Christ on the Docks and in the Cubicle
After being run out of the temple in his hometown, Jesus gains a reputation for teaching and begins to call unlikely folks along for the ride.
There has been a change of scenery since we gathered last week. We are in a different time and place. Even the constant horizon looks different. Crowds are building in the public places. The people are restless and expectant. Jesus has left the tumultuous temple in Nazareth and has come down to the shores of everyday life. Working folks wonder what this Gospel message has to say to them. Will there be a place for them in the Kingdom of God? What does it mean for their lives in the midst of trying eat a well-balanced breakfast, waiting to see if their new medication will help, and making sure they meet their quotas at the office?
Jesus takes this message on the road and out to the streets. He's not on tour to sold out stadiums, but down at the docks with the shift workers. If you've been to the Houston ship channel, you know it’s not glamorous work and it doesn't top the charts as a place to see and be seen. Here on the third coast, we know that shrimp boats in the gulf have their own special fragrance and the fish cleaning stations back on shore are not places anyone would choose for a press conference.
But it is here, with these people - the tired, the poor, the huddled masses...that Christ comes to say such wonderful things and do such amazing things. God comes to the common places, calls everyday people where they are, as they are. Jesus tells these guys standing on the beach after an exhausting and defeating night shift, to go back out and give it one more try. I'm sure that these people who had supported themselves by fishing for their entire lives welcomed the advice of a random carpenter passing by (sarcasm font).
Simon begins his rebuttal, his well-reasoned explanation of why this will most likely be a waste of time....and yet, he also recognizes that the person suggesting such bold moves is not some cruel taskmaster. He calls Jesus "master," conferring respect and already moving him to follow. Still, I don't think Simon is truly convinced. He leaves all the extra help off in the distance only to find later that he should have brought them along. So I don't think this is a story about Simon Peters standalone faithfulness. They probably would have been happy to find anything in their nets, but their nets are filled to capacity and then some. God's abundance is bursting beyond what they thought possible.
We categorize this as a miracle story, but perhaps the miracle is what happens next. In his stunned amazement, Simon confess himself as a sinful man, an imperfect and unworthy beneficiary of God's grace. To which Jesus responds with an invitation. Jesus doesn't negate the people's shortcomings, doesn't whitewash them away, but still embraces these unassuming, unwashed, and unlikely candidates as co-workers in the gospel.
Jesus comes to them where they are, as they are, and invites them to come and follow, to come and be a part, to come join in the meaningful work of the Kingdom of God. They will not only be spectators but participants in this work.
Miracles aren't only moments when God suspends the laws of nature but a movement in which She transcends the laws of the status quo. These folks are not on the Forbes list of most influential fishermen, they are not at the top of their field. In fact, that day they bombed pretty bad. They haven't been to a discipleship class either. They haven't yet been equipped to "fish for people" either. But God doesn't call the equipped, God equips those she calls.
Simon Peter is not perfect, not a noted or distinguished leader. He confesses sin, acknowledges his brokenness and Jesus still says follow me. And on that sinful, imperfect rock the church will build a foundation.
God calls us to come and follow - not only as spectators but as participants, as meaningful contributors to the work of the Gospel. God comes to us where we are, as we are - as moms who may never measure up to Pinterest or write inspirational memoirs, as kids who aren't necessarily on the honor roll, as shift workers who don't have anything set aside in savings. We, the ones with chipped nail polish, with no diploma, with unimpressive titles or zip codes. We who have been hauling around that bag of donations but can't ever seem to actually drop them off, who aren't sure what we would say if anyone asked us what any of this matters. We are called to come and be a part.
This call is not about quitting your day job. You don't have to join a monastery to follow Jesus. Jesus comes to you where you are, even in the stinky fish boat, but then shifts the WAY we do the work.
The disciples are still called to fishing, but with a different motivation a different perspective. So following Jesus doesn't mean you have to quit your job as a sales rep to become a foreign missionary. Keep your 9-5, your shiftwork, your landscaping job, but be on the lookout for how God is calling you to be a part of the work of the Gospel in the midst of it.
Maybe you're the gardener that can recommend native plants that benefit God's creation. Maybe when your office is looking for a team-building activity, you can be the one to suggest serving a meal for Montrose Grace Place.
Maybe you're like my dad, the manager of the same piano company for his whole life - an easy going guy who just wants to love his family and probably never pictured himself as an activist. But on Saturday he hoisted his granddaughter up on his shoulders with a shirt that said "God is love", a pink sign that read "girls are awesome," and joined the march for women.
Maybe you can't make it to a rally or press conference to protect the rights of others, but maybe you can design the promo fliers, maybe you can share the pictures and stories on social media to amplify the voice of justice. And every one of us can call our state and federal representatives to share how our faith compels us to speak up for the immigrant, the uninsured, the disabled, and all the vulnerable.
You don't have to be a professional activist, but you are an active part of the movement to reveal god's abundant grace and wide welcome wherever you are.
There is a place for everyone in this movement. Indeed, we are not sent alone. There is more than one called disciple here. Together we can take bold, if uncertain, steps. Our invitation is to come and follow Christ above all, above country, above occupation, above our shortcomings. But we also follow Christ through those things, through politics, through our jobs, even through our brokenness as it is transformed into a way we can sit next to others who are hurting and say "me too". To follow Christ is to resist the idolatry of isolation, self-interest, and scarcity. We follow Jesus, no matter what's on our w-2, or who's in the White House. Those things impact what it looks like for us to follow God, but the call to follow in the way of ultimate peace and justice remains the same.
I invite you to take a moment to think about two things: what's one way you are being invited to follow Jesus in your daily life and regular rhythms this week? Who are you following to learn how to do that meaningful work?