Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nudge: Go Fish


sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 10/24/2010

[audio link]

Invitation to turn to John 21.

This is a story about awakening one another to the presence of the resurrected Jesus. This is a story about evangelism - bringing good news - in a way that gets past our defenses and lands in our hearts. This is a story about the power of a nudge.

This is a story about Jesus, a week or two or three after he’s been crucified and come to life again. It’s a story about people who can hear his voice but don’t recognize that it’s him. It’s a story about the church. It’s a story about the kingdom of God. It’s a story about normal life and all of its joys and frustrations. It’s a story about what happens to normal life when the living God shows up and somebody comes awake to his presence, and helps wake everyone else up too. This is a story about the power of a nudge.

This story starts out as a story about fishing, and ends up as a story about breakfast. It starts out in the night, and ends up in the morning. It starts out cold and dark and alone, and ends up with friends gathered around a fire, light dancing in their eyes, the smell of a feast filling their noses. This is a story about Nudging.

21 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

5He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

6He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

7Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

11Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Throughout the scriptures, the Good news of the Kingdom of God lands with a nudge, and gets people nudging each other in wonder. This story is chock full of nudges, isn't it? We'll conclude our nudge series with this story. By way of review, so far we’ve talked about how...

Nudging affects both the nudger and the nudge-ee.

Nudging is an act of friendship, of love.

Nudging is up close and personal.

Nudges usually produce smiles and embraces, not narrowed eyes and clenched fists.

Nudging is invited, welcomed.

Or sometimes it's not, but it's always designed to open the door for true relationship, and comes from a place of service, not judgment.

Nudging happens at the right time, in the right place, and it can happen anywhere, at any time.

Nudging isn't rushed or forced, yet nudgers never hesitate or sweat bullets either, because nudges happen naturally, instinctively.

We’ve talked about how at the heart of nudging is paying attention everywhere for signs of the resurrected Jesus, because no-where is off limits to his presence anymore. God isn’t stuck in a box marked "God." He’s shaken off the chains of death and now he’s roaming the earth, his Spirit blowing like the wind, showing up in the most unexpected places, at work in the most unexpected people. Even empty tombs aren’t empty; every bush is burning with his presence.

And we’ve talked about how we need a different kind of tool kit for nudge evangelism. Tools that help us listen and help us love, like duct tape, and stethoscopes and binoculars and noise-canceling headphones, and molasses and Christmas stockings that inspire us to wonder. So that we can notice what the Father is doing in one another’s lives and join in.

Today, as we look at John 21, my hope is that all these different ideas about nudging would come together in a way that encourages us to realize a very simple truth. Together, we can do this. We can awaken one another to the presence of the God who is already here. We were made to do this for one another and with one another. Nudging is the most naturally supernatural thing in the world. The only thing it requires of us is that we go fishing.

Let’s notice some things about this passage...

The resurrected Jesus isn't always easy to recognize at first. Not even by people who've known him for years...

He’s standing on the shore. They don’t recognize him. He talks to them. They don’t recognize his voice. They catch the fish in a pretty extraordinary kind of way. Most of them still don’t recognize. They’re sitting around a fire with him, and even though they are up close and personal, it’s still like he’s in disguise of sorts.

This is still our experience much of the time. We see the resurrected Jesus through a glass darkly. A lot of our nudging will be rooted in faith recognition, not the kind of sensory recognition we’ve spent our whole lives developing. So don’t expect sure-fire certainty. And don’t be discouraged when that’s not what you’re getting. [Mad gab illustration..He Heel Stub Row Ken Hard Ted (Psalm 147:3), As Cannot Well Beak Event Who Ewe (Mt. 7:7), Whirl Abe Errors To Gather Wit Got (1 Cor 3:9).]

Notice how Jesus shows up while we're doing what we do. What we love. Our work. With our friends.

