Posts Tagged ‘fishing’

This week’s readings make compelling arguments for us to drop everything when we are invited to a deeper relationship with God. It can be challenging to leave behind what we once found reliable. Thankfully, God is persistent!

May the following prayers, scripture readings, music, and reflections serve as a guide in your worship of God today to help you focus your heart on the Lord.

The Worship of God

Passing the Peace 
Say to one another, “May the peace of Christ be with you.”
And reply, “And, also with you.”

Call to Worship
The invitation is given to every person by Jesus Christ:
“Come to me! Follow me! Be my disciples!”
We come to this place, to this time,
at the invitation of Jesus Christ.

In the name of Christ,
we accept the invitation to discipleship.
In the name of Christ,
as his disciples, we worship and praise God
.
In the midst of a world where cruelty abounds,
we proclaim the God of Compassion.
In the midst of despair that threatens to swallow up
whole lives, whole peoples,
we proclaim the God of Hope.

In the midst of indifference and apathy,
we proclaim the God of Love.
Come, let us worship together
and share our witness of God’s living presence in the world.

Opening Prayer
In you alone we put our hope,
God the Father, Creator and Sustainer,
who gives all good things
seen and unseen.

In you alone we put our hope,
God the Son, Saviour and Redeemer,
who died for our sins
and rose again.

In you alone we put our hope,
God the Spirit, Teacher and Comforter,
who moves us to sing
“Our God reigns!”
In you alone we put our hope.

Song of Praise
Let Us with a Joyful Mind
Author: John Milton; Adapt. Thomas Troeger
Tune: INNOCENTS (The Parish Choir)

Let us, with a joyful mind,
praise our God forever kind,
Rich with mercies that endure,
ever faithful, ever sure.

Newmade earth was filled with light
through God’s all commanding might,
Rich with mercies that endure,
ever faithful, ever sure.

Dazzling bright the sun obeys
God who shines with brighter rays,
Rich with mercies that endure,
ever faithful, ever sure.

Stars and moon that spangle night
all depend on heaven’s light,
Rich with mercies that endure,
ever faithful, ever sure.

Creatures of the sea and land
all are fed by God’s own hand,
Rich with mercies that endure,
ever faithful, ever sure.

Therefore with a joyful mind,
praise our God forever kind,
Rich with mercies that endure,
ever faithful, ever sure.

Psalm 62:5-12
Common English Bible

Oh, I must find rest in God only,
because my hope comes from him!
Only God is my rock and my salvation—
my stronghold!—I will not be shaken.
My deliverance and glory depend on God.
God is my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
All you people: Trust in him at all times!
Pour out your hearts before him!
God is our refuge! Selah

Human beings are nothing but a breath.
Human beings are nothing but lies.
They don’t even register on a scale;
taken all together they are lighter than a breath!
Don’t trust in violence;
don’t set false hopes in robbery.
When wealth bears fruit,
don’t set your heart on it.
God has spoken one thing—
make it two things—
that I myself have heard:
that strength belongs to God,
and faithful love comes from you, my Lord—
and that you will repay
everyone according to their deeds.

Prayer for Others
Pause after each paragraph to give voice to prayers as prompted.  Let us pray,

Merciful God, who shelters us and guides us,  
we give you thanks for…. 

God who comforts,  
receive those who are fearful and lonely…. 

God whose love is steadfast,  
be refuge for the ill, the dying, and those who care about them.… 

God of righteousness,  
we ask for your wisdom and ways of justice to prevail  
in our community, this nation, your world…. 

God who seeks our trust, grow us and guide us in your ways
that are life-giving in your world.  Amen.

Anthem
Lead Gently, Lord
Author: Paul Laurence Dunbar
Composer: Clif Cason

Lead gently, Lord, and slow,
For oh, my steps are weak,
And ever as I go,
Some soothing sentence speak;

That I may turn my face
Through doubt’s obscurity
toward thine abiding-place,
E’en tho’ I cannot see.

For lo, the way is dark;
Through mist and cloud I grope,
Save for that fitful spark,
The little flame of hope.

