Top of Page ILLUMINATING AND THINKING ABOUT THE SERMON
These passages when viewed step by step can be confusing. The disciple John has been imprisoned and the disciples are out fishing, no doubt concerned about their friend, as well as their own safety. They have gone back to what seems like a normal life, even though they have been close to genuine risk. Jesus comes back to Galilee—and they may or may not have been happy to see him. His message is a repeat: "The kingdom of God is at hand. The time is fulfilled. Repent. And believe this good news."
If I am trying to get back to normal life and my friend is in jail, I hardly find this good news. It feels more like bad news—it means I have to refrain from my normal pattern and "repent" or turn around and be different. Maybe the disciples liked change more than most people. We don't know because the text doesn't really tell us. What we do know is that Jesus, having entered Galilee, sees Simon and Andrew fishing in their boat. Jesus interprets his message about repentance very specifically to their life situation, "Come after me and I will make you fishers of men."
Here the confusion starts. Is repentance becoming fishers of men? When we make a huge turn in our road and cease the work of our normal livelihood on behalf of a new relationship with God—is that repentance? It may or may not be sinful to try to live "normal" lives. But it is surely sinful, in Jesus' terms, not to expect the kingdom to come "straightway." The text tells us that Andrew and Simon left their boat "straightway" in response to the invitation contained in the kingdom of God promise.
Jesus goes on his way only to come across James and John, who were also in their ship, mending their nets. Again, he calls them to turn around into a new life and again, these two immediately follow him. This was not only a turning point, but also when the brothers turned around their lives, or if you will have turned in the right direction.
James and John not only leave their work; they also leave their father, Zebedee, stranded with only his hired servants. Is repentance leaving our father, leaving our home, and leaving our obligations? For these disciples, it certainly was. They turn their backs on one kind of life, a respectably normal one, on behalf of another kind of life, which is full of risk. Again, we find confusion—or do we?
When Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is at hand," did he mean the great eschatological wakin' up morning? What was actually in his mind we cannot know. Scholars have different opinions about what this immediacy means. Still, we can assume that Jesus' spiritual transformation of people was quite complete. Something enormous happened to these four men, two of them leave a boat and two of them leave a father and their unfinished nets. They decide to go where Jesus is going, even though they probably have only one sign of what that can mean. The one sign is that their friend John is in prison. Obviously, they make a choice to go to prison, if that is what repentance means. They follow the promised kingdom with all that they have.
Someone once said, regarding another boat story of Jesus with his disciples, that the way Jesus calmed the storm was by calming the men in the storm. Something like calm happened to the men who left all to follow Jesus.
Do we have to leave all to anticipate the commonwealth of God? Maybe we do and maybe we do not—again, confusion.
But surely we have to leave something behind. We have to make a turn in the road, leaving the road where things are pretty predictable and entering the road where things are much less so. On the predictable road, not much that is important, terrific, or really good is likely to happen. But at least we know these nets, these waters, these boats, these fish, but on the other hand we find ourselves on the risky road, but with the possibility that something terrific is promised.
Many of us are just plain bored with our normal lives. Consider the church mouse's wife. She had her bags packed and ready to walk out the door when her husband asked, "Why are you so unhappy? We have a roof over our heads and every day the kind preacher puts her hand into the mouse hole and feeds us cheese and bread crumbs." "That's just it," she cried. "I'm sick of leading a hand-to-mouse existence."
What choice does this poor mouse have? What could she do? Can she leave the comfort of her home? Can she go out and dance the hokey pokey? Can she volunteer in the local jail? Dare she upset her hand-to-mouse life? Indeed, she may if she hears the permission of those who left their nets to follow Jesus. She doesn't have to be bored.
So, it is confusing how we get to the time of God, the reign of God, and the rule of God. Do we repent and turn our ways towards it? Yes, we must—we must make these turns soberly, knowing that there are risks involved. And we make these turns quickly, probably because we know that considering our options or being thoughtful about the decisions involved would turn us back to our parents and our boats! Then again, maybe we make the decisions quickly by the very power of the invitation issued to us: "Repent, the time of God is at hand."
Turning points in life are very, very important. These are the moments we have a sudden change in our lives. It is interesting to note that sometimes we have a turning point after confusion or when our lives seem to be turned upside down. However, the point of these musings is to point out that God has the power to intervene and turn our lives into the right direction.
