We see the beginnings of Peter’s repentant (yet often impulsive, even after salvation) heart in our text. His actions and speech give us all the good preaching points of a heart turning to God: Peter’s turning things over to Jesus, falling to his knees, and recognition and knowledge that something was different about this Carpenter where even the fish and the nets obey Him.
Even so, we miss the practicality and significance of the moment. This is not in the temple. It isn’t even on dry ground. What is ordinary in this moment and common for every person in the Gospels and in the time following is that the Kingdom is so large that its King will not be relegated to certain places or practices.
He flips everything on its head. He sent the perfect rule-keepers away sad. And He gathered and called frail children, flawed hearts and weary souls to Him. He made it clear—early in His work—that He had say over everything (carpentry, His father’s business, water and wine etc.) And when we rub again the vastness of what God does in any economy that we think we have all figured out, He will show us that we will need to repent and turn our conclusions there also. God’s kingdom is massive.
William Beebe is given credit for a story about Teddy Roosevelt:
At Sagamore Hill, after an evening of talk, the two would go out on the lawn and search the skies for a certain spot of star-like light near the lower left-hand corner of the Great Square of Pegasus. Then Roosevelt would recite: “That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our sun.” Then Roosevelt would grin and say, “Now I think we are small enough! Let's go to bed.”
How does catching fish translate to a fisherman at work telling a Carpenter “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”? Peter realized that God is so great that He can point to a place in the water to catch a large amount of fish, and Peter realized just how small we are. When the boat started to sink, Peter realized that he was drowning.
Inevitably, you and I will go back to work tonight or tomorrow morning. It will be working in the home taking care of the household, or on an assembly line, teaching, managing, etc. And in the monotony of repetition, we will begin to think some form of our own “This is it. This is the best it can be.” But that is not the kingdom that we are turning toward. Is it really possible that “the earth is the Lord’s” includes your work tasks? Peter's example reminds us to go where God calls us—primarily to learn just how small we are, and also the wonderful gift of how present God is also.
Loving Father, what is humankind that you think about us? Forgive me for thinking higher of myself than I am. And for thinking lower of myself also. We need your Son if we ever intend to see well. Amen.
There was a biology class I took in college whose name is rarely spoken out loud. I’d attempted to take it twice only to realize that it was not going to end well, and I tried to jump off the ship. Some people find the reality of a very present God during the sermon exposition on Sunday. Others find their burning bush, prison cell, the palace of Shushan, or Damascus road in the rest of the fullness of the Lord in all the world. Or in Biology.
By attempt three, my conversation with God had struck a different tone. I was asking God for another degree (perhaps I just did not discern the direction right.) Although it was clear that I needed to head to the Life Sciences Building and reenroll, I knew what had happened and I was sure I knew what would happen again.
That is such a normal place for humanity to circle back to: we know what will happen because we have been there before. Work is a place where the vast majority of us are often caught up in the monotony of repetition. We do the status quo every day and only get noticed when something goes wrong.
Peter seemed to be at a place of fishing monotony. Casting and recasting for little return can do that to anyone, especially when casting determines one’s livelihood (Luke 5:5). Jesus tells the disciples to head out into the sea, almost sounding matter of fact: “Let down your nets for a catch.”
We find that in Christ’s kingdom the most ordinary, mundane, repeated (and often failed) attempts of life can bring about the most wonderful gift. That is after all what grace is. By attempt three of taking the course, I was deeply entrenched in the Peter-ish “worked all night” trying-to-pass mentality. During enrollment, I found that the second professor (because one professor is not enough for one class) would be a mentor from my school of Life Sciences. Then I enrolled and the format of instruction changed. Then the testing instruction was rearranged and after I received a high grade on the first exam there was a lot of clarity that it could be that I might pass this class.
Peter was in a boat, Esther in a palace, Moses by a bush and later a cleft in a rock, Daniel and some boys in a furnace, Lazarus in a cave, and a Roman soldier by a Roman crucifixion. Among common ordinary repeated events of life, like these experienced fishermen in Luke 5 who had cast and recast, they found the awesome wonder of a present God in the monotony of their common everyday work.
God may call you to do the same thing that you did yesterday. Awe does not need the sensational to occur. We only need the recognition of a present kingdom; the God of all saying things like: “Go back into that workplace and try again.”
We thank You, Father, for making clear that You are here. Until our work with You is without flaw, teach us to keep trying. And help us to be patient with others who are tired. Amen.
13“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew5:13-16
Godspell is a musical about the life of Christ, opened off-Broadway in May 17, 1971. It is probably the only musical comedy to begin life as a masters’ thesis. John-Michael Tebelak, the author of the original libretto, was studying drama at Carnegie-Mellon University, and at least one story has it that he wrote the entire original version in two weeks! With some lyrics taken from the Episcopal hymnal and others penned by Broadway songwriter Stephen Schwartz, it became a hit and has a long history of being performed by colleges and church groups.
