Created For A Purpose - Week 3: "Nets"
This week I'm going to be continuing the sermon series that we began a few weeks ago, a sermon series on discovering your true purpose entitled: "Created for A Purpose: God's Great Plan For Your Life."
I want to lift up a few of the important lessons we've learned together these past few weeks. First, and most importantly, we learned that when it comes to discovering your purpose in life, it's not about you... it's about God.
Second, the thread that ties together everything we're talking about is this: You are uniquely positioned and prepared to fulfill God's purpose.
We've also learned that we are uniquely positioned and prepared because God made us to be us and only us, and as Pastor Britta taught us last week that we are positioned and prepared because we are uniquely made for an adventure---the adventure of trusting God.
Pastor Britta challenged us last week to think about people and places that get placed on our heart, and to trust that God will lead us step into the adventure of discerning how we might be called toward them.
I hope you've been keeping up on your homework these past few weeks!
What I am going to be sharing with you today is something that has the potential to wreck your life. Seriously. If you choose to step into what we're going to be learning today--your life could very well get turned upside down, never to be the same again.
Are you ready for this?
You are uniquely positioned and prepared to fulfill God's purpose because... You were made to follow Jesus.
I haven't always believed that I was made to follow Jesus. Mostly because I thought that following Jesus was too closely tied to church... or to church-y people. Let's be honest, there are a lot of people who claim to follow Jesus, who I have no desire to travel with...
The thing about following Jesus is that it ought to transform you. If you say you're following Jesus, but there doesn't seem to be any difference in the way you live your life... if you are still full of anger, hate and bigotry... if you still clamor for war... if you seek to exclude rather than include...
Than maybe... you're not following Jesus.
And if we're all being honest, we all struggle with this. So many of us Christians have given intellectual assent to the idea of following Jesus, but when it comes to actually following him... we fall far short.
Rather than talk around this, I'm going to lead us right into the Scripture passage for today, and will be teaching as I read.
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
First, the lake we are talking about here is the Sea of Galilee, also known as Kinneret in Hebrew, which is most likely drawn from the Hebrew word for "harp." Galilee looks a bit like a harp, which is a symbol of David.
So Jesus is teaching and the crowds were so big he needed some space, so he steps into a fishing boat to teach. Interestingly, if you were to do this today, everyone on the shore would be able to hear your quite easily.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
A couple of things here... first, Jesus knows these guys. In fact, if you go back just one chapter in the Gospel of Luke you will see that Jesus actually healed Peter's mother-in-law from a fever, which doesn't sound like a big deal for us, but was actually life-threatening.
Jesus actually asks Peter to fish at the wrong time. The best time to fish in those waters is actually at night--anyone that knew anything at all about fishing would have known this. Jesus comes from Nazareth, which is an agricultural center--wine, olive oil, wheat... You can almost hear Peter rolling his eyes on this one, right?
But he does it. He's thinking to himself... this guy healed my mother-in-law the other day---straight up healed her. (Not sure if that would have been a good or bad thing)
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
At this point Peter begs Jesus to leave him in peace. N.T. Wright wrote about this and suggested that if Peter had known what the next few years would bring, he might have begged a little harder!
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Jesus wrecks Peter's life with those words---"You and I are going to be working together..."
And these guys all dropped their nets and followed him.
So, let me share with you a bit of history about what it meant to be the disciple of a rabbi in the first century.
To begin with, all Hebrew boys were taught the Torah as soon as they were able to sit still and listen. They memorized it. And those that memorized it well were basically tested when they were bar mitzvah'd and if they passed the test, they were allowed to move on and keep learning. If not, they got shunted on to a trade.
There were more tests as they got older, and only those who were worthy would continue learning. Finally, when they had learned all they could learn from instruction they would seek a rabbi to follow, to be his disciple.
There was no being chosen by a rabbi--you had to entreat the rabbi, beg the rabbi, show the rabbi you were worthy...
But this rabbi... Jesus... he went after these guys who had been washed out of the system. He went out of his way to meet them were they were and called them to follow him.
And then to make a point--he impressed them in the best possible way to impress a fisherman, by blowing their minds with a miraculous catch. And so they left everything. They dropped their nets and left their livelihood on the shore of that lake.
This past week I met some people that showed me what it looks like to meet Jesus, and drop your nets to follow him. I had the privilege of spending the entire week on mission with our teams in Guatemala. It was an incredible experience and I am already looking forward to it next year.
But I want to share with you briefly the story of someone I met there: Karen.
Karen was a high school student many years ago, who by a remarkable turn of events was the only student in her class who ended up on a field trip to an orphanage. While she was there... she met Jesus, and Jesus called her to follow him.
