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Weekly Bible Notes,

Third Sunday before Lent

Year C, Green


Introduction

There is an obvious change in the way that we treat authority figures. Police, doctors, lawyers, politicians, are all treated differently than they were. No longer do we hold authority figures in respect and blindly accept what they tell us. Now we question and people have to earn the right to be listened to. We find it increasingly hard to trust what we are told by our leaders.

So when Peter was told by Jesus to row out into deep water and he would catch fish why did he obey Jesus? Why does the fisherman listen to the carpenter? Is there something about Jesus which means that he is actually worth trusting when we are surrounded by so many others who let us down?

Today, the words of Jesus really are something which we can trust in a world which seems so full of deceit.

Opening Verse of Scripture 

Isaiah Chapter 6
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."


Collect Prayer for the Day—Before we read we pray

Almighty God, who alone can bring order to the unruly wills and passions of sinful humanity: give your people grace

Loving God, the light of the minds that know you, the life of the souls that love you, and the strength of the wills that serve you: help us so to know you that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may truly serve you, who to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Methodist Worship)

First Bible Reading   Isaiah Chapter 6 Verse 1-8 Isaiah's Commission

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." 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!"
(This is the word of the Lord -- Thanks be to God)

Second Reading 1 Corinthians Chapter 15 Verses 1-11 The Resurrection of Christ

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

(This is the word of the Lord -- Thanks be to God)

 

Gospel Reading  Luke Chapter 5 Verses 1-11 The Calling of the First Disciples
 

picture of fish with Bible Text Luke 5:6One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

(This is the word of the Lord -- Thanks be to God)

Post Communion Prayer

Merciful Father, who gave Jesus Christ to be for us the bread of life, that those who come to him should never hunger: draw us to the Lord in faith and love, that we may eat and drink with him at his table in the kingdom, where he is alive and reigns, now and for ever.


Commentary

We are told that the Gospel reading today takes place at The Lake of Gennesaret, this is Luke's name for the Sea of Galilee, you will also hear about Simon, this is of course Simon Peter, who will become known as just Peter.

The fishermen were cleaning their nets after a long night. They would have been tired and discouraged after a long, fruitless night. They were ready to call it a day. It was time to go home, to eat, and to get some sleep. The crowds on the other hand were pressing in on Jesus, he was the latest news and they crowded around like people today chase film stars, hoping for a significant word or a touch.

Jesus had an answer to the crowd control issues, 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" (v. 3). This is Simon's first appearance in this Gospel, and it is his first act of obedience. Given his fatigue and frustration, we could not expect Simon to be in the best mood. He was surely ready to go home—not back in his boat.

When I go fishing I don’t really mind if I don’t catch anything, getting away from it all in beautiful surroundings with birds and trees and all the joys of nature is sufficient benefit in its own right. For the disciples it must have been a very different matter, they were not fishing for fun, this was their livelihood and no fish meant no money, they would eventually go hungry if there was no catch. When Jesus told the disciples how to fish it is hard for us to understand just how fed up they must have been and discouraged.

Jesus' instructions to Peter were counter-intuitive. Peter was the fisherman. He knew better than Jesus the carpenter where to find fish. The fishermen had fished all night without results. The fish were not there, a fact of which they had ample proof. The fishermen were washing the nets, wrapping things up so that they could call it a day (v. 2)They were eager to go home. Peter's common sense told him that there was no reason to try again. He must have hated to ask the other men to get the newly cleaned nets dirty again. So Simon spoke out

‘Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’

He voiced his doubt to Jesus, but nevertheless he addressed Jesus as Master, a title used for Jesus only by the disciples (8:24, 45; 9:33; 49; 17:13). He then said, "Yet if you say so, I will lay down the nets" (v. 5). It was this obedience in the face of doubt that opened the door to an abundant miracle. The followers of Jesus are not necessarily expected to understand, but they are expected to obey. This is the kind of statement which Jesus must have wanted to hear. The disciples obey him not because it sounds like a good idea, or because they agree with him, they are obedient because it is Jesus who tells them.

How often are we prepared to do the same thing, to put out and do something which we might disagree with ourselves, just because we think that Jesus might want us to do it? This is real Christian faith in action and surely it is what has delivered abundant results for so many people who wanted to obey God throughout history. It is the same obedient commitment which empowered so many people through the Bible, people like Moses and David, Joseph and Paul. When I hear these words spoken by Simon, I remember the statement which Mary the mother of Jesus made at the first miracle in Cana. His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." John Chapter 2:5.

