Archive for January 2015
Third Sunday of Epiphany January 25, 2015 Christ Lutheran Church, El Cerrito, CA
It’s so wonderful and such a privilege to be able to serve you with the Word, the Bread of Life, this morning. We’ll miss Pr. Sharon’s gentle and uplifting spiritual sermons. But we have to remember, what I say here or what she or Pr. Barbara said here is not what counts. In, under, and through our words, when we preach the Good News of Jesus Christ, you need to hear your God speaking to you – speaking to your heart and calling you by name, just like Simon, whom Jesus then called Peter; and Andrew and James and John. God is calling us through the Gospel, through the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord.
In the words of Isaiah, “Thus says the Lord, who created you and who formed you…Don’t be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine. When you pass through the waters [think of your baptism] I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you will not be burned and the flame will not consume you [think of the burning bush, you will not burn out] – for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
In our hectic and busy lives with so much going on, it can all lay like a carpet over us, sealing off our souls; but we have gathered together so that we can hear that still small voice calling our name – and in our hearts we follow – so that “we are married, but as though we are not; we mourn, but as though we don’t; we rejoice, but as though we are not rejoicing; and buy as if we had no possessions, [that is, having as though we have not]; and dealing with this world as though we did not deal with it – for the present form of the world is passing away.”
That is just the other way around from proclaiming the reign God, the reign of heaven, in the words of Jesus: “Repent, for the time is fulfilled, the reign of God has come near, repent and believe the Good News.” Repent! It’s the Xairos and as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come and it’s coming because we believe it, and God’s will starts being done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus proclaimed God’s rule to be at hand, to be very near, ushered in by our repenting and believing it. So the form of old world has to pass away. The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians, the people living in the city of Corinth, and he also tells us here in El Cerrito almost 2,000 years later, because of the miracle of writing, tells us all in the East Bay, the present form of the world is passing away – so don’t hang onto that old fishing boat for dear life, but step right out and follow after, like those sons of Zebedee.
God gives us the courage. God gives us the strength. God forms our eyes so that we can see, our ears, so we hear, our hearts so they throb with the compassionate heart of Christ for all the people caught up in the bad news of this wretched old world.
The thing is that we mix up life and death. The death instinct is so strong it makes us cling to that old boat, instead of clinging to God and entrusting our hearts and lives to our beautiful Savior, Jesus Christ, whom God sent to call us.
Now our aches and pains can be so great that we can’t lift that leg up and get out of the boat. But when we follow with our hearts – God gives us the strength to get a leg up. We start in some of our cases, to follow Jesus in a vocation of explicit proclamation. In most cases, however, we respond through many vocations, in which we still answer the call of Christ serving our neighbors and spreading God love and forgiveness. We follow Jesus on the journey that leads to our promised self and into the promised relationships with others responding to that call. And in our mutual strength, we do the fishing expeditions for all those outside, that do not yet realize that God is going to take them in, hook, line, and sinker, capturing them with love.
So Pr. Barbara and I will have to get a sign for our office door: “Gone fishing.” But we all have to have our spiritual fishing rods ready to fish for those God is awaiting and reel them in so they experience the Good News and they start entering their promised lives, their Xairos – their joy and fulfillment and abundant life – which, surprise, is not death and dying, but life and that way more abundantly. Just think of Pr. Sharon’s witness. And she could have easily lived a life of quiet desperation after her husband died. She could have felt cheated and become bitter. But she believed God, who fulfilled the divine promises to her that she dreamt about on that haystack on her farm in Iowa doing her confirmation lessons and watching the beautiful sunsets. And many of us could give a similar testimony!
Now thank God, I’m a fisher of people, of women and men and also children. You know, to make the song inclusive: “I will make you fishers of women and men and also children!” Thank God I have to fish for people, because I’m the world’s worst fisherman. The boys loved to fish when they were little and after much prodding and begging I finally relented and took them fishing. We went to a lake and bought some cheap fishing rods that immediately got all tangled up. One fishing rod fell off the pier into the water and when we fished for it, fishing for the fishing rod, the line got snared, so we had to cut it and do without that one. The fish were pretty safe.
We rented a small boat, but Mark would not get in, so Nora stayed on shore with Mark while Ashley, Josh and I went out a little way. When Josh finally caught a fish, it flopped around in the boat and scared him so, he almost jumped out of the boat. Let me tell you. It was a fiasco. Nora reminded me of another incident: we went out on a fishing boat off the Florida Keys on a vacation at Ashley’s insistent urging: he got hooked by the fishing hook and because that hurt he would not try again, I got seasick, and Nora, who did not even want to go, was the only one fishing and she caught a fish.
So I’m happy I’m called to fish for women and men and also children! But this thing I know: a fish on the line will fight you all the way to the net, because it knows getting caught means dying and becoming food. You’ve probably watched Jeremy Wade the fisherman in River Monster pulling a fish in. So like those fish we fight God’s call all the way, usually, in our blindness, deafness, and misunderstanding. God is our last resort, after we have tried everything else. In my ministry in Coney Island, people gave themselves away: “I’ll see you in church on Sunday, unless anything else comes up.” But those who lose their lives will save them and those who save their lives will lose them, when it comes to this business of a call. Then we will witness to receiving our promised lives, in God’s promised time, with the in-breaking Good News spreading all around. Let’s believe God’s promises, the promises for Brewed Hope, for El Cerrito, and in the East Bay for the whole fleet of ships, which we call churches, sailing out on their fishing expeditions to proclaim that the old form of the world is passing away and the gentle loving will of God is creating and forming the people of promise for God’s new day.
 Is 43:1-3.
 From our Epistle lesson.
 The Hymn immediately following the sermon was “You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore” Evangelical Lutheran Worship #817, where it speaks of the fishermen abandoning their boats to follow Jesus. It is the translation from the Spanish, “Tú has venido a la orilla” by Cesáreo Gabaráin.
 A new ministry start sponsored by Christ Lutheran Church.
Thousands of police attended the funerals of their fellow officers. All lives matter. The lives of the police matter, too. But how many police attended the funerals of Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner? Their lives matter too.
I’m always bothered by the narcissism and unsportsmanlike behavior when winning baseball teams congratulate each other rather than the players of the losing team as in soccer and football. The Mennonites gave us quite an example when they attended the funeral of the murderer of their daughters in that school in Pennsylvania. Now that is some witness to the way forgiveness constitutes the affirmation of life.
Our heart also goes out to the police, however, because they are continually exposed to the darker side of human existence, while pastors like myself enjoy weddings and baptisms and many random acts of kindness and senseless acts of love. Wouldn’t one of these be a whole number of police attending a funeral like that of Eric Garner?