Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Bethany Bullet-Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Christ Encounter: A mini-miracle
Text: John 21:1-14

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The pastor was an avid fisherman, but he hadn't fished in months. One perfect Sunday morning he just couldn't resist. He called up the Vicar and claimed he had laryngitis or something. The pastor then took his boat and headed out to his favorite spot. The hook hadn't been in the water five minutes before he got a strike, and landed the biggest fish he had ever caught - although he had seen bigger ones. A half hour later, he caught the biggest fish he had ever seen. Another forty-five minutes later he landed a fish that broke the lake record. All this time St. Peter and God have been watching the pastor from heaven. St. Peter turned to God, and said, "How can you reward this pastor? He lied. He let down his congregation." God smiled at St. Peter, and replied, "I'm punishing him." St. Peter‘s confused…so God continues, "Well, after he finishes, who can he tell his story to?"

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We have all heard or told “fish stories” in our lives. Fishing is one of those activities that people do that is relaxing; it is comforting to get away from it all. In the middle of a stressful week some people start thinking of how they can get away.

In the context of John 21:1-14 we know that it has been a rough couple of weeks for the disciples. The ups, downs, and ups again have taken their toll: a joyous entrance into town, an intimate meal with their rabbi, anguish in the garden, raw emotion at the cross, confusion at the empty tomb, fear in a locked room, exhilaration at seeing their friend alive, doubt in the truth, and a sense of peace breathed upon them.

But after all of these encounters some of the disciples wanted things to get back to normal, it seemed like they want to get away from it all. From the Gospel lesson, John 21: 3, "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. It could have been years since they had gotten into the boat to cast their nets for fish. They had been fishing for men but now things seemed uncertain and they needed some comfort; a place that was “normal”, somewhere that was routine.

They had been in a boat before…for many years, before knowing Jesus, it had been to make a living. But since encountering Christ they had also battled the wind & waves and saw their Lord still the storm with a word. They had seen him walk on water. They had traveled to the other side of the lake with him to cure hundreds, cast out legions, and feed thousands. Now they were tired, the sun had come up and they hear a voice from the shore asking how they did. "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some."

What was this guy talking about? You don’t catch fish after the sun comes up everyone knows that! But for some reason they listen and they are surprised by a wonderful miracle! It might have been a mini-miracle but it was a mega-catch. They had so many fish in the net they could hardly bring it on deck.

It is John who looks to the shore again and realizes that it was Jesus. Immediately, Peter puts his shirt back on, jumps into the water, and has an encounter with the Lord. Jesus was there busy making breakfast for his friends. He had a fire going and fish cooking, he had bread for them as well. In the midst of an ordinary day, Jesus does the extraordinary. Fishing was comfortable, breakfast was routine but in the middle of it all, Jesus provides a remarkable catch of fish and once again shows his majesty to his followers.

An encounter with Christ is never ordinary, but at times we all retreat to the comfortable. At times we miss the extraordinary acts of Jesus. We are fearful of the unexpected and we crave the routine. We get comfortable with Christ. Perhaps there is a bit of Peter in all of us. I am sure there are times where you have tried to get away from the pressure, tried to get things back to normal in your life. Especially when things have gone wrong or after times of stress.

  • Watching the markets collapse
  • Dealing with a budget crisis
  • Getting a pink slip
  • Hearing the test results
  • Coming home from the funeral

But when we retreat to “the comfortable” we can loose sight of the extraordinary. It is easy to become blind to the blessings and miracles that happen all around us. When the stress is up to our neck we find that Jesus is ready to have an encounter with us that will bring us back to him.

Jesus was born into an ordinary family, living ordinary lives. He called ordinary men, in ordinary jobs to follow him. He used ordinary things, said ordinary words, traveled in ordinary ways, and slept in ordinary places. From ordinary beginnings comes the most extraordinary event the world has ever seen. In the midst of the ordinary, Jesus shows his extraordinary love. His simple life of love culminates on a cross and an empty tomb. He surprised his followers with a mega-miracle that not only changes their lives but also changed the world.

Where are the mini-miracles in your life?

  • We can see the miracle of new birth, and of rebirth in the waters of baptism.
  • We can see the excitement of a child who hears about Jesus for the first time.
  • We have an encounter with Christ in ordinary bread and wine.
  • We experience the forgiveness that comes through His Word. We see broken relationships, mended.
  • We see peace that comes to people and places that only know suffering and strife.
  • We stand in amazement at the abundant blessings we have been given and we are moved to use the things we have in service to the Kingdom.

Because of the mega-miracle of Easter we are able to encounter countless mini-miracles every day.

You may think you are just going out fishing, but don’t be surprised if Jesus greets you with a miracle and breakfast to boot. This won’t be some fish story, and you can be proud to tell the world of how you have encountered Christ. So…Lets Go Fishin’!


Stimulating Stewardship

When was the last time you heard those two words used in tandem? Unfortunately, stimulating and stewardship don’t often go together in our vocabulary or our thinking. That needs to change in the church. If the church is to conduct a mission and fund a ministry that changes the world one life, one heart, at a time. Unbelievably, unexpectedly, the government is currently giving the people of God a chance to learn this lesson or continue to live it out, as the case may be.

The vast majority of us will soon be receiving, if you haven’t already, a stimulus check from the government. The word, stimulate means to rouse, stir or invigorate. The stimulus package is designed to rouse, stir and invigorate the economy. Regardless of how you view this politically, I would suggest that we could all rejoice in this spiritually! This stimulus check has the opportunity to rouse a response within the people of God by returning a proportionate gift to the Lord, to stir in us a desire to give back to God a first fruit gift from the resources He provides us, be they through our employer or our government.

It isn’t often that something beginning in the state and world of laws (what Luther calls, “the left hand kingdom”) has the chance of invigorating the church and realm of the Gospel (what Luther calls, “the right hand kingdom”) in such a way as to teach us and direct us into a spiritual discipline that is God-pleasing. The spiritual discipline, and Bethany Blueprint point, of proportionate giving can be learned, lived out, or acted upon again through this stimulus check. Wouldn’t it be just like God to use this opportunity to continue for some and begin for others a rousing, stirring, invigorating even stimulating life of financial stewardship?

If so, that means this is more than a chance to merely consider the spiritual disciple of proportionate giving, but rather a chance to act upon the opportunity and engage in this spiritual discipline by returning to the Lord a proportionate gift. A Biblical example of proportionate giving that has been practiced in the lives of the saints in Scripture and history is a tithe or ten percent.

Who would have thought it, the state stimulating stewardship in the church? Exciting to think about isn’t it!


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