 I am not surprised that Simon praised Jesus after the great catch of fish, but I am impressed by his willingness to put to sea with Jesus. Surely the greater miracle was not Jesus telling the disciples how to catch fish, it was Simon Peter obeying Jesus and putting out to sea?

So we have the message laid out for us, the pattern for Christian behaviour is about listening and obedience. The disciples hear the words of Jesus and they obey him, "Go into the deep water and let your nets down for a catch." (verse 4). The lesson is clear, it is only by listening to the words of Jesus that they are able to achieve real success. Surely we are supposed to ask ourselves how many of our failures can be traced back to the need for us to take time to a need to hear God speak before we act on our own instruction.

Occasionally I have heard Christians draw the conclusion that real discipleship is about listening and reflection, understanding that it is God who does things and we must have a less active ministry. This does not mean that one little bit, it is no excuse for laziness. We might have to be brave in service, we might have to work really hard. Those disciples had to put back out to sea after a hard days work and start all over again. What it does mean is that before we start work we must do more than ask for God’s blessing on our labours, we must seek direction that God wants that work done in the first place. Only then do we apply ourselves to the task that he has set before us.

So it is that a great many sermons have been preached about the difference between working hard with only our own ideas to guide us and working with divine inspiration. The disciples found that obedience yielded results. Their catch was so enormous that it revealed that this carpenter-turned-rabbi was no ordinary person, as evidenced by Peter's comments, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" (v8) This is just the same reaction which Isaiah had when faced with the awesome nature of God. Both Isaiah and Peter feel the magnitude of their unworthiness when they come face to face with Holy. They do not enjoy the experience, they protest their unworthiness. It was the response of Moses at the burning bush. "And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God" (Exod 3:6).

We have largely lost this sense of wonder and fear in God's presence. But, in our better moments, we kneel worshipfully in God's presence, acknowledging that we owe God thanks for every breath we take. A seraph cleanses Isaiah lips with a burning coal, and Jesus also has a cleansing word for Peter. ‘Then Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not be afraid’’ (v. 10b). These are the same words of the angel, who says, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God’ (1:30). Jesus will use these words twice again in this Gospel. "Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows" (12:7) and "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (12:32). If we will admit it, we are afraid of many things, but Jesus brings us the assurance that we need not be afraid. "…from now on you will be catching people." (v. 10c). The fulfillment of this promise of Jesus will happen in earnest at Pentecost. Peter will preach a sermon, and three thousand people will be baptized in one day. That of course was only just the beginning. Charles Royden

 

Meditation

Are we aware of our sin and failure? Do we have doubts and misgivings about our abilities and perhaps even the abilities of God? Such things are evidenced by the disciples too but they are obedient . A disciple of Jesus Christ is not necessarily a finished product, someone who has it all figured out and whose faith never falters. A disciple of Jesus Christ is someone who, in spite of their questions and their doubts, is drawn like a moth to the holy flame of the One who is called The Way, The Truth, The Light and the Life.

Hymns

  1. Holy, Holy, Holy

  2. I have decided

  3. Now the green blade riseth 

  4. Your mercy flows 

  5. O God beyond all praising

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

God of the day and of the night, in me there is darkness, but with you there is light. I am alone, but you will not leave me. I am weak, but you will come to my help. I am restless, but you are my peace. I am in haste, but you are the God of infinite patience. I am confused and lost, but you are eternal wisdom and you direct my path; now and for ever. Amen  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945     

Almighty God, who alone can bring order to the unruly wills and passions of sinful humanity: give your people grace so to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, among the many changes of this world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Loving God, like Peter and Andrew, and James and John, we sometimes feel discouraged - we work hard at what we do - work hard and yet sometimes our labour seems in vain. Help us to not be discouraged - bur rather grant that we might hear your voice and accept your direction and venture forth again in obedience to your word.

Holy God - we know that you seek messengers today as you sought them in the day of Isaiah. You call us, as you called Peter and later Paul, to follow in the path of Christ Jesus and to bring to you all who are in need of you. Cleanse us, Lord, as you cleansed them, touch us with coals from your alter, lift us up from our knees where we fall before you, pour your grace out upon us -- and help us to remember that is your purpose and your power to which we bear witness - not our own. As you filled the nets of the disciples, O Lord, so we ask you to fill the nets we cast at your direction. -- grant that our prayers for healing might be answered... -- grant that our work for justice might lead to a more equitable sharing of what this world affords -- grant that our words of forgiveness might bring reconciliation -- grant that our acts of compassion might satisfy those who are in need and grant that our way of being might prompt others to praise and glorify your name.