There was a boy she befriended that day. And when she got ready to leave, she told him that she would see him again. "No you won't," he told her. "Everyone says that, but they never come back." She told him, "I will come back." "Will you always be here?" he asked her. "Yes," she told him, "I'll always be here."
She came back every week for many years---and then she went off to college and got her degree in Psychiatry, volunteering the whole time in orphanages.
But she never forgot the moment when she met Jesus that day in high school. And Jesus called her to follow him. She would go on to start her own orphanage--against all odds and common sense. Now Karen is the only mother that hundreds of children in Guatemala have ever known.
I also met a young woman named Amy while I was in Guatemala. Amy was from the Midwest and had worked hard after college to get her nursing degree. But something happened to her along the way--Jesus met her on a mission trip, and she could never shake what she saw and experienced.
When the chance came for her to use her nursing degree to help train young Guatemalan nurses, she jumped at the chance. When I met her she had been there for two years. I asked her how long she planned on staying. She looked at me, and with a fierce sort of joy in her eyes she said, "Indefinitely."
Then there was the Madre Superior of the Carmelte convent where I stayed for the second half of the trip. She was 90 years old, and years ago as a young woman Jesus met her and called her to start something. Jesus met her when she was a young nun, fervent in her faith but he filled her with holy discontent, and she was never the same.
You see, in her region of Guatemala if you wanted to become a nun, it was almost impossible. Because the requirements included being able to pass certain literacy tests that the indigenous Mayan people---her people--were not able to pass.
But she kept at it, never giving up. It took many years, and the intervention of Pope John Paul II himself, but she succeeded of starting her own order of Mayan Carmelite nuns, whose sole job in the world is to pray and and help the poor... and they most certainly do both in San Andres Iztapa.
All of these women were uniquely positioned and prepared to fulfill God's purpose--none of them knew it at the time. But they were. And Jesus met each and every one of them right where they were. And turned their lives upside down.
There may be some of you sitting here today who have been fighting with God over some extraordinary life change, some call to go and to do something radical for the sake of the kingdom of God as you follow Jesus where he is leading you.
But for most of you---you're wondering what comes next.
And I know what you're saying... You're saying, "Leon, not all of us are called to do those kinds of special things. It's easy for you to share those stories... and they are inspiring, but what am I supposed to do with that?"
Jesus meets us where we are, as it turns out. And Jesus calls us from where we are to where we need to be. Because we are made to follow Jesus.
Most people don't believe this for all the reasons I stated earlier when I talked about my own doubts. We think we need to have it all together. We think we have to be perfect Christians to follow Jesus.
We think that we aren't really called to anything extraordinary because what it appears we've been called to be are: moms, dads, grandparents, software engineers, lawyers, accountants, doctors, realtors, teachers...
And so we keep our heads down, our nose to the grindstone and we keep sorting our nets and preparing them for the next day of fishing...
But just like Peter and his friends--sometimes we need to be interrupted to truly experience Jesus' call to follow him.
Consider this sermon one of those interruptions.
I want to tell you one of the truest things you will ever hear about yourself as it relates to following Jesus. You were made to follow Jesus, but following Jesus means that you can't stay where you are.
Friends, Jesus is always showing up at inconvenient times, in the darndest places. Jesus shows up at your work... at your school... at your home... Jesus meets you right where you happen to be, tells you to drop your nets and start walking.
And when you start walking with Jesus--truly walking with Jesus---it changes you. It makes you different. You can't ever be the same again.
If you are a teacher--be a Jesus-following teacher. One of our members who is a teacher started a prayer meeting last year so she and other teachers could gather and pray for their students and each other.
An engineer in our church took his love of running and put it to good use by joining a group that runs with the homeless---weekly runs with homeless people who literally run their way out of bad habits, bad health and into more freedom and stability.
A member who works for an insurance company volunteers once a week at Community First village, a community designed to get people out of the cycle of poverty and homelessness.
We have lawyers who use their legal skills to help those who are in need, providing legal services to refugees, battered women, people who are hopeless and helpless.
Our church is full of people---ordinary people who are showing they follow Jesus by how they live---not just by what they say.
Jesus rarely calls the qualified, he qualifies the called.
But Beloved, how can you say that you are following Jesus, if you harbor hate in your heart for others... If you are combative, angry, selfish, money-grubbing, filled with lust, blind to the poor, narrow-minded, self-righteous...?
So follow him.
If you are sitting here today and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is calling you to follow him. Drop your net. Follow. He's calling. He's saying, "From now on---you and I are going to work together."