Tagged with All Ages Worship

Deep Sea Fishing with Jesus

This sermon was offered on February 3rd by Jessica Torgerson, Director of Children’s Ministries. The focus text is Luke 5:1-11.

I have taught this story to children probably four times since I began teaching at WCUC.  I love this story.  Jesus is blossoming at the very beginning of his ministry.  He is baptized, he spends 40 days tempted in the desert, then he returns to Nazareth and begins traveling, preaching, and healing.  Word spreads about this guy really fast.  So fast, in fact, that by the time this story begins in Luke, there is such a crowd pushing in on Jesus that he has to escape to the water in Simon’s boat where he continues to teach.  Now Simon is a fisherman, and perhaps a sub-par fisherman at that, as he tells Jesus he was out all night and literally caught nothing.  He’s probably exhausted and frustrated, and I’m betting he just wants to clean his nets and go home.  But he welcomes Jesus into his boat and pushes out into the water – allowing Jesus to finish teaching to the crowd.

In Sunday school, whenever we present bible stories to the children, we always spend some time wondering.  “I wonder how that story made you feel,” “I wonder why that story is in the bible, “I wonder what happens next.”  Sometimes our wondering is general, sometimes it is specific.  In this story, I wonder a lot.  I wonder if Simon grumbled when Jesus asked him to use his boat.  Or did he offer without hesitation?  I wonder if the two of them knew each other before this.  Were they buddies? What was their relationship?  Turns out just before this story in Luke, Jesus visited Simon at his home and miraculously healed his sick mother-in-law.  So maybe Simon figured he owed him one – you saved my mother-in-law, I’ll let you use my boat for a bit while you teach.  Little did Simon know how central he would become to this story very soon.

So Jesus is in Simon’s boat and finishes teaching.  Interestingly, Luke says nothing about what Jesus was teaching to the crowd.  That part isn’t important – it’s what follows his teaching that becomes vital to the story.  Jesus says to Simon, “Put your nets out there in deep water.”  Jesus is not a professional fisherman.  Not even sure if Jesus has ever fished before.  So Simon responds, “yeah – we tried that all night and caught nothing.  But sure!  If you say so!”  So the experienced fisherman, on the advice of Jesus – again, not a fisherman – trusts him so much that he does it.  Doesn’t even really hesitate about it.  “If you say so, I’ll let down the nets.”  I wonder – could I do that?  Could you?  Could you trust someone so deeply that you respond to a call or an invitation with very little logic behind it?  Would you say yes?  Would I?

So we all know what happens next – nets so full of fish they begin to break, boats so full of fish they begin to sink.  Simon becomes overwhelmed with fear and wonder and expresses his complete unworthiness, falling on his knees, telling Jesus “Get away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!”  Jesus comforts him saying, “Don’t be afraid.  From now on you will be catching people.”  The boats full of fish are brought to shore, and Simon and his partners James and John leave everything behind – leave behind the greatest catch of their fishing careers – to follow Jesus. 

This encounter with Jesus has completely turned the lives of these fishermen upside down.  There is really nothing extraordinary about Simon Peter and his fishing partners.  They were doing what they did every day – fishing (not particularly well), cleaning nets, getting ready to go home when Jesus comes along and changes everything.

Jesus calls Simon and his partners exactly as they are.  He doesn’t ask for Simon to get his act together and come back with a resume for a detailed interview for a discipleship position in his ministry.  He accepts them with all their sins and vulnerabilities and inadequacies.  And what’s more amazing to me – these fishermen say yes! 

In the past when I have heard and taught this story, I always end up thinking – I could never do that.  Literally drop everything to follow Jesus?  I can’t.  I’m definitely not worthy.  Not prepared.  Not trusting enough.  But I wonder – what would it be like to go deep sea fishing with Jesus?  Would you go with him if he called you?  Stepping out of your comfort zone, letting go of certainties and logic?  Because the truth is, we have all let down our nets in response to a call from God.  That is why we are here. 

