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Finding purpose and meaning

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3rd Sunday after Epiphany – January 22, 2017

Luke 5:1-11 and Psalm 90:14-17

When anyone lacks vision, and when things don’t make sense anymore, people need to go back and start anew to be able to actually move forward. These are the times when the wheel almost needs reinventing. Such times can be described as times during which we come to the conclusion that life is not all that simple. Life can have its challenges. One’s hopes might be dashed. Life might turn out to be a bit pointless. Why bother?

I might be mispronouncing the name, but that really doesn’t matter, Antoine de Saint-Exupery said: “If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

I have a hunch that this is perhaps the bottomline – or one angle – to the story of Jesus and the great catch of fish and subsequently calling Simon Peter, James and John to follow Him.

Their lives seemed to lose meaning and purpose. That night they knew not how to go about catching fish anymore. This was their livelihood, and the fish weren’t responding.

We live in a world of constant change and old methods seem to work up to a point and then we find ourselves at our wit’s end. The method of running churches has its basics and there are ideas that have stood the test of time. Then, all out of the blue there are folks who come up with new ideas and everyone runs and tries the new ideas out, only to bang their head against resistance.

Vision tends to be lacking. Bring people in, try and catch their attention, use Facebook, resort to Twitter, find out how people’s minds tick. As our middle son informs my wife and myself, Facebook is for old people (that’s in his words). The younger generation has fled the scene many years ago. But is this true? I don’t know. Perhaps it simply isn’t a proven method of being in touch with the real world. Some even say that Brexit, huge sea-change elections, and surprise election results are all part of ‘social media gone wrong.”

So the disciples learn that their life had become way too ordinary and they didn’t know it, but their lives needed reinventing. Perhaps the same applies to you and me. Our lives too, won’t be functioning the same as it used to anymore. We need to adjust. There might be a new normal to which we will have to adapt.

This, dear friends, perhaps seems to be the crux of our reading. Reinventing, refocusing, finding our true purpose and meaning. It might seem daunting, but our young people see it as exciting. Or do they?

Well, Jesus certainly wanted to fill those three men’s lives with purpose and meaning. The senselessness of it all needed to be addressed. In current times we too need to have a fresh new look at the way we do what we do. We need to get outside the box and we need to think in new ways. We need to change tack and we need to quit wandering aimlessly. Our old securities are vanishing right in front of our eyes. The Presbyterian Record, our Presbyterian denomination’s monthly magazine had to stop it’s circulation as a printed publication. Pension Funds aren’t what they used to be. Across Canada, the decline in membership in the Presbyterian Church in Canada between 2014 and 2015 has been a staggering 2507 people. Two and a half thousand people aren’t part of our denomination anymore. The oil industry in Alberta has taken a serious knock due to the Saudis flooding the oil market. For some reason new ways of taxing the population are seen as a better way forward, or is it really a better way? I do think it has us all thinking.

What does Jesus do when the disciples fail to make a catch? What I see, is that through the metaphor Jesus demonstrates to these humble fishermen that their nothing isn’t the real reality. Jesus’ presence sparks abundance. Our little bit never has the final word, Jesus’ abundance is what sparks the vision in these fishermen. The lives without much purpose and meaning are turned inside out and they have the opportunity to snap out of their old securities and to make a new difference wherever they go.

An interesting point to note is that as opposed to the gospels of Matthew and Mark, Luke looks at calling from a very different angle. As Peter himself acknowledges in this scene, he and his partners are failures at their job. They have fished all night and have caught “nothing.” The very reason Jesus can commandeer Simon’s boat is because there are no fish in it; there is plenty of seat room available! Jesus does not call these men because they have exhibited gifts and graces for apostleship (or even for fishing). Jesus calls them after He has shown that He can catch fish through them when they cannot do so on their own. Simon is not called to “catch people” because he will be good at it, but because Jesus can do it through him.

And so it is with us. The moment when we humbly recognise that we have nothing worthy to bring into Christ’s presence for the ministry of the church may be the very moment when Christ begins to use us in ways we never could have imagined.

Jesus does not choose perfect people out of catalogues to follow Him. He loves rejects, nobodies and ordinary sinners. It’s called grace!

Dear friends, when all seems hopeless and bleak, we might just be where our Lord can start working through us, starting a fresh new beginning. We may find new purpose and meaning in the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ. Drawing closer to Him and admitting our inabilities might really be the true way forward.


Copyright 2017 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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