“Doing It Wrong”
Luke 5:1-11 “ Doing It Wrong” 2-6-21
[Prayer] “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O’Lord my rock and redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
Here in the church I am a pretty knowledgeable, competent guy. I mean. I think I know stuff. I know how to do stuff. Living in parsonages has taught me how to fix a lot of things. I mean, I’ve got a decent amount of common sense. I can figure things out. I can make pretty good educated guesses. I’m a grown man. Then my wife asks, “Are you sure that’s right?” (pause) Here’s an example. We have a new puppy at home. It has been a loooong time since my wife Karen or I have had a puppy. We are having to relearn how to train the puppy. So our puppy has a lot of energy. She likes to jump or hop around. She’s adorable. But I’ve got it in my head that #1 our dog Maggie will not always be a puppy and jumping around on people when she’s 65 pounds won’t be a good thing. #2 Maggie needs to understand that Karen and I are in charge. So I had one of those tough chew toys for playing tug of war with your dog. Now because she’s a puppy she is exploring the world with her mouth. So she is coming at all of us with this open dog mouth all of the time. What am I doing? I am whipping that chew toy in her mouth as fast as I can. I am trying to get the kids to put the chew toy in her mouth as fast as they can. Here! Chew on this! (pause) Then the dog nips me, and I start to bleed a little. So I decide the game has gone on long enough and the puppy needs to calm down. Then I remember reading somewhere that if you ease the dog to the ground and gently put your hands on the side of its face and shoulder the dog will see you as the alpha and calm down. So I do that. Now I have to be very clear, I did not body slam the dog. I did not throw the dog to the ground. I was really trying to gently calm the dog down.
That’s when it happens. My wife says, “Are you sure that’s right?” Without thinking twice about it I fire back, “Yeah. That’s right.” Then I see out of the corner of my eye my wife has her phone out. She’s on the internet. Karen looked it up, and you know what??? (pause) I’m doing it wrong. (pause and walk) Oh man! Really? (pause and walk) So that’s what we’re going to talk about this morning. Times when we thought we were right, but we are absolutely doing it wrong.
Now, we need to recognize the people Jesus is talking to in this morning’s passage are not disciples. Not yet anyway. They are just some guys who have been up all night fishing to provide for their families. These are the third shift guys. These are blue collar guys. They have grown up fishing with their fathers. They have been brought up in the family business. These guys have generational knowledge about how to fish these waters. They know there is a way you do things, and a way to be successful at catching fish. And yet, even with all of that knowledge, and all of that expertise they still caught nothing. It’s almost like a cosmic bad joke. You guys are fishermen. So you know how to fish, right? The fishermen say, “Yeah.” We know how to fish. The universe replies, “Are you sure?”
To these fishermen, Jesus is just a guy. Historians like Josephus tell us there were a lot of wandering rabbi’s in the first century. So when Jesus is walking along the Sea of Galilee the fishermen might not have taken any notice of Jesus. Jesus gets their attention. Jesus gets into their boat. Jesus then begins teaching anyone standing on the shore. When Jesus had finished speaking Jesus told Peter to put the boats out again and put the nets down for a catch. At first Peter, argues with Jesus. They had been fishing all night and caught nothing so Peter is pretty confident Peter knows the answer to whether or not there are more fish out there. However, Peter, who is already starting down the path to being a disciple says, “But at your word I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5b). In the very next verse the nets are so full of fish Peter and his brother Simon cannot pull the nets into the boat. They have to call a friend over to get the fish back into shore. In fact there were so many fish were Peter was convinced there were none that both boats started to sink.
When they returned to shore Peter knew he was in trouble. Peter recognized he was a sinful man. Peter knows he isn’t perfect. Peter knows he isn’t right in the eyes of God, and here before him is one with powers like God. Peter is afraid to be around such a person because Peter already knows Peter is going to mess up. In fact Peter has already messed up by arguing with Jesus in the first place. Instead of trying to make a change. Instead of trying to be better. Peter asks Jesus to go away. My sisters and brothers. Can you relate to how Peter is feeling? (pause) Have you ever thought or felt I’m too far gone. Please God, go away from me. I’m hopeless. Or have you thought I like the way I am. Please God, go away from me. I prefer the darkness. Brothers and sisters I wonder if Peter is somewhere in between those two extreme reactions. Jesus showing up on the shore has shown Peter one thing very clearly. There is about to be a big change, and the things he once thought he knew were now all wrong.