Top of Page ILLUSTRATING THE SERMON
The idea of turning points in our lives is a powerful one. It’s the idea that at a certain point, a big event happens that changes your life irrevocably. Meeting a mentor leads to a new career; a chance encounter at a café leads to a marriage proposal; an accident shatters one’s dreams to be an athlete and leads to a new path in life. There are even mental health organizations with Turning Point in their name that consider a “turning point” as what’s needed to overcome an addiction or mental illness, such as Turning Point in New Jersey , which offers “Compassionate Treatment for Alcoholism and Drug Dependency.”
Yet do all “turning points” necessarily result in completely life altering changes? Or might many experiences viewed as turning points merely be another path to the same place in life. In other words, if you have a strong goal, maybe turning points are alternate routes along the way rather than being the only life-changing event to get you there.
I began thinking about turning points when someone at a business networking meeting asked me how I happened to move to San Francisco from Oakland, and I explained how I had to move somewhere after I got caught up in the mortgage meltdown. But I managed to sell my house rather than go through a foreclosure sale and eviction. As she began expressing her deepest sympathy for me, I told her that actually my move turned out for the best, because I found being in San Francisco ideal for my business, since I suddenly had several new clients because I was here. Also, the area where I used to live had become a target for burglaries and home invasion robberies, leading me to think about moving even before I had to move.
Then, later that night, I began wondering about this event and other big events in my life that might be considered turning points. Did they make all the difference in what I am doing now — writing books of my own and for clients and writing and producing indie films — or would I have gotten to this point anyway? (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/gini-graham-scott/do-lifes-turning-points-m_b_2868402.html)
There have been many turning points in my life, but the most significant one was when I was eight years old. I was the normal kid, my biological parents were still together and I had a younger brother. My father was a policeman and my mom worked out of the home with Pampered Chef, a cooking company. We were the typical American family until October 5, 2000.
My dad worked third shift and my mom was off work that day so on October 4 we spent all day together. Ice-skating and hockey was a huge part of our lives, so naturally we decided to go to the new ice rink my grandma managed and had the whole place to ourselves. We skated for hours and then went out to dinner. After dinner we went back home so my brother and I could go to sleep early enough to go to school the next day and my dad could go work the third shift.
Around three o’clock in the morning on October 5 I woke up to a lot of commotion and police cars surrounding my house. I could hear my mom crying and people trying to calm her down, and as an eight-year-old girl I was scared and nervous to go downstairs and see what the problem was. Eventually, I got the courage to go down the stairs and was greeted by a nervous police officer that I had never seen before. Since I was so young I do not remember in great detail how the conversations went, but I do remember just being so frustrated because no one would tell me what was happening and why my mom was not present. The only details they would give me was that my dad was in a bad car accident. I was so young at the time that I truly could not comprehend that my world was going to be turned completely upside down.
It did not take long for my grandma to get to my house. I sat on my couch in the living room with her, my brother, and a few police officers for hours. Finally around eight in the morning my mom approached the living room with the police chaplain. At the time I had no idea who he was, but now he is a close family friend. Once they walked into the room, I was positive my dad would come in right behind them in a wheelchair. This was not the case. My mom was in so much pain she could not speak or comfort my brother and I, so the Chaplain had to do all the talking. After explaining the fact that my father did not make it through the accident I ran upstairs to my room to be alone. I was only eight years old, but by that time I knew enough about death that I was heartbroken and devastated. The accident happened because a semi-driver ran a stoplight. That is one thing that drives me crazy, the fact that it was so preventable.
The next week is a complete blur to me. My family is very well known in Fort Wayne, my hometown, so the amount of support we had was unbelievable. Not only that, but because my dad was a police officer, many people have had to deal with them at one point or another. The viewing lasted from eight in the morning until around midnight, with a constant line. Although I was so torn up about my father’s passing, I loved that I got to see literally every person that was in my life, plus making new relationships. My brother and I would run around outside in the cold October weather greeting and entertaining everyone that was waiting in line for hours.
Not only was the viewing full of people, the funeral has gone down in Fort Wayne’s history. It was noted that the funeral had the biggest attendance of any other funeral in Fort Wayne ever. The funeral was held at the biggest church in Fort Wayne at the time called Blackhawk Christian Church. It was completely full and many close friends and family got the chance to speak. The whole funeral process was so chaotic and such a hard time I have very little memory of it. I honestly believe that my conscience has blocked many of the details out of my memory.
