Sunday, February 10, 2019

Fishing For People

Today's sermon, "Fishing For People" references taking risks in relationships.

Below you will find the transcript for today's sermon, the bulletin, an additional Scout Sunday picture (or two), and a couple of the songs sung today.

“Fishing For People”
Luke 5:1-11 (CEB)
February 10, 2019 (5th Sunday after Epiphany/Scouting Ministry Sunday)
Flintstone UMC

Luke 5:1-11 (CEB)

One day Jesus was standing beside Lake Gennesaret when the crowd pressed in around him to hear God’s word. Jesus saw two boats sitting by the lake. The fishermen had gone ashore and were washing their nets. Jesus boarded one of the boats, the one that belonged to Simon, then asked him to row out a little distance from the shore. Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.”
Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”
So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. They signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled both boats so full that they were about to sink. When Simon Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinner!” Peter and those with him were overcome with amazement because of the number of fish they caught. 10 James and John, Zebedee’s sons, were Simon’s partners and they were amazed too.
Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be fishing for people.” 11 As soon as they brought the boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.                                         
THANKS BE TO GOD.                      
For the past several weeks, the Scripture passages have been focused on callings.  Today’s passage is also a call passage.  It is the passage in which Jesus calls the first disciples from their current vocation into a new one.

As we look more closely into today’s passage, think about where you find yourself in the narrative.  What resonates most with you today?  Where can you relate?  What challenges you?
One aspect that we might not think about from reading this passage is that it isn’t just the disciples taking a risk here.  Jesus takes the first step of risk when after speaking to the crowds from Simon’s boat, he asked him to row out a little ways further into deeper waters and drop his net.  (verse 4) [Actually, Jesus’ first risky step may have been getting into the fisherman’s boat without permission.]

Simon didn’t have to say “yes” here, did he?  In fact, he begins to say “no” in verse 5—“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing”.  Yet, Simon didn’t stop there.  Something persuaded him to say “yes” because he finishes his sentence by saying, “But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”

Jesus risked asking Peter to do something extremely counterintuitive.  Peter risked saying yes to Jesus in a situation that was not only counterintuitive for him, but simply made no sense to a seasoned fisherman.

Relationships involve risk.  I would go so far as to say that relationships require risk.  If we aren’t stepping out in risk, then maybe it’s time to rethink some things.

“God in Christ takes the initiative and the risk as he beckons us into a relationship with himself.” (Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 1, Howard K. Gregory, 332)

“Like Peter’s call to fish for persons, the outcomes are unpredictable when people risk encountering each other across cultures, groups, and traditions, thereby moving beyond the stereotypes they have embraced.” (Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 1, Howard K. Gregory, 333-334)

I have witnessed risk taking here at FUMC and I’m grateful.  You have stepped out into unchartered waters and you have held big community events—from the Memorial Day service, to an ice cream social, to movie nights, to family night dinners, to a Community Candlelight Christmas Eve Service and you have engaged the community in a community pantry.

I have also seen you join in with the community for a community Easter Egg Hunt and the Valley Fest.  At both of those activities, FUMC was side by side with our Scouts.  It was great to see both groups take a risk in being out in community and making the most of the opportunity to engage with community.  How neat that we have been able to be literally side by side while doing these two activities.  I believe it shows the community that we work together, that we’re not simply hosting the Cubs and the Scouts and that they aren’t simply using space here.  We are a team.  Amen?!

Invitations to join in with Jesus won’t always look the same.  For Simon Peter, the first invitation was to put out into deep water and cast the nets he had just cleaned.  The second invitation that Jesus gave him was to leave behind the net full of fish he had just caught and follow Jesus, to walk away from his livelihood and all he knew.

What a series of risky invitations.

Has it changed for us? Does Jesus still call us, invite us into risky adventures?  (I would say “no” to the first question and “yes” to the second one.  That’s what I see.  What about you?)

There are still invitations for us to venture into new ground or new depths, pointing to new challenges in mission and ministry. (Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 1, Howard K. Gregory, 334)  Would you agree?

What is something you are feeling invited to do, whether it is something in Scouts, for church, or a mission or ministry in the community?

Does it seem counterintuitive to you?  Yet, the call remains and you are considering what it might be like to say “yes” to the invitation.

How many here remember me talking about the bamboo patch last year after my January day apart at Reflection Riding?  At the time, it was just a special experience for me.  I had no idea it would grow into an opportunity for outdoor worship.  I didn’t know I would engage in conversation with people connected with Wild Church Network, that there would be a retreat for pastors and leaders, that there was even a seed growing inside me.

But when the day came and Jesus invited me to row into deeper water and to cast my nets over the side, I said yes.  I wasn’t sure what would come of it, but that wasn’t up to me.  My part was whether or not I was going to be faithful in doing what I was invited to do. 

It looks like there will be outdoor worship on the 4th Saturday of the month at the bamboo forest at Reflection Riding, beginning in May.  This is a way for me to worship God in creation and open the space for others to do so as well.

I still have lots of questions, but in the meanwhile, I’m trying to trust and follow the leading of Jesus.

What about you?  What is YOUR next step in the invitation you have been given? 

