeding miracle, Jesus doesn’t take a group of fishermen and turn them into farmers.  Jesus doesn’t have a bunch of carpenters suddenly learn how to fish.  No he starts with people right where he meets them, exactly as they are, and just by being with them, Jesus turns their ordinary gifts into an extraordinary event!

Jesus doesn’t lead everybody to stop what they’re doing and go to seminary.  Because how boring would that world be?  No, instead, Jesus meets all of us exactly where we are, and uses our unique gifts and abilities and life experience to spread the good news and make this world a better place.  

In the presence of Jesus, we see that we are broken and sinful people.  And Jesus says to us: Do not be afraid.  Because—just like those fishermen in those boats—God is doing amazing things through us, exactly as we are.  And when we are exhausted, and worn out, and feeling like everything we do is just not working, like there are no more fish in that lake, along comes Jesus, who tells us to let down our nets.  And we find that when we do as he says, we too will see miracles, and the world is changed.  Do not be afraid, people of St. Timothy’s, because Jesus is still doing amazing things through us, right where he meets us, exactly as we are.  May the Spirit continue to inspire us to let down our nets, again and again.