This is a transcript from the March 15, 2020 sermon, so it contains the character of live, spoken communication.
I'm wondering where you were when everything changed, when you knew that this week was not going to be just about little adjustments. It was not just about how to fit a new schedule, new requirements into your week, but it was going to require you to think completely differently. It was going to change the way that you acted, not just a little bit, but a lot. There was something that signals that today, today, and from now on, everything was going to be different. It wasn't enough to just make incremental changes.
For me that was somewhere early in the week, it was this graphic here. It was with this graphic and this hashtag #FlattenTheCurve. That's the signal that somehow something had changed dramatically. This was more than just about washing hands. This was more than just about being careful. This was more than just a debate about how serious this was or wasn't serious. This suddenly made sense in a different way. It was made serious for me on Tuesday night when we met with a group of healthcare professionals, public health, people who work with seniors in food and we got together and that was another day that everything changed again.
When we came to that meeting, boy, there were some big changes that were going to have to be made. That was just since the last Sunday. Even that wasn't enough. Even that wasn't enough because we were finding out that what we not wanted was happening, we needed to make some big changes in our life. It wasn't any more going to be just about what we thought that it was, like how do we serve donuts better and how are we passing the peace and what are we going to do about communion? We thought it was those kinds of changes, but it was more than that.
It changed again for me Friday or right around noon, we got an email that said, Listen, all in person, worship is off from now on. If you're going to meet in worship, you're going to do it this way virtually. Boy, did that send us scrambling, what did it change for you? What did you hear and when did you know that something was very, very different? It wasn't just about incremental anymore. It was about big. It was about changing everything.
One of the things was, how do you preach on a Sunday like this? What passage do I use? Not all that surprisingly, the passage that was there was actually pretty resilient. See what you think, but this passage holds up. Even though it wasn't designed for this day, boy, it sure speaks to this day. It's this passage that's in Matthew and it has to do with Jesus and it has to do with the day everything changed for His disciples, and it has to do with it was no longer going to be an incremental change. Now, it was going to be a change that changed everything.
It's from Matthew 4:17-22:
From that time, Jesus began to proclaim, repent,
for the kingdom of heaven has come near.
Then as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen.
He said to them:
Follow me. Follow me. I will make you fish for people.
Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
As He went from there, He saw two brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father's deputy, mending their nets, and He called them and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.
There is a time when what we have been doing up to this point no longer suffices. It's no longer enough. It means that somehow we're going to have to do something completely different. It was no longer enough for Peter to listen or just observe. Suddenly, something had his name on it. Somehow something said, "Now, you're going to have to change. You're going for this next stage, this next thing, whatever that is, it means that you're going to have to take some drastic steps. This isn't about just accommodating around your schedule."
Jesus speaks and Peter drops his nets. It was a complete change, it was repent. We've talked here before that repent doesn't mean as it has come to mean in the English usage. We just squeeze all the juice out of it so that it just means, don't be naughty. There is something that is powerful, and it means change the way you think. Change the direction you're going in. It's not sufficient. It may not even be bad. It's just insufficient.
The nets that Peter had and what he was giving up wasn't bad, but it was going to be insufficient for what he needed next, and he dropped some. The power of this story for us today is not that it happened one time to Peter, and then James and John 2,000 years ago, but this encounter keeps happening day by day. Every day we wake up, I believe there is a nudging of the Spirit. Sometimes it's small, and sometimes it's big, but it's saying, "Hey, come, follow."
The question is always, as you follow, what is that going to mean for you? Because every one of us has something in our hands, something that represents the world as we thought it was going to be, the plans we had, the things that give us security, the things that give us this illusion, at least of control, the things by which we are known. It's not that they're bad. It's just at some point, if we're going to follow, it means that we have to drop them because we're not going to go anywhere. Then when we can't, then the question is whether we have the nets or whether the nets have us.
What are the things that you've had to drop this week? What are the things that we have had to let go of? Certainly, it is this sense of control. Certainly, it is this sense of comfort. Our routines are off. Our televisions aren't going to work the same way having the same programs, going to the store, coming to church, all of these things are hard. Underneath it all is different as it is, it is still this sense of and yet underneath it, there is something similar. It means letting go, in order to follow.
