February 10, 2019 Sermon
“Again? Are you Crazy?”
Old Testament Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13)
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.
And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.
And I said: "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out."
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"
And I said, "Here am I; send me!" And he said, "Go and say to this people:
'Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.'
Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed."
Then I said, "How long, O Lord?" And he said:
"Until cities lie waste
and houses without people,
and the land is utterly desolate;
until the LORD sends everyone far away,
and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.
Even if a tenth part remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak
whose stump remains standing
when it is felled."
The holy seed is its stump.
New Testament Scripture: Luke 5:1-11,
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch."
Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets."
When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.
Then Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Sermon: ”Again? Are You Crazy?“ Rev. David Hawkins
Have you ever heard that one quote from Albert Einstein, that says that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome? I’m sure most of us have heard it, right?
And, it’s a great quote, except for maybe two things: 1) Albert Einstein never said it, and 2) it’s not true. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, insanity is…, wait, the DSM doesn’t actually have a definition for insanity.
But, according to our legal system, insanity is “mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior.”
You see, it has nothing to do with doing something over and over again. That might be compulsive, but not crazy. It might be stubborn, it might be bull headed, it might be West Texas-sized perseverance, but it’s not insanity.
Speaking of doing something over and over again, one of my family’s favorite Christmas traditions is to watch the movie “Christmas Vacation”. That scene where the swat team swarms into the house, set to the song, “Here Comes Santa Claus, Here Comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane,” makes me laugh so hard I cry every time I see it.
Anyway, do you remember in that movie when poor Clark Griswold, played by Chevy Chase, is trying to get the Christmas lights on his house to light up? He spent all day putting them up, and then they wouldn’t light. Over and over, he unplugs the extension cord, and plugs it back in, and nothing. No lights.
And I agree, after a while, it kind of looks like Clark is going crazy. He is losing it. But then, unbeknownst to him, his wife, Ellen, played by Beverly D’Angelo, flips a light switch in the garage, Clark plugs the extension cord in just one more time, and Hallelujah! The lights come on, the angels sing, and Christmas is saved, at least for a little while.
For Clark, anyway, doing the same thing over and over and over again, and expecting a different outcome worked, and lo and behold, there was a Christmas miracle! Sometimes, doing the same thing over and over again results in a different outcome, not because of anything you’re doing, but because of something completely outside of your control.
I was reminded of this in today’s scripture.
Jesus has been teaching and preaching, even healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. He’s making a name for himself, and he has quite a crowd following him around. So many, in fact, they’ve kind of squished up against him on the shores of a lake. He’s cornered, and he has nowhere to go. He asks a couple of fishermen who have come in after a long night’s work if he can borrow one of their boats, and they say sure. It doesn’t matter to them, they’re cleaning their nets, they’re done fishing for a while.
So Jesus takes a boat out onto the lake, and continues teaching, now with a little bit more elbow room.
I don’t know exactly what the fishermen are thinking about all this fuss, but can imagine that they are probably just shaking their heads and getting their work done so they can go home, like most hard working people that make their living with their hands and their backs. I’m sure they weren’t really listening to what he was saying, they just wanted to clean their nets and go home for some dinner.
But then he gets their attention.
“Take your boats out, and cast your nets again,” he tells them.
Let’s take our boats out onto the lake we’ve just spent twelve hours on with nothing to show for it, throw our nets, which we just got done cleaning, and rolled up and put away, just because some random guy tells us to.
You can imagine their reaction.
Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. You can hear the frustration and disbelief in Simon Peter’s answer to Jesus. “What do mean? We just got back! We’ve worked all night, with nothing to show for it, and now, you want us to go back out there? Have you ever heard Plato’s definition of insanity?”
I paraphrase, of course.
But you can tell Peter is not convinced this is a good idea. In fact, you can tell he thinks it’s a stupid idea.
But he does it anyway.
I wonder why.
I wonder why this tough, no nonsense rock of a man decided to take the advice of a relative stranger, against his own good judgment, after a night’s exhausting and fruitless labor. There’s no indication that he thinks things are going to be different. And while he knows that Jesus is a healer, there’s no indication that he thinks that Jesus is going to miraculously change the patterns of the way fish swim around in the lake.
I wonder if maybe the fishermen were pressured a little bit by the presence of the crowd. That they felt a little bit cornered, like Jesus did. Maybe they thought they would humor this guy, go out, come back in, go home.
Who knows why Peter decides to go again. It’s a mystery, at least to me.
But he does it. He complains, he moans, he groans, but he does it. He takes the boat out, and he throws the nets out, and you know the rest of the story.