I would do anything to have my father back, only if I even got the chance to say goodbye to him. I know that will never happen and it is a hard thing to live with, but I have become a stronger person by moving on with my life. A death in general can be a pivotal point in one’s life, especially when you are an eight-year-old girl whose father passes away suddenly.
Even though the memories of the initial days of his passing are painful, I wish I could remember more because I want to preserve every memory of my father as possible. Our time together was so short, but monumental in my life. Because of his passing, it has been my dream to be a youth counselor. I want to help children and young adults to be able to move past hardships in life and make a difference in someone’s life. Not only has this tragic accident showed me what my purpose is in life, but also it has connected me with so many amazing people. The other police survivors have been so influential on my life and I have even impacted other survivors’ families by helping them in their time of need. If this accident never occurred, I cannot imagine what type of person I would be or where I would be going in life. (http://snapjudgment.org/first-turning-point-my-life)
Sometimes stories involving children and the Bible are ones that help us see how words can be confusing—like the story about Timothy who was just starting school. His mother worried about him, and so she walked him to school every day. Finally, he said, "Please stop, I can do this on my own." She still wasn't sure about it so she talked to her neighbor, Shirley Goodness, about quietly following Timothy to school each day. She said that would be a great opportunity for her to walk with her toddler, Marcy. So Timothy and his friend Ralph were walking along, and Ralph asked, "Have you noticed that woman who is following us?" He replied, "Yeah, my mother worries a lot. Every night she makes me say the twenty- third psalm before I go to bed. It says, `Shirley Goodness and Marcy will follow me all the days of my life,' so I've decided I just have to get used to it." No matter how large or small our daily adventure, we too can "just get used" to salvation and its grandiose promises. These promises will turn us around and make us different from the average kid or adult: they will secure us and that will be turning sufficient to follow Jesus.
A friend of mine was flying from Seattle to San Francisco. The plane made a stop in Sacramento, and many of the passengers got off to stretch their legs. Everybody got off the plane except one gentleman who was blind. His seeing-eye dog lay quietly underneath the seats in front of him. The man was obviously a regular on the flight because the pilot addressed him by name. "Keith, we're in Sacramento for almost an hour. Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?" "No thanks, but maybe my dog would." So now picture this, and picture the reaction of the passengers. The pilot was wearing sunglasses. He came off the airplane, through the boarding lounge, led by a seeing-eye dog.
Some of us will turn around by doing what we do right where we are. We will be a pilot who looks blind or a blind man who is a frequent flyer. We may or may not need to leave our nets to turn around; instead, we may just have to offer a kindness to another. We may find that kindness giving habit forming, and the next thing you know we will find ourselves turned around, leaving a bored life for a filled life.
Laughter comes from the element of surprise, the surprise of two things being together that you don't expect to be together, the surprise of someone saying or doing something unexpected in a situation.
We can make people laugh by the simple suggestion that salvation is doing the hokey pokey. You put your left foot in, you take your left foot out, and you put your left foot in and shake it all about. Shaking ourselves up is a very good prelude to salvation. It is listening to Jesus call us to abandon boredom on behalf of security and salvation.
All spiritual traditions have holy fools, clowns, or tricksters who try to tease people into a fuller appreciation of the paradox and mystery of life. The stories of Zen Masters, Hasidic sages, and Christian saints keep us on our toes. For example, there is the Apache myth of the creator giving human beings the ability to talk, to run, and to look. But the Creator was not satisfied until they were given the ability to laugh. "Turn away from those old nets," Jesus says. Surely some part of the disciples must have thought he was kidding. But he wasn't. He was inviting them to laugh, to dance the hokey-pokey, to turn towards joy.
In fact, boredom is a choice. It is not an inevitability but a choice. At any given minute, on any given day, any one of us has the freedom to do something odd or funny, risky or transcendent. We could simply stop whatever we are doing and pray. Or start what we should be doing and pray. We could take a risk in any conversation and ask the other how he or she really is or what makes them tick or whether or not they ever feel the kind of boredom we do.
We don't have to imagine that James and John left their nets completely. Maybe they even went back and caught a fish from time to time. What turned around was their heart. They followed Jesus from it.
