TITLE: Trust and obey! SCRIPTURE: Luke 5:1-11
Our Gospel lesson today is a story of obedience. It is also a story of blessing. Blessing comes hard on the heels of obedience. First, obedience -- then, blessing!
Obedience isn't a popular word today. Marriage ceremonies used to include the phrase, "love, honor, and obey," but we long ago took scissors to that word, "obey."
That isn't necessarily bad -- just a fact -- but a fact that tells us something about our values. We don't prize obedience. We prize independence -- freedom -- creativity -- individuality. Those things seem incompatible with obedience. How can a person be both free and obedient? How can a person be both creative and obedient? How can a person express his or her individuality while obeying another person? Obedience seems
out of step with the things that we really prize.
And, if there is anything worse than obedience, it is blind obedience. It is one thing to obey, but another to obey without questioning. Before we act, we want to know where we are going. We don't like to trust another person to give us the right answer. We want to check their math – to make sure that they haven't made a mistake. We want to be sure that their directions won't take us somewhere that we don't want to be.
And there is certainly something to be said for that. We must get a thousand messages a day telling us to do this or to buy that – every message promising to solve grievous problems with the click of a mouse --each message requiring another decision.
Most of the decisions are easy. When I check email, I keep my finger poised over the delete key. Sometimes I delete a dozen emails at a time. I do that, because I know that people who send those emails aren't trustworthy. They might deliver the product, but not the promise. They might send the book or CD or software -- which is the product ---- but
those things are unlikely to make me sexy, rich, or wise -- which is what they promised.
Vietnam and Watergate taught us not to believe everything that the government says. Enron and WorldCom and HealthSouth and Tyco taught us not to trust business executives. Sam Waksal is in prison, and Martha Stewart is in court. What is the world coming to! How can we trust anyone!
But trust we must -- unless we are willing to dwell in a dark, paranoid world. Tennyson said:
"Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
That is true. The same is true of trust. Life without trust is barely worth living.
The question, then, is "Who can we trust?" The answer, happily, is that we can trust lots of people. Most people with whom we rub shoulders day by day are decent. That doesn't mean that they are always right – or even that their motives are always pure. It does mean that, if we mix in a bit of common sense -- reasonable caution -- we can go through life trusting most people.
It helps to know them first, of course. That is why pastors encourage young people not to marry too quickly -- they need to know a person really well before committing to a lifelong relationship. That is also why we ask friends for recommendations -- Where do you take your car for repairs? Do you know a good plumber? Who do you trust?
The better that we know a person, the clearer we can be about trust. To trust or not to trust? That is the question!
In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus asks Simon Peter to trust him. Luke tells us that Jesus has healed Peter's mother-in-law of a fever (4:38-39). Peter has also heard Jesus teaching the crowds -- and I am confident that he found something rock-solid in Jesus' words -- something trustworthy.
Then Jesus asks Peter to trust him. He doesn't ask something huge – like asking Peter to jump off a cliff . Instead, Jesus asks something small but, at the same time, difficult.
Peter and his partners have been fishing all night, and are cleaning their nets. They are tired and dirty -- looking forward to washing up, having breakfast, and going to bed. They caught no fish during the night, so they are not very happy.
Knute Rockney served as the head coach of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame from 1918 until his tragic death in 1931 at age 43 (he died in an airplane accident). During those 13 seasons, he scored a winning percentage of .881, the best ever for a college (or pro) football coach.
Rockne knew how to play football. More precisely, he knew how to coach -- to inspire -- to get the best from his players -- to out-think his opponents -- to win games. During his 13 seasons at Notre Dame, his teams won 105 games, lost 12, tied 5, and won 6 national championships.
What was the secret of his success? I am sure that he had more than one secret, but I am going to tell you one of his best secrets. He demanded unquestioning compliance with team rules. He expected football players to do what he told them to do -- and to do it right away, because things change quickly in a football game.
This is how he put it to the members of the Notre Dame team:
"You fellows must do what you're told if you wish to play on my team. If you are not willing, you need not begin. I care not what your record has been, you are disqualified.
Should I find you violating the rules in one single instance, I will put you on the bench.
Remember this, I can see farther ahead than you, and there is good reason for my insistence."
Jesus sees Peter washing nets -- getting ready to go home. He asks Peter to row him offshore a bit -- to give him a place from which to teach the crowds. Peter does as
Jesus asks, and Jesus teaches the crowds.
Then, after Jesus finishes speaking, he asks Peter to row further out --out where the water is deep. He tells Peter to throw his newly cleansed nets over the side.
Keep in mind that Jesus is a carpenter and Peter is a fisherman. Jesus knows how to build houses, and Peter knows how to catch fish. Peter must be tempted to tell Jesus ---- well, you know what he is tempted to tell Jesus.
Peter and his partners -- all of whom know that lake like the back of their hands -- have fished all night and caught NOTHING! They just finished cleaning their nets. Now this carpenter is asking these fishermen to throw their CLEAN NETS back into the water where there are NO FISH.
But what Jesus is really asking them to do is to trust:
-- Do you trust me enough to obey?
-- Do you trust me enough to throw your clean nets into dirty water?
-- Do you trust me enough to try again -- even when you would rather go home?
-- Do you trust me enough to do what I ask -- even if it doesn't seem to make sense?
Trust and obey! That's what Jesus was asking! I am sure you are all familiar with these words:
Trust and obey
For there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey.
Peter decided to do that. He says, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing" -- and we expect him to say, "Thanks, but no thanks!" But listen to what he does say. He says:
"Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. YET, IF YOU SAY SO, I will let down the nets."
"Yet, if you say so!" I love that line! Peter is telling Jesus that, common sense or not, he will do what Jesus says. He will trust! He will obey!
And that's just what he does! Trust and obey! He and the other fishermen let down their nets, and the result is a near disaster. They catch so many fish that the nets threaten to break and the boats to sink. These men have fished all their lives, but they have never seen anything like this! You can be sure that they are glad to have trusted Jesus!
People respond to Jesus in a thousand different ways:
-- Some reject him.
-- Some consider him a good moral teacher.
-- Others give him an inch of their lives -- coming to church occasionally, keeping a
Bible somewhere in the house.
-- Still others worship regularly and make the church an important part of their lives.
-- And others risk everything for Jesus -- obeying Jesus' call to go to a distant mission
field -- or worshiping secretly to avoid persecution.
In my experience, the people who give Jesus only a little get little back. The higher you go on the scale -- the greater the obedience – the happier people seem to be. I have never heard a person who has made Christ an important part of his/her life complain about that
decision. I have never heard a person who made great sacrifices for Christ express regrets.
Trust and obey
For there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey.
Let me close with this observation. Take this home and think about it!
Either Jesus IS or IS NOT the Son of God. There is no middle ground. If Jesus is not the Son of God -- then we should close the church doors and spend Sundays on the golf course. If Jesus is not the Son of God, it makes no sense to be here.
BUT if Jesus is the Son of God -- then nothing makes sense but to give him our best.
And the one way to know whether he is the Son of God is to trust him – to obey him and see what happens. Try it! Try trusting him!
But first, go home and strengthen your nets -- patch your boat – because you cannot imagine the blessings that flow from obedience. Whatever you want to say about Christ, you must give him this -- he will not be in your debt -- he will not allow you to out-give him.
Trust and obey , For there's no other way, To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.