Grant us, O Lord, a resurrection faith - a faith that is radiant in the knowledge of your victory over sin and death - a faith that is confident in your care and your love. Bless now, we pray, with joy those who call out in your name and those who labour as you have directed. Bless too those we hold before you - and work a work of healing and salvation in their lives.

O God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: grant to us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Additional Resources

 

Meditation

Kierkegaard once said, "Oh, would that there was truth in the intercourse between men! One man defends Christianity, another attacks it and in the end, if one examines their lives, neither of them bothers very much about it."

O Christ, our Morning Star, Splendour of Light Eternal, shining with the glory of the rainbow, come and waken us from the greyness of our apathy, and renew in us your gift of hope. Amen. (Bede the Venerable)

Commentary

Luke 6:17-26 ‘The Sermon on the Plain’

In the Monty Python movie "Life of Brian" Jesus goes up on the mountain side to teach the people. There is a huge crowd gathered around him - so huge that some of the people who are on the outer edge of the crowd cannot hear his words and must ask others what the master has said. As Jesus pronounces what have become known as the beatitudes - one of the characters in the movie - desperate to know what Jesus is saying asks a man who is ahead of him the crowd — "what is he saying - what is he saying?" The man checks with a person in front of him, who in turn checks with someone else and then the message is relayed back—the Master says - "Blessed Are The Cheese Makers."

This is perhaps just a reminder to us of how often we get wrong what Jesus has said. and as a way of making us think about who is blessed and who is not. Who are the blessed ones anyway? Who is it that God favours? And who is that God looks askance at? Who is it that God warns - that God threatens - with troubles and woes?

If you listen to the preachers on cable TV and in some churches the answer seems clear. Those who succeed in life are the ones that God favours: - Those who have money in their pockets, smiles on their faces, well behaved children and who do not get sick without a miraculous healing next week in church. These are the blessed - while those who struggle with depression and despair, - those who live in poverty who perform menial tasks each day - those who serve others rather than living as their equals - and whose children are an embarrassment - these are the cursed and the afflicted. But is it true? Is this what Jesus taught?

The author of the third gospel - the Physician we know as Luke - clearly thought a great deal about whom God blesses and whom God does not. I say that because Luke's account of what we call the Sermon on The Mount is different than Matthew's version. Luke gives us a different view of Jesus' sermon, and in some ways a clearer view. First - in Luke - the sermon is not set on a hillside - where Jesus can look over the top of the crowd and hand down the word from on high to those who are beneath him. Rather it is set on a plain - on a level place - where a large crowd has gathered and pressed in upon him - and where Jesus has been walking among them - healing their diseases and curing their afflictions. And secondly in Luke Jesus announces a series of matching curses or woes: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God - woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled - woe to you are full now, for you will be hungry. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh - woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on the account of the Son of Man, - woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets." Think about it. What does this list say about our aspirations? About our dreams? About our rushing out to buy lottery tickets so that we might win the big one?

God reverses all our expectations and we need to know it. God understands our pain, poverty, despair, fear. The promise of Christ in the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel according to Luke, is that there is joy on the other side of grief, laughter on the other side of tears, fulfilment on the other side of hunger, and joyful reward on the other side of the abuse and the ridicule we receive because we cling to him and live in a way that is strange to the world - a way that is opposed to the world's way. Charles Royden

Prayers for Sunday

Our God, forgive us for failing to understand and accept the great demands placed upon us by your love. We enlist in your causes, but find ourselves losing interest. We promise to be courageous, but find ourselves afraid. We want to be sensitive, but find ourselves hard and callous. Forgive us; take our limitations and turn them into possibilities for service. Have mercy on us and grant us your peace. Amen.

God our heavenly Father, when the thought of you wakes in our hearts, let its awakening not be like a startled bird that flies about in fear. Instead, let it be like a child waking from sleep with a heavenly smile. Søren Kierkegaard

The Grail Prayer Lord Jesus, I give you my hands to do your work. I give you my feet to go your way. I give you my eyes to see as you do.I give you my tongue to speak your words. I give you my mind that you may think in me. I give you my spirit that you may pray in me. Above all, I give you my heart that you may love in me your Father and all mankind. I give you my whole self that you may grow in me, so that it is you, Lord Jesus, who live and work and pray in me.

Hymns for Sunday

O for a heart 495, I will enter his gates 307 & Ascribe greatness 40, In Loving kindness Jesus came 333, There is a Redeemer 673, Glorious things of thee are spoken 173.

 

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