Lead gently, Lord, and slow,
For fear that I may fall;
I know not where to go
Unless I hear thy call.

My fainting soul doth yearn
For thy green hills afar;
So let thy mercy burn-
My greater, guiding star!

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Common English Bible

The Lord’s word came to Jonah a second time: “Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and declare against it the proclamation that I am commanding you.” And Jonah got up and went to Nineveh, according to the Lord’s word. (Now Nineveh was indeed an enormous city, a three days’ walk across.) Jonah started into the city, walking one day, and he cried out, “Just forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and put on mourning clothes, from the greatest of them to the least significant.

God saw what they were doing—that they had ceased their evil behavior. So God stopped planning to destroy them, and he didn’t do it.

Mark 1:14-20
Common English Bible

After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” As Jesus passed alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” Right away, they left their nets and followed him. After going a little farther, he saw James and John, Zebedee’s sons, in their boat repairing the fishing nets. At that very moment he called them. They followed him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired workers.

Reflection on the Gospel
Rev. Jeffrey Vickery

Those of you who know me will not be surprised that I admit to being an optimist. Those who know me well are aware of the parent from which I inherit this disposition. As an optimist, then, I hear people state “Murphy’s Law” — “anything that can go wrong will” — as a call to preparation rather than defeat. If we are told something will fail eventually, then we can prepare for its failure, or not trust its permanance, or not pity ourselves at its loss. Every new car will eventually need to be repaired and later replaced. We will dread its unreliability at the end and likely hate this thing we once loved. Knowing that ahead of time helps us balance our expectations and desires. Murphy’s Law can apply in this way to everything from tech devices to careers to pets and even friends. 

Yet as a true optimist, I am aware of Murphy’s Law’s reverse truth, sometimes referred to a Yhprum’s Law (“Yhprum” being “Murphy” spelled backwards) which states that “if anything can go right it will, eventually.” This maxim too is a call to preparation. It allows us to consider lost opportunity as a one-time failure but not a final sentence of doom. All it takes is one person who wants to hire me, just one manager’s email that begins with “I’m delighted to offer you the job.” It will happen one day so prepare for it. 

I want to apply this same principle, optimistic though it may be, to our readings from Jonah and Mark today. Here’s what I hope you take away from this sermon: One day God will speak to you. It will happen. Eventually. Be prepared to hear and respond. In fact, since we don’t control what or when or how God speaks, the only thing we can control is how we respond. So be ready to say “yes” even though it will change you.      

Jonah 

Jonah heard the word of God. I honestly don’t know how. I can’t explain how the prophets heard God, whether they experienced an audible voice or not, but it was understandable and seemingly without doubt from God. “Go to Nineveh and speak these words,” is what Jonah understands God to say. Jonah hears and then has a choice to make. Honestly, his first choice was to do the opposite of what God said. That’s why after Jonah boarded the boat headed away from Nineveh God sent the storm at sea, and the great swallowing fish. Neither of these (the storm or the fish) were God’s punishment of Jonah but instead became a way for God to give Jonah a second chance. When we start reading Jonah’s story in chapter 3, God’s message hasn’t changed, and Jonah hears it again and still has a choice to make. This time he follows the divine request to go to Nineveh and tell. Given what we hear about him in chapter 4, it’s clear that he’s not enthusiastic about his brief career as a prophet. In fact, if I had to describe Jonah’s attitude I would call him petulant and boorish. Yet he fulfills God’s request and in that way furthers God’s work in Nineveh. Always remember that the substance of God’s word and God’s way are of more importance than the personality or proclivities of the prophet or preacher or disciple. Because Jonah lets the words of God move him to action, the people of Nineveh expand our concept of “children of God.” Though they are not Jewish, though they live in a “foreign city,” though they haven’t heard the Torah or the preaching of the prophets, God loves them whether Jonah does or not.  