I encourage you to step out in faith, as did Simon Peter.  Go deeper and cast your nets.  Jesus is with you. 

As we step out in faith to follow Jesus’ leading, we will grow as disciples of Christ and we will also make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

If we do that, then we will be fishing for people, just like Simon Peter and the other first disciples.

Remember Jesus’ words to them in today’s passage in v. 10—“Don’t be afraid.” Are you willing to take that step of risk and faith to follow Jesus?


Recorded sermon


(The first one was sung using this version on the overhead.  All the others were sung from the United Methodist Hymnal (UMH).  I found a version to sing along with, in case you wanted to do that and/or just listen to the tune.)

UMH 140-- "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"

UMH 338-- "Where He Leads Me"

UMH 310-- "He Lives"

Pictures from the service and reception following the service:

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Bamboo Encounter-- a nudge is becoming a reality

If you follow me on Facebook, you've probably seen the posts on my personal page about "Bamboo Encounter", an outdoor worship opportunity that begins on May 25 and will meet every 4th Saturday.  Currently, I only have through December reserved.  However, we'll see how things go in the early months and go from there.

In a blogpost from last January, I wrote about my experience in the bamboo patch.  I shared that with Flintstone UMC a little soon after I had my day apart.  What I didn't know is that time in the bamboo planted a seed within me that started growing into something that became a space for outdoor worship.

This past summer at our national gathering for the Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders (FUMSDRL) I learned that one colleague was taking a sabbatical and checking out the churches in the Wild Church Network.  I also learned that another colleague was offering an outdoor service in her area.

As we left the gathering, I sent an inquiry to Wild Church Network, inquiring whether or not there were any churches in my area.  I sent another one soon thereafter inquiring how one goes about leading such a church.  I use the term "church" loosely, as it isn't church in the traditional sense, yet it is a place where folks gather to worship.

Due to my healing time from hip replacement surgery and being out of things (in and out), I missed some emails.

I finally got connected.  It was in December that I saw an email that mentioned a retreat for pastors and leaders to be held by the Wild Church Network.   That did it.  I was in.  I knew I was supposed to attend.  And, the bamboo patch came to mind.

But, there were so many questions and details.

I inquired about the bamboo patch.  The first phone call came on January 8th from Reflection Riding.  That phone call gave me hope that the possibility could become a reality after all.

I called my colleague who has the church and asked LOTS of questions.  I emailed the colleague who did the sabbatical and we'll talk later and I look forward to reading the research.

I e-mailed my District Superintendent to share the nudges of the Holy Spirit, the dreaming and visioning.

I worked in the background on a brochure and on a Facebook page.  I created an email account.

On Tuesday, February 5th, I had a Clergy Group Spiritual Direction meeting.  Part of the meeting was reading the Scripture passage of Psalm 62 using lectio divina.  The words that stood out to me the first time were "hope", "refuge" and "rock".  On the second reading, the word "wait" stood out to me.  There was much peace surrounding that word and waiting.  I am content (for the most part) in the waiting and attempt to trust with open hands in each and every situation.

After the meeting I went to Starbucks for some coffee.

While there I heard back from Reflection Riding this week.  In that conversation I learned how much rental of the bamboo patch would cost and we put the dates on the calendar.

After the conversation, I published the Facebook page.

I tweaked the brochure later this week.

There are still questions and details to work out.

What in the world am I doing?!?!?!

Honestly, I am saying "yes" to a nudge of the Holy Spirit.  A nudge that offers me soul care and self care as well as a space for others to receive soul care and self care, as we practice the spiritual practice of worship in nature and creation.

 If you'd like to check out the Facebook page, click on "Bamboo Encounter" to get there.

There you will find pictures, the brochure (in jpg) form, the blogpost that started it all (though I'll probably post it here too).

I will post something after May 25th, the first meeting.  Meanwhile, check out the FB page if you want to see some quotes on nature and spirituality, etc.

What seeds are growing in your life?  How is the Holy Spirit nudging you to step out in faith in some sort of adventure?

Whatever it is, enjoy the journey!


Lessons From a Bamboo Patch-- January 13, 2018

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Set Apart-- this past Sunday's sermon


Here is this past Sunday's sermon-- "Set Apart".  The recorded sermons from each church are at the bottom of the transcript.  As always, there are different things shared orally than what you will find in the written sermon.  Also, there are some different things shared at each church.  I try to remain open as I speak, so the illustrations and other things are often different.

“Set Apart”
Jeremiah 1:4-10 (CEB)
February 3, 2019 (4th Sunday after Epiphany/Communion)
Flintstone UMC/Simpson UMC

Jeremiah 1:4-10 (CEB)

The Lord’s word came to me:
“Before I created you in the womb I knew you;
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I made you a prophet to the nations.”
“Ah, Lord God,” I said, “I don’t know how to speak
    because I’m only a child.”
The Lord responded,
    “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a child.’
        Where I send you, you must go;
        what I tell you, you must say.
Don’t be afraid of them,
    because I’m with you to rescue you,”
        declares the Lord.
Then the Lord stretched out his hand,
    touched my mouth, and said to me,
    “I’m putting my words in your mouth.
10 This very day I appoint you over nations and empires,
    to dig up and pull down,
    to destroy and demolish,
    to build and plant.”
THANKS BE TO GOD.                      
Today’s title comes from verse 5, “before you were born I set you apart;”

Some versions, such as the NRSV say “consecrated” or sanctified.  If you look for the English “set apart” in a concordance, you will find other examples, but they are different Hebrew root words.  They are not the same word used here.  This is where knowing the language, knowing someone who knows the language, and/or trusting the research becomes important.  One word can have many meanings and we want to make sure we are as close to the original intention as possible, seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we interpret the text.