Peter is a fisherman. He’s fishing. Maybe because he needs to eat, to earn a living. Maybe because he enjoys it, it relaxes him. The resurrected Jesus shows up while he’s fishing with his friends. Not in a synagogue, or the temple, or even in Jerusalem, the city of God.

So if you want to be a good news bringer, do the things you do and look for the resurrected Jesus there first. At work. At school. In your hobbies and recreation. Hang out with your friends. Join them in doing what they do. The resurrected Jesus just might show up, especially since you’re there to notice him. [want to be a church where Sunday is celebration, encouragement and equipping, but not the main event...]

Notice that Jesus shows up in a scarred and hungry body.

In most of his post-resurrection appearances, Jesus is either showing his wounds or eating. Which suggests to us a couple of things.

One, if we want to recognize him, it's worth looking where we find wounds, and looking where we find hunger. Literally and figuratively. Literally: Where there is sickness and injury and pain, Jesus is likely to be present, ready to bring resurrection life. And where there is poverty and lack and hunger, Jesus is likely to be present, ready to bring the Father's provision. Figuratively: Where people have been scarred by the brokenness of this world - abandonment, judgment, misinformation about God, etc. - Jesus is likely to be present, ready to bring healing. And when people are filled with longing for connection and hopes of a new tomorrow and dreams of beauty and joy and passion for justice, Jesus is likely to be present, ready to bring a kingdom feast.

And secondly, because the church is his body, if we want to be recognized as a home to the resurrected Jesus, we've got to be open and humble about our scars and our hunger. We are wounded people. We are hungry for more. We don't have all the answers. We have firsthand knowledge of the weight of sin, the struggle of being forsaken and abandoned, the questions about how this is all going to work out. If we're not vulnerable, no one will be able to recognize the resurrected Jesus in us, because the resurrected Jesus only shows up in a scarred and hungry body. (love the disciples' answer: "no")

Notice that Jesus invites people to a meal.

All the nudges lead to a meal where Jesus comes most fully into view, where we become most awake to the presence of God. They don't dare ask if it's him; there is something so holy going on that they just know. It's as if the fire burning is the burning bush that Moses stumbled upon, and when he asked God's name, God said something along the lines of "I am who I am." The disciples don't want to make the same mistake at this fire. They know who Jesus is because they recognize him at the meal.

All of our nudges are essentially invitations to a meal, aren't they? Come, be part of our family, eat with us. You belong because we all belong to God. You belong in the same way we all belong, because Jesus made room for us in the family through his death. There is a meal we eat together that reminds us of who he is and who we are and how we are to recognize him. Come join us in the meal, and in recognizing the body of Christ. Christ in her, and him, and her, and him. Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Who doesn't want to be invited to the meal? Not everyone will say yes to every invitation, but everyone wants to be invited. It's always a welcome nudge. [many people think church is a private club of some sort, because spirituality is such a personal, intimate thing in our culture. Coming without an invitation feels like walking into someone's bedroom when you're a guest in someone's home.]

Notice that it takes somebody familiar with the love of Jesus to say, "It is the Lord!"

It's the disciple Jesus loved that recognizes him first. Most think it is John referring to himself, the only disciple who stayed with Jesus at the cross, to whom Jesus entrusted his mother as he died. He sees the favor of God present in the catch of fish, does the math in his head, connects the dots, and realizes, It is the Lord! And he gives voice to his recognition, and that turns into a nudge that helps Peter recognize.

What was it about John that made him able to see what the others didn't? We don't know for sure. But maybe there is a hint in the phrase, the disciple Jesus loved. He was familiar with the love of Jesus and recognized what was happening as an expression of that love. Peter certainly was familiar with Jesus' love as well, and the other disciples, but perhaps they'd come to doubt that that love applied to them anymore. After all, they'd abandoned him. Peter, especially, had denied him 3 times. It takes a while sometimes to believe again that the good news of God's kingdom still applies to you. He needed John's help. We'll talk about that more in a few minutes...

Notice also this about this passage: Fishing happens best with others, in community.

