Thoughts for Sunday

“Put out into the deep …” (Luke 5:4) 

“Put out into the deep …” (Luke 5:4) 

Marty, Micah. The Sea of Galilee. In Places Along the Way. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1994

Marty, Micah. The Sea of Galilee. In Places Along the Way. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1994

“While the people pressed upon [Jesus] to hear the word of God, he was standing
on the shores of Lake Galilee]. And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fisherman had gone
out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he
asked him to put out a little from the land. And [Jesus] sat down and taught the people from
the boat. And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon,
‘Put out into the deep and let
down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered,
‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!
But at your word I will
let down the nets.’ And when they had done this, they enclosed a great
shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned their partners in the other boat to
come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. … And
Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching [i.e. saving] people.’ And
when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed [Jesus].”
(Luke 5:1-6, 10b-11; RSV. Emphasis added.)

Let me ask you a question: “What is your empty boat? The one that you oft’ come home in at night, feeling – to use a Midwestern fishing expression – “skunked.” Or perhaps, the one you’ve dragged onto the sandy shoreline called “disappointment and emptiness” … struggling to find a connecting line between your life of faith and your work, a struggle for something that has lasting meaning … yearning to hear a word, God’s Word, that has the power to fill your little craft that seems to be simply bobbing about in the shallows.  

As I watched the Super Bowl commercials and half-time show last Sunday, I thought about what “all this” reflects in our culture, our values, or portrays to other countries of the world: the rappers grabbing themselves, the banal and vulgar lyrics, the voyeurism … “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’ (Shakespeare; Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5). And I began to think further on how we so often spend much of our lives in the shallows, never risking the wonder of the deep questions and things of life that God has gifted us. 

Come to worship this weekend and hear Jesus’ Word for you, as with Simon: to “put out into the deep” … to “cast your nets wide” … to trust that your little boat will be filled with God’s presence … of forgiveness and a new freedom for purpose and joy in life. And way down deep, we’ll hear Jesus calling us, like his early disciples, into what the “life of vocation” really means (not just a job): where the deep passions and gifts God has given you come together with the deep hungers and needs of the world.

In Christ’s love for you, and all people …

j.r. christopherson
Senior Pastor

Home by Another Way

Based on our Gospel text for this coming weekend (read Matthew 2:1-12), singer-songwriter James Taylor offers this somewhat playful sketch in his classic song: “Home by Another Way.” Listen in…

“Those magic men the Magi; some people call them wise.
Or Oriental, even kings; Well anyway, those guys.
They visited with Jesus; They sure enjoyed their stay.
Then warned in a dream of King Herod’s scheme
They went home by another way.” (fr. Never Die Young; Cut #8)

Indeed, the “Story of the Magi” ranks right up there with other amazing biblical stories–such as “David and Goliath” or “Jesus Calming the Storm on Lake Galilee”–in terms of capturing the human spirit or imagination. Poets as diverse as Wm. Butler Yeats and Garrison Keillor have sought to wrap words around the visit of the Wise Men who followed the yonder star to a strawy manger in Bethlehem, cradling the promised Messiah, the newborn King: Jesus the Christ. The American poet Henri Wadsworth Longfellow even gave them names: Melchoir, Gaspar, and Balthasar. Hundreds of painters as well have sought to capture the scene: including Botticelli and Rembrandt. So much has been made of this story of which we know so little.

A Study for the Adoration of the Magi (ca. 1481)  Image courtesy of LeonardoDavinci.net

A Study for the Adoration of the Magi (ca. 1481)
Image courtesy of LeonardoDavinci.net

And yet…and yet, I think a very telling commentary can be found in another “sketch.” Not that of James Taylor or Yeats or Botticelli, but rather one that is faintly drawn by Leonardo Da Vinci, entitled “A Study for the Adoration of the Magi.” As you’ll see here, its backdrop is that of a ravaged world–with ruined buildings, fighting horsemen, and war. Like the star at its center, that seems to have crashed to earth, the picture’s meaning is clear and manifest: the world into which Jesus, the Messiah, has come is one of great chaos and decay. It’s found dead-to-rights by sin and death. It (that’s us) needs a Savior.

Come and join the family and friends of First Lutheran Church this weekend, as we follow the star with the Wise Men, to see and hear the One for whom its light comes…from heaven to earth…to rest upon. Yes, come and worship, stretching out your hands at his manger, and hear anew (in this new year) his life-giving, sin-forgiving, hope-renewing word: “This is my body, given for you.”

May the swaddling cloths of our Savior’s love–Jesus the Christ–enfold you once more with “comfort and joy.” In this New Year, and always…

j.r. christopherson
Senior Pastor