Podcast Reflections

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday before Lent (Year C)

Listen to a Sermon for Sunday 6 February 2022, the Fourth Sunday before Lent (Year C)

We all live with patterns – patterns formed by routines of our lives, patterns formed by the pressures and demands of the world around us, patterns not always intentional or planned – but just the world we find ourselves in.

These patterns give shape and structure to our lives – they also form the comfort zones in which we exist.

We rarely question those patterns – just as we rarely change them once they have become established.

For Peter, James and John fishing gave just such a pattern to their lives – the routines of sailing, casting, bringing in the catch, cleaning and selling the fish, and caring for their equipment must have guided them from day to day.

The danger of those routines is that they can so easily become prisons in which we incarcerate ourselves.

Our ‘comfort zones’ can become so comfortable that we never want to venture outside of them.

Without Jesus, many of our lives of routine and pattern begin and end with ourselves.

As Jesus approached Peter, James and John he challenged them with a call to break their routines – to step outside of the comfort zone of the familiar.

There was a cartoon I once saw that summed this up beautifully – a man was standing saying these words:

This morning opportunity knocked at my door, but by the time I had pushed back the bolt, turned the two locks, unlatched the chain, and shut off the alarm system it was gone!

Peter, James and John are models of Christian discipleship because they were brave enough to accept Jesus’ call without first fumbling with all the security devices that locked them into their comfort zones.

In our reading from Isaiah we heard these famous words – Here am I; send me.

Because it so easy for us to view the words and actions of those great names from Scripture as not really being about us, let me give you something else to think about –

Here is a prayer that was written by Sir Francis Drake – a very ordinary human being, who was confronted with very extraordinary challenges –

Sir Francis Drake wrote –

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves;
When our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little,
when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.

The power of Jesus’ call to Peter, James and John disturbed the patterns of their daily lives – they were being challenged to sail further from the familiar shore – to dream a greater dream.

Week by week we respond to God’s call by gathering in our churches for worship.

In worship we find comfort and peace, but what about the challenge?

In worship we are being confronted by the Living God – and that can be (some would say ‘should’ be) quite a scary thing – it should be something that fires us up and challenges us to respond in the same way those first disciples responded.

Peter, James and John sailed into the future without having a clue what was awaiting them.

They were overwhelmed and frightened – just look at Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ fishing lesson – but they said ‘yes’ and followed where Jesus was to lead.

The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once wrote this –

In the beginning God created man, and ever since man has sought to return the compliment.

We like our patterns – they make us feel safe and comfortable – but … whoever said that Christian discipleship was safe and comfortable.

Instead of trying to shape God’s call into something that fits our daily existence we need to take off all those chains and locks and alarms with which we protect ourselves and simply say – Here am I, send me!

We may struggle with the fact that we cannot see any further than the prison of our current way of life – but God can!  

Do you believe and trust in that fact – or are you reserving judgement behind the chains, the locks and the alarms?

An encounter with the Holy Spirit is like a meeting with a prism – 

just as a prism breaks the colours of the spectrum in unexpected and unpredictable ways, so the Holy Spirit breaks open the possibilities of our lives.

The only question is – when Jesus calls – are we brave enough to say ‘Yes’ – here am I, send me?