The musical is primarily based on the Gospel of Matthew, structured around a series of parables. The first act of the show ends with a rollicking song drawn from this passage in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus instructs His followers: “You are the light of the world! / You are the light of the world! / But if that light is under a bushel / It's lost something kind of crucial / You got to stay bright to be the light of the world. / You are the salt of the earth! / You are the salt of the earth! / But if that salt has lost its flavor, / It ain't got much in its favor / You can't have that fault and be the salt of the earth!”
The prophet Isaiah writes some challenging words (Isa. 58:6-9a) regarding what kind of worship and devotion God wants. Fasting and outward devotions and shows of humility are no good, God says, if they aren’t lived out in our daily lives, in our work and in our encounters with those in need.
Jesus, who would have known Isaiah’s words well as a Torah-observant Jew, doesn’t let us off the hook, either. The Sermon on the Mount, as a whole, commissions us to live out our life of discipleship in the world of human relationships and activities. This passage in particular, which directly follows the Beatitudes, is no exception. We are to show God’s light and love just as if we were a candle on a stand shining all over the place. We are to be the peacemakers, the meek, the merciful, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. When we are found in a place, our exercise of those virtues should be just like salt; we should change the flavor of the whole dish.
So, seek out places this week to let your light shine in worship to God and let your salt flavor the world around you in service of those whom Christ died to save. After all, “you’ve got to stay bright to be the light of the world.”
Prayerfully commit to let your light shine and your salt flavor the life of one person this week.
Precious Lord, we desire to be salt and light for You. We want to shine Your love, peace, justice, kindness and victory into the light of all those with whom we come in contact. We want to be a blessing. Guide us and teach us, O Lord. Amen.
The theme of our joint retreat at FECC Michigan - Oakland Campus, East Lansing Campus and Canton/Northville church planting center - last weekend was "Born Gifted for God’s Purpose: Give Your Best to Jesus." We spent five hours exploring the subject of spiritual gifts. After doing the Spiritual Gift test together, we realized that our biblical understanding of spiritual gifts was very limited and incomplete. We also had the opportunity to do a 280-question self-check quiz, through which everyone discovered their top six strongest gifts. We went further to identify twenty-eight different gifts from the Bible, their characteristics and functions and how they are related to us. Through the comprehensive teaching on the topic of gifts in this retreat, everyone discovered their own unique gifts and discussed how to activate their gifts in small groups. Every participant gained knowledge and increased their confidence in serving the Lord!
Christ Jesus is the head of the church, the church is the body of Christ, and each of us is a member of the body. Therefore, as disciples of Jesus, it is our absolute responsibility to use our gifts to build up a strong and healthy body of Christ. As 1 Peter 4:10 says "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms." The Bible tells us that everyone of us is born with distinct talents and gifts that set us apart from each other! This gift not only comes from God’s redemption and God’s provision, but it is also a tool that He wants us to use to build up the body of Christ, testify for the Lord and glorify Him so that we will experience the fullness of life. Ephesians 4:7-16 teaches us the source of the gift, the importance of the gift, the different forms of the gift, and how they can complement each other.
7But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8This is why it says: “When He ascended on high, He took many captives and gave gifts to His people.” 9(What does “He ascended” mean except that He also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10He who descended is the very One who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and
there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
In many churches, Christians do not know what their gifts are and thus do not know how or where to serve. Others may be serving in areas that might not be their “gifting”. When this happens, God’s gift will not be fully utilized and it may produce believers who will wait to be served but not serve. There will be fearful believers who are not confident to serve and their talents are buried. Others may meet challenges and withdraw from ministries. Unhappy believers do not understand the purpose of serving and lose the joy or motivation to serve. Of course, there are people who are enthusiastic and willing to serve, but due to lack of true knowledge about gifts, they become self-centered and lose their awareness of the unity in Christ after serving for a long time.
Let’s pray that all of our FECC churches, pastors and members will come together in unity and use our gifts to edify, love and serve for the Glory of God and the benefit of people! I would like to share an excerpt “The Importance of Spiritual Gifts”
(Source: written by Lin Anguo, ”天生我才為主用” )
A. Enrich yourself
1. Gives you purpose
2. An avenue to serving
3. Builds self confidence
4. Work takes priority
5. Spiritual life is alive
B. Blessing to the body of Christ
1. Members of the body appreciate each other
2. Members of the body respect each other
3. Members of the body serve each other
4. Members of the body love each other
C. Build up the Church
1. Equip believers from all walks of life
2. Strengthen the church
3. Cultivate the spirit of unity
4. Boost our defense capability
5. Expand the Kingdom of God
D. Glory to God