One of Mother Teresa's frequent newspaper interviewers was finishing his questions to her when he decided to ask a question meant to be practical, meant to involve us 20th century Western readers back in the US enjoying our good lives. He asked her, "Given your ministry, what can we do to live out the good life?" She did not say, "Go sell all you have and work with the poor like me." Perhaps we would have expected her to say that. But instead, she said simply and directly, "Smile at the people you live with." She might have said, "Give up your nets and follow me." She might have said, "Turn around. Turn towards joy."
According to Les Krantz's Jobs Rated Almanac, the second-worst job is that of a fisherman. The only occupation that ranked lower is lumberjack. It makes you wonder if that's why Peter, Andrew, James, and John were so ready to leave their nets. According to that study, the best overall jobs are biologist, actuary, financial planner, computer systems analyst, and accountant. The best salaries are paid to professional basketball players ($4,637,825), professional baseball players ($1,954,400), and professional football players ($1,836,460). The worst pay was among waiters and waitresses ($16.083), Catholic priests ($16,079), and dishwashers ($16,046). According to the author, the least stressful occupations are musical instrument repairer, florist, and medical records technician. In contrast, the most stressful jobs are senior corporate executive, firefighter, and President of the United States.
Do you think that, if the Internet had been around in his day, Jesus would have referred people to a website in order for them to identify the sins in their lives that they need to repent of? Nowadays, Jesus could have referred them to a site prepared by the University of Leicester in central England. They have created an image database that illustrates the Seven Deadly Sins. The pictures show such things as drunkards vomiting, misers counting their piles of money, and sluggards dozing. Apparently the Seven Deadly Sins were common subjects for paintings in Britain between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. The address is www.le.ac.uk/arthistory/resource/resources.html.
Repentance involves facing up to the way that our sins have affected not only ourselves, but also others. In The Unnecessary Pastor, Marva Dawn tells about an archery class she took in high school. One of the students, who quite noticeably was a beginner, shot an arrow that not only missed the target, but flew outside the archery range and landed in the bushy tail of a dog that was running nearby. The dog wasn't seriously injured by the incident, but in its confusion, the dog raced all over the field with the arrow attached to its tail—a visible reminder that when we miss the mark with our sins, others often suffer as a consequence.
When Jesus journeyed from village to village, he didn't get into arguments with people about who's going to heaven and who's going to hell. But we sometimes do. In fact, last summer one Texas man shot another fellow to death when they got into a fight over that very subject.
Jesus traveled far and wide to issue his call for repentance amid the in-breaking of God's kingdom. In modern-day America, however, people are not always so welcoming of people who want to take their message door to door. In fact, in recent years a number of communities across the United States passed ordinances officially banning home solicitations, including visits by salespeople, politicians, and missionaries. But the United States Supreme Court ruled last year that such laws are unconstitutional. The particular case they ruled on involved a small town in Ohio that sought to ban the doorstep proselytizing of the Jehovah's Witnesses. In an 8-1 decision, the Court reasoned that the First Amendment's right to free speech includes the right to take a message directly to someone's door, without having first to get permission from government authorities.
Responding to Jesus' call often involves risk. Early last year a court in China indicted a Hong Kong businessman for arranging to transport Bibles into China. The charge said that he had "used an evil cult to damage a law-based society." The businessman, Li Guangquiang, took 33,000 Bibles into the country in two different shipments. He was arrested when he made the second delivery. A short time previous to that arrest, authorities leveled a death sentence against the founders of the South China Church. Capital punishment was also being considered in the case of the Hong Kong businessman.
In the comedy, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, John Candy and Steve Martin star in a tale about a couple of men who try to get home for Thanksgiving, but who get delayed in countless different ways. When their plane gets diverted to a distant airport because of a snowstorm, they have to depend on the train instead to get them back to Chicago. Eventually the train breaks down, and they are forced to trek across muddy fields to a small town, where they succeed in renting a car. Even though they are tired, they decide to press on toward their destination. Late that night, as Steve Martin sleeps in the passenger seat, John Candy accidentally steers their vehicle the wrong way on a ramp so that they are headed in the opposite direction of the rest of the traffic on the road. Other motorists beep and gesture, but John Candy merely assumes that everyone else is confused and misguided. Finally, one car gets close enough so that the people inside are able to shout, "You're going the wrong way!" Moments later a truck comes barreling over the crest of the hill, causing Candy to veer the car over onto the berm, barely escaping a major mishap. At that point, he finally realizes that he indeed had been headed in the wrong direction.
