In the boat
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” And he said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.”
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you–unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them–though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who are partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
Oh you can’t get to heaven
(Oh you can’t get to heaven)
In Harry’s Boat
(in Harry’s boat)
oh you can’t get to heaven
(oh you can’t get to heaven)
In harry’s booooooat.
Oh you can’t get to heaven in Harry’s boat.
Cause Harry’s boat it sure don’t float
Oh you can’t get to heaven, in Harry’s boat.
I’ve never owned a boat unless you count something that you can blow up.
One of my brothers has a boat and Fiona’s brother has a boat.
One of my sons had a little fishing boat for a while.
One summer when I was a student minister in Magnetawan Ontario, one of the congregants has a bunch of little fishing boats and he said if I fixed up one of the old boats I could use it for the summer, so I stripped off the old varnish sanded it and put new stain and varnish on it and the congregant put a little motor on it and I had a little boat to use for some fishing that summer when I was a student minister.
When I was about 11 or 12 I went and stayed with my cousins in the summer and went with my cousin Bruce all day every day to sailing camp for about a month or so.
I learned to sail. We sailed little cadet sailboats with have two sails are about 10 to 11 feet long and were really designed for children or youth. They are actually quite a rugged little boat and are raced all over the world.
They go the fastest when the wind catches them and they are keeled over at about 45 degree angle and the two crew have their feet in hiking straps the things on the gunnels and most of the body hanging out over the other side of the boat trying to counterbalance the sail.
If you don’t know what you are doing and even if you do they are not that hard to tip over.
We got so good at tipping them over we could nimbly jump over the side and onto the dagger board and right it again without getting wet.
They were great that when they tipped over they didn’t fill with water and you could right them again, the water would drain away and off you went again.
There are days I wish I had a little sailboat. They are lots of fun.
However they are not much good for the North Saskatchewan River. You need a good sized lake or an ocean and a good wind.
All this talk about boats is because Jesus used a fishing boat as pulpit one day when he was walking beside the Sea of Galilee.
The boat belonged to Simon and Jesus got in and the boat pushed out a little way from shore and he taught the crowds.
There is no record of what Jesus said to the crowds that day, instead there is a visual story for when Jesus had finished teaching he told Simon to put out in the deep to go fishing.
Simon complained that they had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught a thing. “But if you say so, Jesus…”
So they pushed out and let down the nets and caught so many fish in the nets that the other boat had to come and help and there were so many fish they were in danger of sinking.
It so profoundly affected Simon that he got down on his knees with a profound sense or unworthiness.
And in Luke’s gospel it is here when Simon is first called Simon Peter. This is the moment of transformation in Luke’s gospel for Simon whom we know best as Peter.
And Jesus told him. Don’t be afraid, from now on you will catch people.
And this is the moment in Luke’s gospel that Peter and Andrew. James and John leave their fishing boats and start to follow Jesus.
I don’t know if you have ever been involved in something called the lifeboat exercise.
Basically it works something like this. You are the captain of a boat that is sinking. There is one lifeboat and it can only hold seven people. There is you and 12 others. You have to choose which seven people will get in the lifeboat and will probably live and who will not get into the lifeboat and probably die.
The exercise gives you a little brief synopsis of each person, often with a flaw. One is a chronic smoker who may have cancer. One admitted to you that he got away with murder. Another hears voices. One is an unemployed . One is a cocaine addict etc.
The idea of the exercise is to look at your morals and values and see how they affect your decision making, or whether you make decisions on best outcomes, or most needy person, or people most likely to survive.
It is a very artificial and hypothetical kind of exercise, and real life might be a whole lot different from hypothetical exercises…
But may I suggest to you that metaphorically you do have a boat.
And in that metaphorical boat are the people that you love and support and the people that love and support you.
And I want you to think for a minute just who is in that metaphorical boat.
How big is that boat for you? Is it your immediate family, It may not include them all.
If you had a boat and you put into that boat the people you love, who would be there.
A little different question might be. Who are the people who love you and therefore would put in the boat?
Who are the people you most closely love and the people who really love you?
Now, who do you want to keep out of your boat? Who do you not want in your boat?
People who are mean to you? People who maybe hate you? People who have hurt you?
People who don’t share your values or think have it all wrong somehow?
Obnoxious, people, dirty people, criminals, morally suspect people…?
Don’t yell it out. Just keep that in your head.
Who do you want in your boat?
Who do you not want in your boat?
And here is the next thing. You have more than one boat. You have your kind of family boat. You have your friend’s boat. You can have a work boat, or a choir boat, or your congregation boat, or your club boat…
And for each of these boats there are the people who you want in the boat and the people you don’t want in the boat.
Every group, every family, every organization, every clique, every group of friends, every country has a process formal or informal of who is in and who is out of the boat.
We, as a church congregation have rules about who can be a member and who is not allowed membership. The primary rule is that to be a part of the church one has to say yes to following Jesus Christ. But we also have policies about keeping people safe and so we are very cautious about sex offenders or you can get kicked out of the church boat if you hurt people.
Who do you want in your boat?
Who do you not want in your boat?
Because today Jesus comes and asks to get into your boat.
Today Jesus gets into your boat and your boat might never be the same.
And the first thing I want you to know is that whatever kind of boat or boats you have, whatever your background, your support system, your life, your mistakes or whoever you are, Jesus can get into your boat and use it.
Our three scriptures have one thing in common today. The three individuals involved have a sense of unworthiness.
Isaiah maybe one of the most famous prophets whose poetry and prose have been sung and preached probably as much as any other prophet. Listen to some of the things he wrote…
For unto us a child is born, a son is given.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon because the lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
Ho, everyone who thirsts..
The wolf will lie down with the lamb…
Comfort, comfort ye , my people…
See, I create a new heavens and a new earth…
You are precious in my sight and I love you…
They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks… neither will they study war any more….
He was pierced for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.
All we like sheep have gone astray and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
And yet this man Isaiah would cry out that he is clean and unworthy.
And then there is Paul, the apostle the greatest missionary in the world, who sais he is the least of the apostles who throughout his writings described how he tried to exterminate the early Christian movement,, including capturing and imprisoning Christians and favouring the death penalty for them.
And here in today’s text Peter overcome with his sense of unworthiness, a man who will later deny Jesus three times.
And yet Jesus’ call is not limited by human weakness or failure. He can use us. He says: “Don’t be afraid.”
And the next thing Jesus does is ask you to push out into deep water.
I don’t know how much time you have spent deep diving in to your soul, but Jesus want you to go deeper.
Do you spend time in introspection in meditation or in prayer?
Do you bare your wounds and confess your sins to another human being?
Have you ever thought about going for counseling to help with the stress and deal with traumas and hurts and unresolved issues?
Do you even know if you have unresolved issues? How would you know?
If you want to do an soul-searching exercise write your own obituary and afterwards look at it and see if you are happy with the person you think you are, and if not what might need to change?
If you want to do a soul-searching exercise make a list of everybody you have hurt in your life and take it to Jesus and ask forgiveness.
If you want to do a soul-searching exercise list every hurt you ever had and take it to Jesus and ask for healing and the strength to forgive everyone.
If you want to do a deep dive into your soul make a list of every possible way you could help another human being.
Push out into the deep.
But the amazing thing is that when you push out in the deep with Jesus, something happens.
You cast your net of love out in the sea and when you pull it in it is filled with every kind of fish imaginable. You are full to overflowing.
What would your life look like if it were full to overflowing.?
How would it be different if at all?
What would it look like to have all the love you need, all the grace you need, all the help you need. All the kindness you need. All the forgiveness you need.
You know the longer I live, the less I answer that question with money, housing, wealth, power and travel.
In fact when I look at my life, instead of saying I have fished all night and have nothing, I can honestly say I am much more like the person who let his net out and it is full to overflowing with love from family, children, grandchildren, health, friends, a church family that I worship with, music, physical activity, entertainment…pets…
And maybe you are here and you need something. You need forgiveness, you need love, you need acceptance, you need grace, you need physical health or you need friends to combat loneliness…
And maybe this old boat called First Church can welcome you and help you with your needs.
But maybe you are a lot like me and are thankful to God that your boat is almost overflowing with good things.
Jesus gets in your boat and it starts to fill up.
And when you look at the boat almost sinking with fish you notice there are all kinds of fish in the boat.
One fish Two fish Red fish Blue fish.
Black fish Blue fish Old fish New fish.
This one has a little star. This one has a little car. Say! What a lot Of fish there are.
Yes. Some are red. And some are blue. Some are old. And some are new.
Some are sad. And some are glad. And some are very, very bad.
That is from Dr. Seuss’ book One fish two fish, red fish, blue fish
It seems that when Jesus gets in our boat and we start filling up with love and grace then there is room in the boat for a whole lot of people we didn’t think would fit in our boat…
The good news of Jesus makes us inclusive, welcoming, loving towards all humanity…
The good news of Jesus makes us question all our assumptions about who should be in the boat and who shouldn’t be in the boat.
The good news of Jesus, invites us to take risks, to push out into the deeper waters of the world where there are all kinds of different fish and include them in God’s wide net of love.
The good news of Jesus actually changed the lives of four fisherman who decided to leave the safety of their little boat and follow Jesus and go where there was human need and human injustice and human suffering and human sin…
Not because they were perfect, because they felt called in spite of their imperfections to reach out in love and with the good news the God’s net of love is wide enough, and forgiving enough, and caring enough for you and me and all people.
I don’t know what Jesus is asking us particularly to do today as First Presbyterian Church. I don’t know if he is asking us to push out boat out into the deeps. I don’t know if he is asking us to step out of the safety of the boat and reach others. I don’t know if he is asking us to be more inclusive and let more people into the boat.
I don’t know if he is transforming you and me and us by his overwhelming grace today…
What I do know is that Jesus is here in the boat today filling us to overflowing with grace and love and forgiveness and blessing.
What I do know is that Jesus is here in the boat today filling us to overflowing with opportunities to fish for people. Amen.