The word used here is from the Hebrew root word “qadash”, Strong #6942.  The meaning of the Hebrew term is ‘to set apart as Holy’.

Don’t worry.  My linguistic and teaching geek mode will stop there, but I did want to give you a little bit of a background on the word.  There are other root words that can mean ‘set apart’, but this is the one we find here.  If you do desire to dig deeper, you can use online resources such as or

Let’s look at the passage now:
We see in verse 5 that Jeremiah was set apart as holy before he was born.  His name means “YHWH exalts” (Keeping Holy Time, 76) He was to be a prophet to the nations.  Notice Jeremiah’s response in verse 6. His initial response is to come back with an excuse, “I don’t know how to speak because I’m only a child.”

How old is Jeremiah here?  In my research, I wasn’t able to find an exact age.  All we see is that Jeremiah refers to himself as “a child”.   Is age really a factor? No matter his age, can we really turn down the Lord God when we are being asked to serve?  Rarely will we “feel” equipped to live into a calling God places on us.  We likely don’t have the experience. And, that’s probably a good thing because it helps us rely on the One who has called us and promises to be with us.

Yet, even when we are promised to not be left alone in whatever it is, we still at times turn down the Lord God’s offer to serve at times, don’t we? 

Okay, so I won’t put you on the spot.  You don’t have to answer.  I will.

I’ve turned down God.  I’ve said things such as: I’m too young, I’m female, I stutter, you know my life history, that’s a little too scary, that sounds too difficult, and when being called into seminary: really, God—don’t you think I’m getting a little too old to go back to school?  Those are just some of my excuses.

There have been many times that I’ve said “no” to God, initially. Often it has been because I didn’t fully understand what God was doing, that God could really be asking me to do whatever it was, or I was simply afraid.

I preached my first sermon in 1989, after having completed the 8 week Lay Speaker course.  Speaking wasn’t my thing.  Teaching wasn’t my thing.  There is some stuttering and dyslexia that get in the way at times.  When I was asked to preach for the first time, I would not have known that it would be my last Sunday on Long Island before I left for a new job teaching at Bryan College. The title of that first sermon?  “Are You Available?”

Though it hasn’t always been easy, I’ve tried to say yes to the Holy Spirit along the way—3 church staff positions; one of those being a paid one in a large church, lots of pulpit supply opportunities, church leadership roles, and then finally, the call to seminary.  I still pushed back the call into pastoral ministry.  I found ways to say “no” along the way.  Yet, the Holy Spirit was persistent and gracious, reminding me that I would not be alone on the journey.

What about you?  Have you said “no” along the way?

If so, we’re in good company.  Today’s passage shows us Jeremiah, but we can remember that Moses came back with some good “no” answers too. 

Who else said “no” to God?  Zechariah.  What happened to him?  He became mute because he didn’t believe the angel (Luke 1:19-20) until the time John was named (Luke 1:64)

Why?  It’s scary to step out in faith into something new, something different, something outside of our comfort zone.

It is our natural response to want to keep what we know, sometimes at all cost, even if it isn’t in our best interest.

How did the Lord respond to Jeremiah’s attempt to get out of being who he was called to be and to do what he was called to do?

Verses 7-10

 The Lord responded,
    “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a child.’
        Where I send you, you must go;
        what I tell you, you must say.
Don’t be afraid of them,
    because I’m with you to rescue you,”
        declares the Lord.
Then the Lord stretched out his hand,
    touched my mouth, and said to me,
    “I’m putting my words in your mouth.
10 This very day I appoint you over nations and empires,
    to dig up and pull down,
    to destroy and demolish,
    to build and plant.”

The Lord assured Jeremiah that he would be with him, that he would put words in his mouth and that he was appointing him to do the things he was calling him to do and be.

We need reassurance from the Lord, too, don’t we? 

We need to know that the Lord is with us in our callings.

Do you remember last week’s passage from Luke, where Jesus read from the Isaiah scroll?  Jesus made it clear to everyone who he was and what his calling was.  He let them know he was set apart.
Just as Jeremiah, Zechariah, Moses, Gideon, Isaiah and Jesus were called and set apart, so are you.

As we come to the table today, know that God loves you and wants you to receive the grace offered to you.  Whatever God is currently calling you to do, may you have the courage, strength, and boldness to say “yes”.

You are set apart to live into a calling only you can.  May you live out your calling in trust and obedience so that you fulfill the mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world.



Recorded sermon from Flintstone UMC

Recorded sermon from Simpson UMC