Fishing stories are often stories about people swimming in a murky sea of confusion and despair being caught up in the net of God's love. So is this story, if we have eyes to see it.

Peter goes out to fish alone at first. And sometimes people did, with a line and hook as we still do today. But the real fishing was done with nets. Peter's friends say, hey, wait, we'll go with you, which meant Peter wouldn't be alone, and now they could fish with a net.

Isn't that how we approach evangelism, sometimes? Like we're out there alone, having to reel somebody in? But no, fishing happens best with others, in community. It's hard to awaken people to the presence of God by ourselves; nudging happens best with others, in community. [churches that awaken a community to the presence of God aren't filled with gifted evangelists; they are filled with people who join together to cast nets of love...conversation with MC]

Notice as well that fishing is a lot like the farmer sowing seed in the parable we've been talking about in our seeds and soil series: Nudgers know that mixed results come along for the boat ride. You can fish all night and catch nothing. And then Jesus shows up and your nets are full. What matters is that you are out there fishing when Jesus shows up on the shore, bringing the light of morning and the catch of the century.

Notice how much of what makes a good fisher also makes a good nudger. It requires patience. Quiet. Listening. Knowing the lake. Looking. Timing. Cooperation with the environment. Trusting Jesus and doing what you hear him telling you to do.

[story of praying for woman in the ER...]

This passage also shows what an important role a nudge can play in a person's life and relationship with the resurrected Jesus.

Peter's trajectory:

At the last supper, "I will lay down my life for you."

Denies him 3 times.

Rooster crows, followed by deep regret and shame.

At the empty tomb, Peter believes.

He meets Jesus in the locked room later that day.

But in this passage, he's still fishing for fish, isn't he?

Then, this loaded sign of favor comes. (Peter and Jesus have a history when it comes to fishing.) It's a nudge. Brings Peter back to being Peter. (Look at him jump into the water!) Opens the door to Peter doing business with Jesus. (The "do you love me?", "feed my sheep" passage comes next.)

The next time we see Peter, he's making a catch of 3000. He's fishing for new members of God's family. He's the man he was created to be.

We know people like that. We are or have been people like that. People who believe in God, but for one reason or another think the joyous, engaged, purposeful relationship with him is for someone else, not for us. And so we're going about our lives. But it's less than we are made for. Less than who we really are. Until enough nudges awaken us to the presence of God who has shown up with the dawn of a new day. And we recognize the signs of his favor, and our heart starts beating faster, and we take the plunge. And then we go back and bring him as many fish as our nets can hold. Because there is a fire burning and a meal to be had with friends. And Jesus is right at the center of it all, about to say something that will change our lives, and the world, forever.

Note: we ran out of time to get to the practical tips this Sunday…

Practical tips:

1. Take some swings in a nudging cage. Like a coffee shop, or a shopping mall, or grocery store, or a park where people walk their dogs, or a bar, or any place you enjoy being where people are. Give yourself an hour or 2 there, with the singular purpose of trying to notice any nudges that come your way. A nudge to buy something for somebody. Or strike up a conversation. Or pray for somebody. Don't do anything out of obligation or duty. Only do something if you notice something that might be a sign of the resurrected Jesus. Best case scenario? You get to do some nudging. Worst case scenario? You have a nice cup of coffee and a change of pace that might do your soul good.

2. Group Nudge. Get together with some other nudgers and show God's favor to someone in a practical way. Rake some lawns. Bring in some garbage cans. Clean out some gutters. Help with the Fall Free For All. If asked why, just say you wanted to show them in a practical way that God loves them.

3. Invite someone to breakfast with the wounded and hungry Jesus. Remember, nudging is done best when done with others, in community. So it's always a welcome nudge to invite someone to church with you, or to some kind of serving opportunity with you.

3b. Learn new things to write on napkins, for when someone asks, what kind of church to do you go to? [show centered set diagram and 4 quadrants diagram...advance slides as directed]

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