n this wonderfully insightful event in the lives of the Apostles we find them back home in the northern region of Galilee just sitting by the sea not knowing which way to turn next. Peter, their leader, blurted out, "I'm going fishing." (v.3) "We will go too," the rest chimed in. They went out in their old familiar boat and fished all night and caught absolutely nothing. Some of them must have thought to themselves, "this is not too much fun anymore, there has to be something more that Jesus has for us to do."
Just then they heard a familiar voice calling to them from the shore. He was telling them to cast their net on the other side of the boat, which made no sense at all. How could just a few feet difference in the net's location make any difference? But they did what he suggested and they caught so many large fish that they could barely drag the net into the boat.
We ask ourselves, How many times have we felt the Lord leading us to make a step of faith, to act on what we have perceived to be his guidance, and have missed the boat by staying put? We can assume that if Jesus had not come to them in Galilee they would have soon gone back to their former lives and the Church would have never be founded and that we would not be gathered here today.
Has not our own experience been that Jesus has not ask that we understand him; rather, he has asked that we follow him? Just as he called the Apostles he calls out to us as we sit in our fishing boats, or as we drive our cars, or sit in worship. He calls us to fulfill his plan and will for our lives through his Church. Has it not been our personal history that when we have begun the journey with those first baby steps, not knowing where his call would lead, that instead of aimlessly meandering from day to day, he gave us a reason to live?
In this post-resurrection story, we find the Beloved Apostle John overhearing Jesus extending a special call to the Apostle Peter to follow him. Three times Jesus asked Simon Peter if he loved him and every time Peter answered with a bold affirmation. Jesus asked, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" And Peter boldly said, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you!' Jesus said to him, "Follow me." (v.19).
All of us need to take notice of how Jesus' special friend, John, faithfully recorded this experience Peter had with Jesus, without any jealousy at all. The Green Eyed Monster of jealousy might have lifted it's destructive influence. After all, John had been especially close to Jesus during their active ministry, preaching throughout Palestine, and John had remained with Jesus at the Cross while Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times; and now it seems that Simon was receiving a bigger appointment.
This is that time of year when many United Methodist Pastors receive their new appointments from their bishops and superintendents. It is interesting that it happens during this post Resurrection period. I talked to a Superintendent this week who had just completed the somewhat messianic task of informing pastors of their appointments for this next conference year. It is a joyful job to meet with those who think that they have been favored, but a hard task to have to share less than inspiring news with others. Jealousy can become a factor. Sometimes clergy feel that they are being skipped over.
Bruce Wilkinson of "Walk Thru the Bible" fame has reminded us in his best selling book, The Prayer of Jabez, that true fulfillment and power is found in discovering God's will for one's life and experiencing His blessings. Jabez, the often skipped over descendant of Judah, made a simple, yet heroic, prayer request for God to use him in some larger way. Jabez' prayer did not specify any particular position of power but only that God would use him and bless him as He saw fit. Bruce Wilkinson has been repeating the same prayer every morning for thirty years and he gives Jabez' unselfish prayer credit for the tremendous growth of his seventeen million dollar annual budget of "Walk Thru the Bible" seminars and publications. Wilkinson now travels the world leading his Walk Thru sessions and preaching. He credits his expanded ministry to God answering his prayer. God delights in answering our prayers!
In Jesus' call to the Big Fisherman we hear a reflection of his similar call to us. He calls us all; not just a few. All believers have the privilege and joy of discovering God's call upon his or her life. There is a spoke in the wheel that we are called to become. Our Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church speaks of the general ministry of the baptized. This is a way of saying that all church members are called to serve. Then, out of the general calling to all, he calls some to ministries that require training, ordination and full time service. However, ordained ministry does not minimize the calling that comes to every heart. (par. 125ff).
This means that there is a place for us to serve Christ. Many of you know your place to serve. You sometimes look like beavers building a dam together as you busily work. Last Saturday our Young Adults spent many hours working together in our church garden. Our Sunday School classes and organizations provide much of the energy that keeps our church moving forward. Others have worked on various volunteer projects. Our employed staff are engaged in jobs that enables them to fulfill their purpose in the Kingdom of God.
Although Peter was used in a mighty way by God as a result of his willingness to follow Jesus he was ultimately martyred in Rome. Yet, today when we visit the Basilica Of Saint Peter where he is said to be entombed, believers stand in a long line just to kiss the well-worn iron toe of St. Peter's statue. Peter's great ministry began when he decided to follow Jesus! The secret of his success was not in the following but in the one that he followed.
And let us not overlook that all of the other Apostles that had breakfast with Jesus by the lake that morning also followed Jesus into ministries far and wide. They were faithful and were blessed in their ministry. And it can happen to each one of us, as we say yes to Him!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor