Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Good Morning. What a weekend it has been. Friday had a peaceful transition of power. Saturday people exercised their right to protest. And today we worship, here in a sanctuary, where we can be reminded of what God calls us to be and do. Here Paul’s words to the Colossians. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” That’s all it takes to be united, right?
This is why I meditate on the Fruit of the Spirit when I’m driving in my car, or experiencing any tension or conflict. This becomes my mantra repeating… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. You might think this is foolishness, that’s not how the world works. But it is how the Lord works and remember “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.”
My guess is Simon thought Jesus was pretty foolish, hear his response to Jesus’ direction to put out into deep water and let down his nets. “Master, we have worked all night long, but have caught nothing; YET if You say so!” Fully expecting to catch nothing. Instead, he caught so many fish that his nets were breaking and he had to call for help.
As a Christian that is probably the most important thing to do – listen. We need to listen to God, Jesus, and the Spirit. We need to listen to one another. In doing so it opens up the ability to relate and connect and trust.
I’m glad former Bethlehem Pastor Eric Burtness listened to Jesus the summer of 1990 when I was the interim site director with Lutheran Camp Board. I had just graduated from the University of Minnesota and was planning on taking a gap year before going onto seminary. Eric instead listened and encouraged me to consider applying to be the Youth & Family Minister here at Bethlehem. I had no idea what a youth worker was? I grew up in a small church where we had volunteers leading the youth ministry. Eric told me, “It’s a lot like camp, but the kids go home at night. I originally signed a 6-month contract; it was renewed a few times. As of today, it’s been over 316 months; In that time I’ve traveled an estimated 60,000 miles with high school youth to do habitat work in Appalachia; Serve as needed on Indian Reservations in South Dakota/Wyoming and Montana; Vacation Bible School and other Handy work projects in New York City. Working with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources near the Boundary Waters. And leading a Kids Club and doing repairs in Nuevo Larado and Nogolas Mexico. Talk about going out into the deep water. Many times it felt like the nets were going to tear. But I wasn’t alone. I am so thankful for all the adult leaders who listened to Jesus and were willing to accept these all expense paid trips with many restrictions to help haul in the catch.
One trip stands out for me. The director of Borderlinks the site in Nogales, Mexico was thankful that he listened to Jesus. I was told to contact him because his site had the ability to house our group of 75 students and adult leaders. He initially said “No. I don’t work with high school students.” After a few more weeks checking around I called him back asking him to reconsider. It just so happened that he had an open week, but needed to make sure he had adequate staff to support us. We arrived on a Saturday in July; the perfect time to go to Mexico. We had to build our own bunk beds, one of the many projects slated for us to complete. We were digging a trench to access the city water supply. Adding showers and doing other tasks to help the site handle more people in the future. This was broken up by games of soccer with the neighborhood kids who would climb over the wall to play. On Wednesday the director told us we would have the afternoon off. He pulled me aside to tell me that they had run out of the necessary supplies for us to keep going. When we departed the next Sunday the director was shaking his head as he thanked us. We had exceeded all of his expectations. It gave him new faith in high school students. He told us that in one week we had moved their project list 18 months ahead. He listened to Jesus, went out into the deep water, and the haul almost tore his nets.
Bethlehem listened to Jesus when it was told to consider going outside its walls to start Spirit Garage. When the founding pastor Pam Fickencher had her first child I was asked to step in as the Maternity Pastor. There they called me the MP because I was from the mother ship of Bethlehem. A few years later I was asked to listen to Jesus telling me to cast my net into the more turbulent rock and rolling waters, accepting the pastor position on a more permanent basis. Trusty guide, Music Minister John Kerns who has been there from the beginning and still there now is thankful for all the Spirit Garage members who have listened to Jesus and have ventured into the deep waters of Grassroots Ministry where everyone gets the chance to be involved. In the years ahead, like so many other churches do, I’m looking forward to bringing youth from St. Luke’s to visit Spirit Garage, to see a different style of Lutheran worship. If you haven’t attended, I encourage you to do so.
How have you listened to Jesus in your life? This is the 3rd Week of the Salvation Project Series. Too many Christians are waiting for a life after death salvation. I believe because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, salvation has already begun and Jesus is directing us to make it known by what we say and by what we do. Jesus said himself we could do much more than he could do. Our reading two weeks ago, John the Baptist’s called us out to share a coat or food to any who have need – living out the fruit of the spirit to be kind and generous. And to do our jobs, whether you are a tax collector or soldier; or a pastor, banker, professor, factory worker or even President, with integrity and with great care for others including not accusing people falsely.
Last week we heard Jesus read from Isaiah words that started his ministry, and words we are to live by. So let me close with this. Listen to Jesus say to you, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon you. You have been anointed… to proclaim good news to the poor….to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
I’ve had the privilege to be a part of this community where I saw the results of people listening to Jesus, going out into the deep water and casting their nets. Beyond the youth mission trips and Spirit Garage, there was Gordy and Betty Olson at the death of their son Tim, heard Jesus tell them to honor his life by caring for other children, by starting Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry. We went into the deep waters when Pastor Greg, Heidi Esposito, and Melissa Lock started Jacob’s Well. And recently we cast our nets West consolidating with Minnetonka Lutheran becoming one church to catch more people. For this world needs to hear the acceptance, forgiveness, and love of Jesus.
Listen to Jesus as he directs you into the deep water. Trust him as you cast your net. This Salvation Project depends on you. Amen.