Pushing the boat out

Sermon from 8 July 2018

 “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,”[a] bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

Warning Against Unbelief

So, as the Holy Spirit says:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested and tried me,
though for forty years they saw what I did.
10 That is why I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”[b]

12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.”

Remember how in Luke 4:14-21, Jesus had begun His ministry a year before after He had read in the synagogue from the prophet Isaiah and declared that today, the scripture was fulfilled in your hearing?

Well, He was saying in no uncertain terms that He was greater than Moses, because He was the Son of God, and He was driven out of the town. They thought this was blasphemy, but in truth, theirs was the sin of unbelief.

He had gone from there and called His Disciples and taught them along the way, as they witnessed miracles and healings.  But mostly, they had learned who Jesus really was, by spending time with Him.

But as always, Jesus reputation preceded Him.  I can’t help but wonder if the people of Nazareth had expected someone else, but sure enough, it was the Jesus they thought they knew who came not as a carpenter, but as a Rabbi this time, travelling with His disciples.

Perhaps He told them some home truths, and a few things they did not want to hear from the man they saw growing up around them and who a few years before had made their furniture or repaired their homes.  How did a carpenter, whose family we know get all this wisdom in just a short time?  And so, because they thought they knew Him, perhaps because HE was a working man, they rejected Him once more.

Jesus reminds us of teaching from 200 years before which said that only in His hometown, a prophet is without honour.  Familiarity breeds contempt.

Perhaps Jesus knew this would be their reaction, because it was His hometown, which is why He took His Disciples with Him, to teach them that people cannot be healed if they do not believe.  And a preacher will not be heard if the atmosphere is lacking in expectancy.

In an atmosphere of expectancy, even the tiniest spark will catch fire, but where there is criticism and coldness, or bland indifference, the most spirit packed words can fall lifeless to earth.

And so, as we seek to hear God speaking, we have a responsibility to either help or hinder the work of Jesus Christ.  We can open the door wide to Him, or we can slam it in His face.

But having taught His Disciples, Jesus knew they were ready to go forth in His name and with authority to teach and be Heralds of the Good News.

Today’s readings together have a common thread, which is we can serve God best, when we are outside our comfort zone.  Jesus was sending them out, two by two, without vast resources of wealth, or materials.  They were to live by faith and would have to depend on hospitality and generosity of their hosts.  It would keep them humble and show them that God would provide.

In Luke’s account of the calling and the big catch, Jesus impresses upon the Disciples the value of obedience and trust, but also displays a show of strength, as to who they were dealing with.  But, just as they learned when being sent out, they also discovered that in the deep water, outside their comfort zone, they would find a bigger catch and more opportunities.

The shallows where the less ambitious fishermen work yields a small catch, but further from shore, where hard work is demanded and storms lurk, God will honour their labours.

Jesus told them to push the boat out and get out of their comfort zone.

What does it mean for us to push the boat out, and be outside our comfort zone?

As a church, we are in a period of transition, just as Jesus in His ministry also was transitioning.  He went from teaching His Disciples to sending them out.  They would reach many more being sent out two by two, than just Jesus on His own.

In this time of transition, we are at the threshold; the doorway of a new opportunity.  And in this liminal space, we have an exciting opportunity to adapt or die.  And in order to adapt, we need to push the boat out for Jesus and venture into new waters, for a new catch reaching new people, in new encounters.

Sharing our faith needs to be taken to another level, learning and growing and living by faith.

The hymn sandwich, as it is often known has become too comfortable.  And we must find new ways to express the passion and joy and love we have found in Jesus Christ.

Those people in Nazareth thought they knew Jesus and had grown up with Him, but were too familiar.  We need to spend time with Jesus every day, to know that He is our Lord and Saviour and never assume, that because we knew Him a long time ago, we still know Him, because we remember what we learned in Sunday School.

Those well meaning songs from our Victorian past about Shining “You in your small corner and I in mine” have left us with a small vision for the Kingdom of God.

Take your car for example.  We have become too comfortable in our cars, our own small corners.  They are convenient, metal boxes, which insulate us from the outside world and from our neighbours.  But the problem is that you cannot meet your neighbour, unless you are sharing the journey, when you are shut in your box.  What if one day a week, we all took the bus into Lochgilphead to do our shopping?  Everyone has different and multiple reasons for their journey, so it might not always work like this.  But, imagine,  Just think, you’d meet people on the way to the bus stop, on the bus there would be new faces and new opportunities to get know your neighbour.  And walking around town we could meet even more people.  The Co-op delivers, so you wouldn’t even need to carry the shopping home, and as you waited for the bus back, you could chat with your new friends over a coffee.

One of the first steps of discipleship is building community.  But it does not happen without effort.

Café Connect is an example of two or three early stages in making disciples.

Of Listening, Loving and Serving, and Building Community.

The next stage in that sequence is Making Disciples, (which is what David and Louise Logue in North Knapdale have been doing through Alpha, and their Alpha Next group).

But that is why Jesus sent the Disciples out, to make Disciples and multiply their numbers, not merely add to them.

Somewhere in the Church of Scotland’s distant past, it formed Kirk Sessions who confused their role of leading God’s people with merely making decisions.  We became good at being mysterious, and now and then making decisions.  But God did not call us to make decisions, He calls us to make disciples.

Jesus taught His Disciples that they needed to push the boat out to get results, and to trust and depend on God for what they needed and not to be distracted by material things, or even buildings.

Just knowing Jesus, His love for you and what He has done in your life is all you need to take with you, and God will give you the rest.

So push the boat out and try doing something different for God this week, this month, and this year.

Amen.

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