guystuff - notes for a sermon
The angel greets Gideon, "The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior!"
He replies, "WHO, ME?"
"Go in this might of yours," the angel says, "I hereby commission you!"
Gideon protests: "But I am the last and least of my little people."
"But I will be with you," says the Lord.
"SHOW ME A SIGN!" Gideon pleads. And boy does he get one.
"Help me, Lord!" he cries. "For I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face."
And the Lord says, "Peace. Do not fear." The Lord is peace.
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
In Paul's letter to the Corinthians, he tells of the tradition he has passed
down to them - and thence to us, the good news that, in accordance with the
Scriptures, Christ died for our sins, he was buried, and he was raised on the
third day. Now Paul puts himself into the story - as the last of those who saw
the resurrected Jesus, and the least of his messengers. Yet God used him, by the
grace of God, to bring the message, the good news. God's grace we proclaim; you
have come to believe in God's grace, and to put your faith in the Messiah.
Peter shows us an early example of that faith at work, as he goes ahead, taking
Jesus at his word, into his boat, out a little ways, then farther into deep
water. And then, on land, he embarks on a riskier journey yet - taking on a new
way of living, of being. No longer is he the captain of his fate, the pilot of
his own boat: he has turned the helm over to Jesus.
And now - he will follow him; From now on - he will be catching people:
And the nets he will haul in - or others for him - will be full of joy.
What we experience when we take on the new way of being, the new life in Christ,
is no less radical. It may come to us in familiar, gentle, ways, in the course
of our daily livelihood - and we pass it on others there as well - but it takes
us on a new adventure, like fishermen out of water.
At the office where I worked, one Friday I asked a co-worker,
--Hey Walter, what are you going to do this weekend?
--Oh, you know, go to a bar, have a few brews, watch the game. You know,
A couple of weeks later, I asked again,
--Walter, what are you going to do this weekend?
--Oh, you know, pick up my kid, take him to the park, play with him. You know,
Walter taught me a new word - guystuff - and he taught me what it meant: stuff
guys like to do... and he taught me what that really means: not just stuff guys
like to do like watch the Super Bowl, hang out with their buddies, swap lies,
drink beer, smoke cigars... but other stuff guys like to do too, like be a
father, be a responsible, caring parent, spend time with their children, show
them some love, enjoy them. Guystuff - the stuff guys like to do - is a human
thing: like fishing all night with your friends, and turning up empty in the
morning, pulling in your nets. It's also taking a preacher out in your boat, a
little way from shore, so the people on the banks of the inlet can hear him
clearly. And, it turns out, it can also mean a bit more. It's a human thing,
guystuff - and it can be a God thing. What Jesus had in mind, to proclaim the
word of God, to let the crowd hear the good news, and let some of the good news
be caught by those on the boat as well, then to put out into the deep waters, --
requires a real act of courage, trust, faith on Peter's part - and put down the
nets once again. Something quite ordinary is no longer so ordinary after all.
God fills the boat - our lives - to over-abundance, the measure of devotion like
an ephod of grain shaken down and spilling over. God's grace comes aboard.
What will we do with it? Will we, like Peter, respond with joy, with awe, with
acceptance, dedication, a new purpose in life? Will we know when it is time to
pull the boat up onto the beach, to leave what we were doing and come follow
him? What would this look like - for you today?
If you are going to do guystuff this afternoon - drink a few brews, watch the
game, play with your kid, catch a few fish - [or] will you be ready, when the
call comes, to drop everything, become fishers catching people from now on? In
abundance, beyond promise, without measure? Are you perhaps already doing it?
Maybe unconsciously, you have begun to venture out a little farther, into the
deeper water, using the tools you have been given, the ordinary tools of your
life, to begin something extraordinary. God took the ordinary stuff of regular
guys - a bunch of guys who had been out fishing together, no less - and
transformed the ordinary stuff of their lives, showing them what was behind it -
God's hand at work - revealing to them the Messiah, present, right there, on the
lakeshore with them.
Gideon, the last and least of his people, God greets as a mighty warrior.
Knowing him better than he knew himself, God told him, "Don't be afraid."
Paul passes on the good news, that Christ died for our sins, he was buried and
he was raised on the third day. He protests that "I AM THE LEAST and last of the
Apostles," but by the grace of God, he says, "I AM WHAT I AM." It is by God's
grace that he serves, and his grace is not in vain. "Grace we proclaim; Grace
you have come to believe."
The people come to hear the WORD of GOD. Jesus coaxes Peter, "Put out a little
way...Put out into the deep..." When he sees what is going on, Peter pleads, "Go
away! I AM A SINFUL MAN." But the Lord says, again, "Do not be afraid. From now
on you will be catching people."
Right here with us, on an ordinary day, God is taking what we bring, bread and
wine and water and oil -- and ourselves, as God made us - and turning them
somehow into extraordinary stuff: the food and drink of everlasting life, the
present reality of God with us.
St. John's, Chico, California
February 4, 2007.
Judges 6:11-24a, Psalm 85 or 85:7-13, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Luke 5:1-11