I think Jesus knew all of this was going on in Peter’s head, and that’s the reason Jesus said to Simon (whom we know to be Peter) “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10). In this passage Jesus meets Peter, Andrew, James and John right where they are. They were doing things their way on the side of the sea of Galilee. They were doing things as they had always done them. They were working as they had always worked. Jesus’ arrival showed them doing things they had always done them was all wrong. Jesus told them He would show them a new way.
My sisters and brothers the same can be said for our church. Last weekend we had this wonderful bump in attendance. Where we had been worshipping with 23 people because of our fears of Covid, snow and ice, we had 79 in worship last Sunday. They were the friends and family of our confirmands. Those people came to see the children give their lives to Christ. The statement has recently been made that we have to bring more children into our church. I absolutely agree. If we can provide a solid program for children and youth to encounter Jesus Christ for themselves then our church will begin to thrive in new ways. So I ask you. Whose job is it to do it? Whose job is it to build that program? Whose job is it to work the nursery? Whose job is it to help provide Children’s worship during the eleven o’clock hour? Whose job is it to build up a youth program in this church? What should those programs look like? (pause) These are huge questions. Over the last five and half years of being your pastor I have heard a lot of people defend and adamantly argue for the way we used to do it. The way we used to do it was the parents of the children took turns watching the nursery. The parents of the children took turns teaching the Sunday school class. The parents of the youth helped run the youth program or UMYF. (pause) Brothers and sisters I say this to you with both empathy and compassion. That system that served you so well is broken. When the mills closed and our children went off to college most of them did not come back to Denton. Those young people and young families are not here to do that work as we reach out to a new generation of people who do not have a church home and do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Those kids who left for college will do the work in their new home towns, but not here. So if we are going to move forward we have to recognize the model we used before is not going to work. If we keep insisting on doing it the way we have done it in the past we are going to fail. The reason is simple. We’re doing it wrong. (pause) We are doing it wrong. (pause)
I want to pause just a moment to acknowledge we have had some wonderful people lead and come out of that model of discipleship. I want to pause to give a moment to mourn a system of discipleship that used to work. That system does not work any more. We have seen the decline in attendance among young families. I think we have to face the reality that we are doing it wrong. And yeah. It is very frustrating.
There are a number of us who are pretty angry about that. I am here to say it is okay to be angry. There are a number of people in our church who are pushing to see things done the way they have been done before. (pause) I’m sorry. The people are just not here to do it that way. There are people who passionately want to see a flourishing children’s ministry here at Central. I want to get on board with those people. I wanted to get on board with those people until it became clear they wanted me to do it all. (pause) Yeah. I’m sorry. That’s not how this works. If we want a flourishing children’s ministry at this church we have got to work together to make that happen. This was never a one person operation, and it cannot be a one person operation going forward. So now I am going to ask you a new question. How badly do you want it? How badly do you want a flourishing children’s ministry in this church that build’s up children from birth to college so that when their faith is challenged by life and teachers and friends, and classmates they are able to stand up sure and strong upon the rock of Jesus Christ? (pause) How badly do you want it? (pause) Like a 16 year old who wants their first car the question is the same. How badly do you want it? (pause) Are you willing to work for it? (pause) A number of our church members have openly said, “Our church members have to either get up off of their pews, or they have to get up off of their wallets.” Church members are saying we need to all come together to pitch in or we need to pay someone to do it. There are those who are leaning towards paying someone to do it.
For me, I keep thinking about the vows of membership from last Sunday. We as the body of Christ made promises to those confirmands. Do you remember the promises you made last week? (pause) There are two promises I would bring to your attention. We promised to;
- To be loyal to Christ through The United Methodist Church and do all in our power to strengthen its ministries;
- To faithfully participate in its ministries by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness;
My sisters and brothers, if we are not going to keep the promises we made to the confirmands and to one another; (pause) then we are all doing it wrong.
In the name of Jesus Christ,