The People of Nineveh 

Like Jonah, the people of Nineveh hear the word of God. This time we know how God spoke and how they heard it. The voice of God came out of Jonah’s mouth as it uttered God’s message. What prophets have in confidence the rest of us must make up for in trust. The prophets are certain of God’s message knowing its origin, while we have to test to see if the words we hear as proclamation are God’s words or not. Some people find, through prayer and scripture, words to speak that help us hear God’s call, and others can unknowingly tell us what God wants us to hear. The people of Nineveh hear God’s word through Jonah and then have a choice to make. They willingly make the right choice.   

The people of Nineveh in many ways represent us. We are not Jewish nor born in the Promised Land. We are foreigners and Gentiles. At the same time, we are heartened that God’s beloved community of saints is not defined by looks or language or location. The only restriction on God’s call is either to refuse to hear it, or defy any meaningful response. Although Jonah was not from Nineveh, his meager message was received with enough truth from God that the people responded. We don’t know the sins they confessed or the prayers they uttered before God. Yet fast and pray they did. They all did. From the king of Nineveh to the domesticated livestock, from the head to the herd. They sought God’s forgiveness with utter humility – sackcloth for clothes, ashes on their heads, no food or drink to bring them comfort. They felt the burden of their sin and each itch of skin or grumble of the gut poked and proded at their need for God’s forgiveness. They heard God’s word through Jonah and responded – not to Jonah but to God. God not only heard their prayers but read their hearts. The people prayed, yes, but they also changed. We would say they repented. The translation we have of verse 10 simply says “they ceased their evil behavior.” That’s repentance. Again, the people heard God and made a choice. Their prayers were not words that they simply said in order to either trick God or make a demand of God. A single prayer spoken lacks substance by itself. We don’t speak magic when we pray to God. And we don’t cross our fingers behind our back, even figuratively speaking. “God forgive me” is a great prayer unless we don’t really intend to end our sinful behavior. “God I’m sorry” is meaningful except for when it actually means, “God I’m sorry I was caught and now let me convince you to forgive me so I won’t feel guilty.” The people of Nineveh are not giving us any “method” to achieving forgiveness from God. Instead, they demonstrate where a genuine response to God leads. They will not stay in sackcloth for long, they will eventually eat and drink again, but they seem truly to have turned from their evil ways to God’s Way. They can go back to farming and blacksmithing and shepherding and cooking. But they have chosen not to go back to sin, or evil, or life before God’s word moved them to action. 

Peter and Andrew, James and John 

If we jump ahead in time historically to the Gospel of Mark’s story of Jesus, we find that some of the people who hear Jesus speak believed that they heard God’s words. Isn’t it so much more certain that we hear God’s words through Jesus than wondering about a transcendent divine appearance. Divine encounters on this side of the thin veil between the physical and the spiritual will sometimes come, but in the meantime, the words of Jesus say things we must hear as the words of God.  

Simon and Andrew are at work and they hear God’s voice in this Jesus from Nazareth. They were fishermen, rowing their boats and casting their nets as a business that supported their families and fed many others. The Sea of Galilee was the primary source of meat and protein for thousands of people so long ago. The heat and weather of the Middle East meant that herds were less profitable than fishing, although, to be sure, sheep and goats played their economic role. The lake was, nevertheless, a reliable source of fish in all seasons and therefore both nutrition and income. So when we hear of Simon and Andrew, and add to that the story of James and John, consider that they were not fishing on their day off – it was not a hobby or a relaxing weekend on the water. They were at work and heard God’s word through Jesus’ call and they had a choice to make. That choice changed them—they left their jobs and hometowns and reasonable comfort. Fortunately, it seems they were prepared to respond. Unlike Jonah, these disciples didn’t need a second calling. Maybe they had heard John preaching by the Jordan, and they remember their Jewish teachings about the Messiah, and they were prepared to choose to follow should they have the chance. Well, the opportunity came, Jesus spoke their names, and they responded by leaving their jobs, and their father (in the case of James and John) and went with Jesus. These disciples don’t pray and fast about their decision, perhaps because they had already committed to God in prayer that, given the opportunity to hear God’s voice, they would say “yes.” They were, in this way, prepared disciples already. Maybe one morning as they were putting away their nets, James said to John, “I pray that God will send the Messiah soon. And if I have the chance, I will follow God’s Servant. I will not let wealth and work prevent me from participating in God’s Way. I sincerely hope I can see that day and hear God’s voice. One day, maybe. If not me, then I pray it will be you. If possible, maybe it could be both of us.” Well, James, if anything can go right, it will, eventually. God called and you responded.  

