Ninth Sunday of Pentecost – July 22, 2018
Matthew 4:12–23; 1 Corinthians 1:10–18 and Isaiah 9:1–4
This past week in VBS, our theme has been ‘Gone Fishing’. We had lessons that covered stories about Noah and Jonah from the Old Testament, and then we transitioned over to stories about Jesus’ ministry, beginning with the calling of the first disciples on the shores of Galilee to the miracle of the loaves and fishes and ending with Jesus calming a storm and walking on water. VBS touched on trusting God, obeying the direction He has for our lives, and following Him … wherever He leads us.
The first disciples seemed to be drawn naturally to Jesus and His teachings. They followed willingly, and couldn’t wait to tell others about what they had found. They were yearning for something more in their lives; Jesus’ invitation to them was “Come and see”.
That’s the invitation of the gospel … to follow, to come, to see, to discover where life is to be found. Christ offers this invitation to us, and to ALL the world, Christ holds it out and waits for us to respond. No one is forcing us to accept it. No one coerces us into believing. We receive an invitation. Come and see. Find out what life is really all about. That’s it.
Walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus spies Peter and Andrew. A little later, he sees James and John. He watches these fishermen a moment, and then invites them: Come – follow me. Matthew makes sure to tell us that both sets of brothers left their nets immediately to follow. Jesus tells them all that he is going to teach them how to do a different kind of fishing; to become Fishers of Men.
That same invitation is extended to us to find out how deep life can be. Do we dare respond to it? Are we ready to follow this teacher? Are we ready to live our lives with him? Matthew quotes Isaiah that the light has shone on us who sat in deep darkness. Are we ready to let that light shine IN us and THROUGH us into the world?
Let me tell you a little fish story that speaks to our theme from Vacation Bible School.
It’s a story about some fishes who lived in a very small puddle of water.
“Give me that waterbug!”
“No, I saw him first!”
“Get your fins off my supper!”
“He’s mine, I tell you!”
And so, every day, the little fishes would fight. In such cramped quarters, there isn’t much else to do — except swim in circles and hunt for waterbugs. Their stagnant puddle, cradled between the roots of an ancient oak, lay just beside a swiftly flowing river. Life never seemed to change for the puddle fish.
But one morning, as they swam in circles and hunted for waterbugs, there was a sudden noise:
“Watch yourself! Stand clear!”
An amazing, brightly coloured fish had jumped into the riverside puddle. This large fish had blue and red and golden scales. And — what was mostunusual for this particular puddle of water — he was smiling.
At first, the frightened puddle–fishes huddled together against the puddle’s far edge. Finally, one of them asked, “Where do you come from?”
The Sparkling Fish smiled brightly: “I come from the sea.”
“The sea? What’s the sea?”
The Sparkling Fish shook his head in surprise. “You don’t know about the sea? No one has ever told you? Why, the sea . . . the sea is what fish are made for!” He rubbed a golden fin against his head, puzzled.
“How can I explain the sea to you? Well … it’s not like this little puddle; it’s endless! You don’t have to swim in circles all day; you can dance with the tides. Life isn’t lived in the shade — the sun arches over the waves in silver and crimson! And there are many splendid sea–creatures, such as can hardly be imagined! It’s endless! And sparkling clear. The sea is what fish are made for!”
Just then, a waterbug skirted the surface overhead, but no one moved. Then a pale gray puddle–fish spoke up: “How do we get to the sea?”
The Sparkling Fish pointed toward the large black root that lay close to the river’s edge. “It’s a simple matter. You jump from this little puddle into that river, and trust that the current will take you to the sea.”
Astonishment clouded the puddle–water. At last, a brave little fish swam forward with a hard, experienced look in his eye. He was a Realist Fish.
The Realist Fish looked down at the muddy puddle–bottom and frowned. “It’s pleasant to talk about this ‘sea–business’. But if you ask me, we have to face reality. And what is reality? Obviously — swimming in circles and hunting for waterbugs.”
A look of distaste mingled with pity crossed his face. “It’s all pie–in–the–sea nonsense. Of course, I sympathize; you undoubtedly dreamed this up because of some trauma you suffered as a little guppy. But life is hard. It takes a real Fish to face the facts.”
The Sparkling Fish smiled: “But you don’t understand. I’ve beenthere. I’ve seen the sea. It’s far more wonderful ….” Yet before he could finish speaking, the Realist Fish swam away.
Next, there neared a fish with a nervous twitch in his tail. He was a Scared Fish. He began to stutter: “If . . . I understand y–y–you, we’re supposed to j–j–jump into th–th–that river over there?”
“Yes. For a fish who wants to go to the sea, the way to get there lies through the river.” The Sparkling Fish swam closer. (It’s difficult to understand someone when he stutters underwater.)
The Scared Fish’s voice jumped to a screech: “B–B–But . . . have you looked at that river over there? I’m just a small fish! That river is deep and strong and wide! Why, a small fish would be swept away by the current! If I jumped out of this puddle, I wouldn’t have any control! NO! I just can’t. . .”
The Sparkling Fish whispered, “Just trust me. Trust that the river will take you someplace good . . .” But before he could finish, the Scared Fish hurried away.
Finally, there swam out a figure who seemed very solemn and learned. (He had been in this particular school of fish longer than anyone else.) He was a Theologian Fish.
Calmly, he swam to the middle of the puddle and adjusted his spectacles. Setting down a small shellfish podium, the Theologian Fish pulled out a sheaf of notes from his vest pocket. Then he smiled at the puddle–fishes: “My brothers and sisters, our distinguished visitor has expressed many views which certainly merit consideration.”
Then he bowed respectfully to the Sparkling Fish: “However, my colourful friend, we must also concede that those fishes who so gracefully inhabit this humble puddle have also expressed many views which merit consideration. By all means, let us be reasonable.”
He glanced down at his notes, and then his smile brightened: “We can work this out. Why not form a discussion group? We could meet every Monday at seven o’clock, and I’m certain that some of the puddle–fish would be happy to bring coffee and doughnuts ….”
The eyes of the Sparkling Fish were sad: “No, this will never do. Talking is important, but in the end — it is a simple matter. You jump. You jump out of this puddle and trust that the river will take you to the sea.”
From somewhere above the muddied waters, a sparrow was singing. The light in the Sparkling Fish’s eyes shone with a bright urgency: “Besides, don’t you know? Summer is coming!”
The puddle–fishes murmured: “Summer is coming! Summer is …. Summer is coming? What difference does that make?”
The Sparkling Fish pointed toward the sun: “Summer is coming. The spring rains filled this little puddle to overflowing. But this puddle is going to dry up someday. No puddle lasts forever.”
The puddle–fishes were stunned. But then the Realist Fishswam to the front. There was a dark contempt on his face as he spat out his words: “That’s just like you religious people. When you don’t honestly convince people of what you believe, you try to scare them. You’re just one of those end–of–the–puddle fanatics!”
He swam away in disgust.
But then, all the colours of the Sparkling Fish — blue, red and gold — brightened into a warm glow. He whispered: “It is a simple matter. You jump. You jump from this little puddle, and trustthat the river will take you to the sea. Now … who will come and follow me?”
At first, no one moved. But then a few puddle–fish swam to his side. Together, they jumped into the river, and the current swept them away.
The remaining puddle–fish were quiet for a long time.
Then, once again
they began to swim in circles
and hunt for waterbugs.
Sermon delivered by Lynn Vaughan, Church School Coordinator at Dayspring Presbyterian Church,
with permission from Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt, Christ Church, Cranbrook, BC, July 2018
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