Yes, we are trying to #FlattenTheCurve. We are trying to do things that are healthy. We're trying to do things that are responsible. We're trying to be flexible. We're trying to do all of those things. We're trying to stay away and help others stay away from getting sick. Underneath this, what Christ calls humanity to is one step further beyond the practicalities of it all. He calls us to love. It's about love. Love God with everything you've got, love your neighbor as yourself. That what we're doing is under the rubric if we are following of love. It's about love. It's still about love.
Washing our hands. Sure, that's good. That's good sanitation practices, but it's about love of neighbor, as we're all staying back and changing our schedule underneath it all. Underneath beyond the practicalities and the rules, there is a sense of being invited to do it out of love. It is about, how do we love our neighbors? #FlattenTheCurve, and love your neighbor as yourself.
The things that we're going to have to do are not going to be easy. It is a sense of choosing to give away, it's letting go, it is surrendering. There's an old proverb that says to choose is to surrender. Every time I make a choice, I have to give up something. I have to choose to stay home and if I do it, then I lose and surrender my mobility or I could be mobile, and go out and do what I always wanted to do and yet what I have to give up then is being responsible and caring for my neighbor in very practical ways. The trick is always to make sure that the thing you're giving up is worth what you're having to surrender and what you're going to get.
The overall underlining, the way that we determine what we should do has to do with, is this loving my neighbor? If it does, what are you going to do? What are you going to do with these nets? What are you going to do with these things that hold you? That holds you back. "This really is going to be a case of we're all going to get sick together, or we're going to stay well together." Underneath that, that motivation is more than just not getting sick. There is an invitation to go beyond that. How will we heal? How can we use this time to care for one another and step forward in our ability to have compassion and express love in concrete ways?
Around here, we've been using something that we call the daily fives. In the daily fives, it's just as simple as taking your two hands and every day picking and saying what are at least five things this day for which I can be grateful. What are five things? What are five acts of generosity that I can extend to others?
Do we do this even now? No, I think we do this especially now. This is especially important for who we are. How will we, in the midst of, with a change of schedule and routine and then bits of discomfort and the lack of control, will we find things for which to be grateful? Will we begin with gratitude? How will we extend that in acts of generosity? In acts of caring? This is going to be much more about just not getting sick.
This season, we are being invited, we are being challenged, we're being called beyond where we are normally. It's going to mean something completely different, but how will we be part of the healing. It begins with listening again to get into the call, to be saying yes to what Christ is calling us to do, to be able to say no to all the things that are lesser, not because they're necessarily bad and they are no longer sufficient and now they're just getting in the way. How will we say yes in the ways that we align ourselves and participate in the extension of God's love to one another?
Hey, this week, this day, who are five people who need an act of generosity? For every handshake that we can't make today, there's a text and there's a phone call. For every embrace that we would normally give as we pass the peace, there are ways to pass the peace in other ways, whether it's an old fashioned letter, it's with an email, it's in concrete actions that we take.
For every time that we come in, we commit ourselves to what God is doing in person. There is this way that we do that. Maybe we are giving of our time in a different way. We're giving of our money in ways that are going to bless people. Just because the surroundings have changed doesn't mean that the call isn't the same. This week we're being asked to live differently, not to just make small adjustments, not to just accommodate new things, but to think differently. Yes, I know there's a part of us that's going to have to do with our pride and our grievances and our comfort and our security and the sense of control.
There's going to be this part of where we get grumbly. I've been grumbly. I don't want to do this. The call will be stopped. The reign of God is right here today. Come, follow. I, like you, I think together, we're going to have to figure out, what am I going to have to give up? What am I going to have to just set aside if I'm going to heed that voice? If I'm going to heed that call?
Here's the questions. This week, for what are you grateful? What are you grateful for right now? Five things. When you're thinking about them, to whom will you extend generosity today? Again tomorrow? Again the next day? What are you grateful for? To whom will you extend generosity? What are the things that are going to get in the way that you're going to have to set aside to do it?
This is a new era. This is a new time. There is a new reality with new rules. It's still about love. It's always still about love.