Due to snow, worship was cancelled on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. However the scheduled Guest Preacher, Rev. Paul Sundberg, provided an short reflection on the Gospel text for the day: Luke 5: 1-11. The following are Rev. Sundberg’s gospel reflections:
It is commonplace for people to look at this episode from Luke’s gospel and see a promise of grandly effective evangelism. It’s the nets so full they are “beginning to break” that get our expectations going and our hopes high. The response is understandable in this time of declining attendance, participation, and even interest in “church.” We look back at historical times of explosive growth and wonder, “Why not us? Why not now?”
The longing and frustration are fed by the modern myth of endless progress. They are fed by the relentless separation of the gospel/good-news enacted by Jesus from the person Jesus: so much evangelism is based on “having a personal relationship” with him. At the same time, we have to confess that all too often the church has fed its own longing for power and wealth with those caught in its nets. It has lured generations into submissive acceptance of social inequity, injustice, and violence with promises heavenly compensation.
I would suggest that we really can only understand this episode of Jesus’ ministry, this call to “catch people,” in the light of what has come before it: Jesus’ proclamation of good news (gospel) to the poor, release of captives, healing of the bllind, and freeing of the oppressed. Which he immediately enacts by casting out a demon and healing Peter’s ill mother-in-law. The point being that the weight that is about to break the net isn’t a metaphor for gathering people in extraordinary numbers, but rather for the spiritual weight of meeting people in their deep need.
It is no easy thing, no simple task, no light burden to boldly face injustice and to just as boldly embrace its victims. Whether the cause is the blind “injustice” of the workings of nature (disease, death, or disaster), or the the intentional injustice of privilege, avarice, prejucide, lust, or power, drawing people out of chaos into compassionate community is heavy lifting. But that is Jesus’ invitation, that is the mechanism by which good news is actually delivered, that is the real work of “evangelism.”
The author, G.K. Chesterton, wrote; “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” Perhaps even more simply put, the theologian Catherine Keller writes, “No word will ever take the place of the deed.” Jesus’ call/invitation/promise to Peter is to the difficult deed of enacting the Gospel for whoever shows up in the nets. It is a call to always be beginning to break for the sake of those who have been broken.
It is a daunting, heavy call. So then, it’s best to also remember that we who are called are the ones who have already been caught in the Gospel’s nets, Jesus’ compassion, and God’s grace. We do not work on our own but as part of the compassionate community that is the Church as it enacts the grace of Jesus the Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer: Gracious God we pray that your love would shine through us this day and every day. Let our eyes be open to need, our hands ready to reach, and our hearts filled with courage to be instruments of grace. May our congregation be a net of love ready to risk breaking for the broken. May your Church fight injustice, enact compassion, and continue to call the world to active hope. In Jesus name…Amen.