Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, February 6, 2022
Isaiah 6:1-13; Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11; Saint Luke 5:1-11
In nomine Jesu!
The first time I stepped into this pulpit, I proclaimed that we were all together in the same boat with Jesus and the disciples. Storms were raging — for them and us. Things were dark — for them and us. Both they and we were far from shore. There was wind and there were waves and both they and we were concerned that our boat was about to be swamped. That was eight months ago, and today we find ourselves with Jesus and his disciples together once again in the same boat.
But there’s a difference between this story now and that story then. Today those disciples are, Luke tells us, “A little way from the shore.” You may not see it yet, but that’s true for us too. Eight months ago, they and we were engulfed in cascading crises. In today’s Gospel, even though they don’t yet know it, these fishers are at the very beginning of their new life of discipleship; and we are too. They are about to have their eyes opened. We too. And what lies ahead, for them as we hear it in Luke and his companion volume, Acts, is an exciting new way of being and living which Luke will describe as nothing less than “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). At the time of today’s story, they didn’t think so. I’m not sure we do either.
But Jesus had a plan for them just as Jesus has a plan for us. It’s a strategic plan, a mission plan. Today Jesus invites his disciples, then and now, to get with the plan…because God needs them; because their society needs them; because they – and we — need God and Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit and one another. For them then and us now, Jesus has a plan. It is specific, it has goals, and it is measurable.
Skeptical that Jesus had a strategic plan? We just – two Sundays ago — heard him proclaim it, in his home congregation among those who knew him longest and best, where he “unrolled the scroll [of Isaiah] and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’
Then he “began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”
That, my friends, is Jesus’ strategic mission plan for himself, for them then, and for us now.
Does it have measurable goals? Luke tells us it does, two chapters later when two disciples of the imprisoned John the Baptist come to ask “’Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” ’ And Luke explains, “Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. [so Jesus] answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.” (Saint Luke 7:20-23)
Strategic plan. Strategic goals. Strategic execution.
Three things need to be said about Jesus’ strategic plan with them then and with us now.
First, not everyone liked it. Had we read the rest of his first sermon’s story last week, we would have heard that “when they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.” (Saint Luke 4:28). I’ll be kind here: Those comfortable with the status quo are apt to be risk averse. We’ve got to be prepared for that.
Second, to be strategic, Jesus’ and his disciples’ plan then, and Jesus’ and our plan now, needs to be what I call “mission field” specific; to quote a line from The Music Man, “you’ve got to know the territory.” For Jesus, that territory was Galilee, the Decapolis, Judea, and Jerusalem; for his disciples as apostles, it was a bit broader “You shall be my witnesses,” the risen Christ tells them, “In Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8b). For us? That’s why we’re doing a strategic plan.
Third and most important for Jesus’ plan, then and now, there’s got to be disciples – participants — who learn the plan; discern the territory; and engage in mission. Then and now, Jesus needs people “with skin in the game.” That’s why Jesus climbed in their fishing boats with them! That’s why Jesus is with us together in this nave today. To be blunt and blatantly transparent: that’s why Christ the King Church needs every one of us and all who call themselves our friends, fellow members, and partners to be actively present at our Strategic Planning Summit on Saturday morning, February 26, from 9:00 a.m. until noon.
This “old salt” as I described myself had a plan when I stepped into this pulpit and this role 8 months ago. It was to get our boat stable, find calmer waters, and help us see the shore. Thanks to Covid’s tumult, we’re one month behind my schedule.
Nevertheless, Jesus is here, calming the waves, commandeering our boat, and summoning us to learn the plan; discern the territory; and engage in the mission. “Do not be afraid,” Jesus tells us, “From now on you will be catching people.”
For us at Christ the King Church, “from now on” begins right now.
But first, let’s eat!