The Rest of Us 

Like Jonah, and the people of Nineveh, and the apostles of Jesus, one day we will hear God’s word. It will happen or perhaps it already has. Certainly most of us have heard the call to repent, believe, and be baptized. Yet if that is the end of what we hear from God, then we are less than God intends for we, too, hear God’s words and have a choice to make. Do we follow them? Do we change our actions, our choices, our desires, our hearts? Do we leave behind what we once thought defined us? Do we pray and fast, or just pray and pretend? Just like it is impossible to explain how Jonah heard God’s words, it is unpredictable how any one of us will hear God next. Perhaps we will hear the very voice of God, either “still and small” as the Psalm describes, or startling and courageous as a Wild Goose as the Celtic Christians described the Holy Spirit. Like the people of Nineveh, we sometimes hear God’s words in each other’s messages when they reflect and resemble the heart of God. And we all have the Gospels to help us hear the words of Jesus, which are no small wonder and certainly not to be ignored by those who call ourselves Christian. So hear this one and all, not because I think I’m speaking God’s word but because it is what I hear this day from the Gospel – be prepared to hear God’s words and make a choice to follow them. Whenever they come and whatever call they make. God’s words will come to you and me. Eventually. For God still calls disciples to follow, and to love, and to offer grace, and to be kind, and to reconcile differences, and to make peace, and to overcome injustice, and to heal and pray and hope and care. Be ready to respond, for we will hear God’s voice. Maybe even today. Amen. 

Prayer of Thanksgiving 
Thank you, God for constant love. Please help our church family grow deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.

Song of Faith
You Walk along Our Shoreline
Author: Sylvia Dunstan
Tune: SALLEY GARDENS (traditional Irish melody)

1 You walk along our shoreline
When land meets unknown sea.
We hear your voice of power,
“Now come and follow me.
And if you still will follow
Through storm and wave and shoal,
Then I will make you fishers
But of the human soul.”

2 You call us, Christ, to gather
The people of the earth.
We cannot fish for only
Those lives we think have worth.
We spread your net of gospel
Across the water’s face,
Our boat a common shelter
For all found by your grace.

3 We cast our net, O Jesus;
We cry the kingdom’s name;
We work for love and justice;
We learn to hope through pain.
You call us, Lord, to gather
God’s daughters and God’s sons,
To let your judgment heal us
So that all may be one.

Sending Out
May the path that Christ walks
to bring justice upon the earth,
to bring light to those who sit in darkness,
to bring out those who live in bondage,
to bring new things to all creation:

may this path
run through our life.
May we be
the road Christ takes.

Blest Be the Tie 
by John Fawcett 

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. 
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; 
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again. 

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; 
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.  

Acknowledgements:

  • The image comes a stained glass window created by George Walsh in 2005 at the Church of the Most Holy Rosary, Tullow, County Carlow, Ireland to celebrate the bicentennial of the church (1805-2005) and depicts an ichthys (Jesus fish) in combination with a cross. The image was taken by Andreas F. Borchert in 2014.
  • The call to worship comes from the On Earth Peace website. http://www.onearthpeace.org/
  • The opening prayer was written by John Birch, and posted on the Faith and Worship website. http://www.faithandworship.com/
  • The opening hymn was sung by Mindy, accompanied by Tracy on the organ.
  • The anthem was sung by Mindy, Elizabeth, Laura, and Tonya, accompanied by Tonya on the piano.
  • The closing hymn was sung by Mindy accompanied by Tracy on the organ.
  • The Sending Out was written by Jan L. Richardson, and posted on The Painted Prayerbook website.

    Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved.  All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors.

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