Not because he thought Jesus was the Messiah. Not because he was expecting anything different. In fact, you can tell he’s expecting failure.
But he does it anyway.
I’m not sure what to make of Simon Peter. I’m not sure how to describe his actions.
Remember, Simon doesn’t really know Jesus. He knows that Jesus helped his mother in law, but nothing more. They are not buddies. At this point in time, Simon Peter is not a disciple, not by any stretch of the imagination, and so I really don’t think that this is an act of faith. He’s not expecting a miracle. I think he really just wants to go home, and he thinks that maybe this is the best way to disperse the crowd.
I think he takes the boat out because it was the least confrontational thing he could do. He doesn’t want to argue with Jesus. He doesn’t want to make the crowd angry. So, he says, “whatever,” and takes the boat out, and then it almost sinks after catching too many fish to carry.
It’s crazy, isn’t it?
To do the same thing over and over again, and expect a different outcome?
Church is a little bit like that, isn’t it? Every Sunday, singing, prayer, scripture, preaching. A little coffee, a little fellowship. Does the world change? Were we changed? What did we expect to happen? Did we expect anything to happen?
I know of pastors who hate to do weddings. They say that no matter what they tell the couple getting married, nothing really changes and that the pastor might as well have been talking to a high plains windstorm. I know of teachers that get burnt out, that they feel like their lives didn’t matter, all their class outlines, their lectures, their preparation, in one ear, out the other.
In fact, all of us, no matter our vocation, can feel ineffective, at times, can’t we? We can all feel like we’re putting our feet in the same place we did yesterday, doing the same things, over and over, and nothing changes. Our efforts are ignored, or simply overwhelmed by the weight of the world’s momentum.
But then Jesus tells us to go out and try again. And again. And again. And sometimes, when we least expect it, we see miracles.
There was nothing special about what Peter did that day. It wasn’t done out of faith, it wasn’t done out of expectation, it wasn’t done because he thought anything was going to change. He did it because Jesus asked him to do it.
And that made all the difference.
My friends, we were called to be here today. And that makes a difference. We may not have thought that when we woke up. We may not have thought that as we made our way here through the light traffic of Sunday morning, as most of the world slept in. In fact, I’m sure that sometimes, we are more like Peter than we would like to admit.
‘Lord, I’ve been working all week. I’d like to take the morning off. Why go to church, when nothing we say makes a difference, when nothing we do seems to affect the world around us?’
But then we go.
I wish that I could, like the evangelists on TV, predict the movement of the Holy Spirit. I wish that I could, like too many preachers today, guarantee a miracle, whether financial, or spiritual, or physical. That would be nice. That would be spectacular. It would be a lie, but spectacular.
I wish that I could tell you that today, of all days, is the day that changes history, that changes everything.
But I can’t do that. I’m not in the business of promising miracles. That’s way, way above my pay grade.
But I’m still here. And you’re still here. And we still sing, and pray, and praise, and hope, and love. Like Simon Peter, we’re still here, not sure why sometimes, but ready to give it one more shot.
Ready to teach one more Sunday school class. Ready to make one more pot of coffee. Ready to sing one more anthem. Ready to clean one more pan in the kitchen. Ready to pray, ready to listen. Ready to lift each other’s burdens, to hear each other’s pain, to share each other’s joy. Ready to give to those who need it, to feed those who hunger, to give shelter to those who have nothing. Ready to offer help to those who need it, not because we expect something in return, but because Jesus has asked us to do it.
And these things, my friends, whether we recognize it or not, are miracles.
When a family eats for the first time in a week because the church gave them groceries, it’s a miracle to them. When a child is able to see the doctor in Lubbock, and receive treatment for a heart condition because the church gave them a tank of gas, that’s a miracle. When people learn to read, to balance a checkbook, or develop a new skill and work themselves out of poverty because the scholarship of Grace made it possible for them to go to school, that’s a miracle.
When we put our arms around someone who is hurting, that is a miracle. When we offer our gifts to our community, and lives are changed, that is a miracle.
Miracles are happening all around us.
Maybe it’s not so crazy to reach out with our lives one more time, and expect a miracle. Maybe it’s just hope and faith. Maybe it’s just perseverance in face of adversity. Maybe it’s just plain stubbornness. I don’t know.
Maybe it’s because we’ve been invited to be a part of what God is doing, and we trust that our efforts, no matter how small or ineffective they might seem to us are part of God’s plan, and that plan is working miracles every day.
It doesn’t really matter what we think about why, or when, or how miracles get done.
We just want to be in the boat when they happen.