Jesus encourages us to move from the sidelines and to get into the game. Lou Proctor always referred to himself as a baseball player, and the Baseball Encyclopedia carried his name. For decades, his name was included with everyone who ever played major league baseball. However, when the 1993 edition went to press, the name of Lou Proctor was missing. Someone discovered that Proctor was the press box telegraph operator for the 1912 St. Louis Cardinals. He never was a baseball player, but he put his own name in the box score of a game once, and thus gained entrance into the Baseball Encyclopedia.
It's often the case that we've heard Jesus' call for action so many times that it's lost its sense of urgency for us. A 20-year-old man in Gainesville, Florida, was arrested after making 1100 calls to 911 over a 2-day period. When authorities asked why he dialed the emergency number so much, he replied that he was bored.
Sometimes we wonder if it pays to live a life of repentance. In the midst of the massive decline in the stock market during the past year, some investment counselors were advising their clients to get into "sin" stocks. U.S. News & World Report (July 29, 2002) had an article entitled "Stock Up On Sin: a portfolio that panders to humankind's moral weaknesses might redeem investors' fortunes." For instance, Philip Morris, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, saw a significant rise in its income and stock price during the second quarter of 2002, outperforming the S&P 500 index by 27%.
There are a number of mistakes that some people make about Jesus' encounter with the fishermen. First, sometimes people get confused and think that Peter and Andrew were Scandinavian, believing they were Finns. But no, they were Jews. Yet what exactly is the porpoise of this story? After all, this is just a shrimpy little story in the gospel. Maybe from where you're perched, it doesn't appear to be much more than just another fish story. When it comes to this story, maybe we should try to scale down the number of puns, before people start to moan and whale and wonder what kind of school teaches this kind of preaching. Maybe the congregation will even start to wish that they were someplace else, maybe even in Altoona. Well, before we start to get a haddock, we should take a look at what this story has to say to our sole.
Repentance involves change. Although Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, was commenting about the business world, his words also offer something for churches to consider: "I've always believed that when the rate of change inside an institution becomes slower than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight. The only question is when" (Jack Welch, Jack: Straight from the Gut [New York: Warner, 2001], p. 432).
When Jesus began to proclaim the coming of God's kingdom, many people at that time, as they looked at the depressing state of the world around them, must have assumed that Jesus had lost touch with reality. Marva Dawn and Eugene Peterson observe that "reality is what we see on the surface, the superficial perspectives we gain, for example from the television's evening news. Truth is what is really going on in a certain situation. The reality is that our world is full of economic chaos and political mayhem; the truth is that Jesus Christ is still Lord of the cosmos" (Marva Dawn and Eugene Peterson, The Unnecessary Pastor [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000], p. 112).
"The logic of repentance inherently assumes that the norm to which one turns lies in the past, in the character, commitment and will of God disclosed in Israel's decisive history and authoritative scriptures. As Jesus saw things, however, responding to the kingdom's coming turns one to the future" (Leander Keck, Who is Jesus? [Columbia, SC: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 2000], p. 88).
"If you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there" (Mark Twain).
"Christians are saved not only from something but also to something (Christ's lordship over all life)" (Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? [Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1999], p. 296).
"There is a reason Jesus proclaims `the kingdom of God.' A kingdom implies boundaries, a difference between what is the world, and what is the church" (William H. Willimon, Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry [Nashville: Abingdon, 2002], p. 242).
"As a wise counselor once pointed out to me, our chronic guilt is the price we are willing to pay in order to avoid change" (Barbara Brown Taylor, Speaking of Sin [Cambridge, MA: Cowley, 2000], p. 66).
"All reform except a moral one will prove unavailing" (Thomas Carlyle).
In the movie, Dead Poet's Society, a new English teacher comes to a boys' school which is famous for tradition and discipline. Mr. Keating, played by Robin Williams, sets the school into a tizzy with his unusual teaching methods, which have nothing to do with tradition and discipline. One day, during lecture, Mr. Keating suddenly leaps onto his desk, and questions his students about why he would do such a thing. His reason: he does it because he must constantly remind himself to look at the world in a different way.