In each of your bulletins you will find a little paper fish.  I invite you to think for a moment – what brought you to West Concord Union Church?  Every one of us has heard a call or an invitation to join our community, maybe to get involved in a ministry.  Why did you say yes?  When you cast out your net, what did you catch?  On your fish, I invite you to write down what has brought you here to our church.  What call are you responding to?  How is God inviting you?

Thank you God for calling us in so many different ways to get to know you and each other.  Thank you for catching us in your deep, wide net of mercy and love, as we continue to cast our nets out and fill them to bursting.  In your holy name, Amen.              

Bringing Forth Our Love

I wonder if you all could help me this morning think of ways that our church welcomes people. When people arrive at our church doors on a Sunday morning, what are some of the things we do to help them feel welcome? (Ideas included: provide greeters, say “good morning!,” shake hands, provide an elevator.)

As folks come into the sanctuary and participate in worship, are there things we do to make people comfortable, or to make sure they can participate? (Ideas included: chairs to sit on, space for wheelchairs, large-print bulletins, hearing assist devices, visual worship guides, headphones to block out noise, toys to keep our hands busy if that helps us, activity stations.)

Do we do anything outside our building to help people feel welcome? (Ideas included: Welcome Garden, special parking spaces, rainbow flags, Black Lives Matter & Yes on 3 signs)

This church does a lot to welcome people, and we keep trying to make our welcoming muscles stronger. We want everyone to feel that they have a spiritual home; that they’re not alone.

Our scripture story today is about someone who felt alone, and afraid, and who didn’t have a home. Naomi and her family are refugees, people who are forced to leave their homeland to survive, like so many people in our world today. They are able to travel to a new place, and they find the food they need. But then, Naomi’s husband and sons die. The only people who are left in Naomi’s family are her, and her two daughters-in-law. Naomi knows that she does not have what she needs to keep her daughters-in-law safe and healthy. So, she tells them to go back to the homes they had grown up in. She tells them to let her go, alone, back to the place where she grew up: Bethlehem of Judah.

Naomi is trying to be practical, and she is trying to be generous. She’s worried that she doesn’t have much to offer anyone else. But here is the really amazing part of this story. Ruth decides that being together with this person that she loves is more important than anything else.  She decides that whatever is going to happen next, it will be better if she and Naomi face it together. So Ruth tells Naomi: “Where you go, I will go; where you stay, I will stay.  Your people shall be my people, and your God my God… Not even death will part me from you.”

Ruth goes with Naomi, and together they help one another make a new life, and a new home.

This season at church we are thinking about how we can be more like Ruth.  Ruth gives the gift of help and companionship along the way. She goes with Naomi, even though it means traveling to a place she has never been before.  Ruth brings the gifts that God gives her out into an unfamiliar world.

How can we be like Ruth? If we’ve already built strong welcoming muscles, how can we strengthen our muscles to bring forth the love of God beyond our walls and into the world? A few ideas:

  • On Friday night, folks from this congregation and other congregations and the greater community gathered at our local Jewish synagogue, Kerem Shalom. Because of things that are happening in our country, we wanted to be sure that folks there knew that we care about them. We lit candles, and sang songs, and then joined them in worship, to help make sure these neighbors felt at home.
  • This morning, we are gathering gifts for Open Table. We want to offer food to folks nearby who, like Naomi’s family, are going hungry.
  • In the hallway, you can see a poster of our Mission partners, folks who we dedicate our shared resources to help, bringing our wealth and service into our community for the common good.

How else can we be like Ruth? What are some other ways we can bring forth God’s love and justice into the world? (Folks reflected on this and recorded their ideas on hearts to share).

Dear God, open our hearts to follow in the ways of our ancestor Ruth, Going, and staying, and living, and dying, together with all your children. Amen.

Easter Celebration

Christ is Risen! We celebrated with festive worship featuring our combined choirs, lots of joyful music, and even dancing! Take a look.