Sermon for May 5, 2019 Third of Easter “Turning Points”
Directions and map reading are quickly becoming the property of antique stores and museums. Our dependence on GPS and navigational gear in cars and on phones has replaced the need for a collection of maps in our glove boxes or a trip-tic from CAA. One trait of GPS’s is that they are always looking for options. If a wrong turn is made a voice is heard; ‘re-calculating’ or turn around where possible. I have never heard a GPS say; we’ve never gone that way before or you can’t get there from here. In this helpful and by time highly annoying bit of technology there are always possibilities.
I wonder if the church learned a very long time ago the phrase ‘we’ve never done it that way before’. After the resurrection, the disciples who were fishers returned to their work. As the story goes, they fished all night and caught nothing. From the beach comes the inquiry; what did you catch, and the answer; nothing. Why don’t you cast your net on the other side? But the fishers replied; we’ve never done it that way before, we just know it won’t work. Well humour me and try it, what do you have to lose? And so they did, and you know the rest of the story.
Saul was determined if nothing else. He was an agent of the Roman Empire tasked with the seeking out and bringing to justice (interpret; bring to death) all the followers of Jesus. Did you hear the opening line of the Acts text; ‘Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. One day while Saul was on a mission to Damascus saw a great light and heard a voice that he knew to be that of Jesus asking; why do you persecute me? When Saul asks what he should do the answer is at best odd. Get up, continue to Damascus and you will be told what you must do. As Saul rose and opened his eyes, he discovered that he was blind.
I can’t get there from here in this condition laments Saul. A traveler came to his rescue and offered him aid. This is the dramatic turning point for Saul and I am sure and hopeful you know the rest of the story. The course and path of humanity resists change and turning points. Even the laws of motion and physics dictate that once an object is in motion it takes energy and external force to enable a change in direction. It is however in these moments, these turning points that we have as individuals and communities witness the greatest courage, vulnerability and growth.
Casting nets on the other side made no sense to the fishers and yet they did. A complete turn for Saul now Paul left him in a vulnerable place and had to work to establish his new identity and his new mission. In both cases, there is the presence of Jesus nudging and outright intervention to convince folk to take a change to try a new thing, to cast on the other side and to be a disciple of Jesus.
Jesus is aware of the tender place we find ourselves in when we try something new. I am sure that is why Jesus stayed on the lakeshore while they fished on the other side and met them when the catch was brought to shore, and that is why a fellow traveler and follower of Jesus, Ananias, was present to offer support along the way. Jesus constant presence, we know has not changed over the years. As St. Mark’s celebrates its 160th anniversary, we know that we are very different today than we were years ago. The essential message of love and justice remain yet how the message is proclaimed has changed.
Next week I expect we are going to hear of turning points in the life of St. Mark’s. Even though GPS was not as available then, there was the courage and conviction that there was a way forward even if re-calculating was required.
I expect that a review of your life will bear witness to many turning points. Some gentle and manageable, some sudden and unexpected, some we encouraged and some imposed by others. And all the while Jesus is there on the edge with encouragement, or right in our face as a messenger or annoyance. Turning points will take all the courage and conviction that we can gather but I am convinced that in this vulnerable place will come growth, newness and glorious new opportunities to bear witness to the love and justice, which is the message of Jesus.