Repentance for the Christian always happens in the context of God's promise of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Repentance, therefore, always has the end of forgiveness and reconciliation in sight. That being the case, "the prospect of forgiveness requires that we take the risk of offering words, gestures, and actions that break the pattern of lovelessness for the sake of reconciliation." (L. Gregory Jones, in Practicing Our Faith, edited by Dorothy Bass [San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997], p. 137).
Three beneficial questions as one seeks to turn around one's life are:
1. When my life is over, what do I want to be remembered for?
2. What do I want to be doing five, ten, and twenty years from now?
3. What do I want to be sure I am not doing five, ten, and twenty years from now? (Ben Carson, The Big Picture [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999], p.139).
President Jimmy Carter, when he was ten, was fishing with his father. He had tied the string of fish to his belt loop. When it broke all the fish were gone. "I threw my pole up on the nearest sandbar, forgot the hooked fish, and began to dive madly into the river below where I had been standing. Then I heard Daddy's voice calling me: `Hot,' he said, `what's wrong?' `I've lost the fish, daddy.' `All of them? Mine, too?' `Yes, sir.' I began to cry, even as I continued diving, and the tears and water ran down my face together each time I came up for breath. Daddy was rarely patient with foolishness or mistakes, but, after a long silence, he said, `Let them go, Hot. There are a lot more fish in the river. We'll get them tomorrow.' I almost
worshiped him" (Carter, An Hour Before Daylight [New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001], p. 107).
Wishing to encourage her young son's progress on the piano, a mother took the small boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked "NO ADMITTANCE." When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that her son was missing.
Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."
At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, sat down next to the little boy and said, "Don't quit. Keep playing." Then leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obligation. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was mesmerized.
That's the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren't exactly graceful flowing music. With the hand of the Master though, our life's work truly can be beautiful. So the next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully and you can hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, "Don't quit. Keep playing." Feel God's loving arms around you. Know that God's strong hands are playing the concerto of your life. Remember, God doesn't call the equipped, God equips the called. Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace.
Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)
Leader: For God alone our souls wait in silence, for our hope is found in God.
People: God alone is our rock and our salvation, our fortress; we shall not be shaken.
Leader: On God rests our deliverance and our honor the very core of our being.
All: Therefore, we shall trust in the Lord at all times, through our worship, our songs and our prayers we shall pour out our hearts before God, our Creator and our Redeemer.
Loving God, You sent Your son Jesus Christ to call us to repentance and to share in the mission of announcing Your kingdom, but too often we have gone back to what we think and desire is normal. We are deluded in thinking that the busy details of earning a living and keeping up our houses and meeting our social obligations leave little time for Your work. Besides, doing what Your son would have us do—forgiving enemies and caring for the left out—is risky and burdensome. And yet, we admit that we feel restless and unfulfilled apart from You and the work You would have us do. So we come again, seeking Your forgiveness and desiring the strength that comes only from Your indwelling Spirit. Send us out again to be fishers of men, and of women, that we might make a difference in the lives of those around us. Amen.
As the song says, "We give Thee but thine own," O Lord. Use these gifts, and us, for the furtherance of Your kingdom. We pray this in the name of the one who calls us into it, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Holy and loving God, we thank You that when our world turned away from You, You kept trying by sending Your prophets even reluctant prophets like Jonah. We are so often like Jonah, running in just the opposite direction from the destination to which You would send us. As with him, You send us something to bring us back to our senses, certainly not a big fish or whale, but something or someone that makes us see that until we do Your will, there can be no peace of mind.
We are grateful that, when even the accumulated work of the prophets did not bring Israel to its senses, You sent Your son Jesus. Make us aware of the ways in which You have called us to leave our ordinary lives and to take up the work of Your extraordinary kingdom. At some time in our lives we have answered that call—when we were a child or youth going through confirmation; when we were in college or launching into a career or the awesome task of forming a family, we became aware of the implications of our baptism and said "Yes" to Christ and his church. We have already confessed that we have not always been faithful to that call, but today we would again seek the renewal that Your Spirit promises and brings to those who ask for it. Help us in though, word and deed to share Your love with the world that seeks to satisfy its deep hunger in every way but Your way. May we somehow find our niche in Your great mission of announcing the good news of Your kingdom, of calling the world to repentance and to righteous living. We ask this in the name of the one who first proclaimed that kingdom, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.