Summary: God reveals himself to us in common, mundane times. When he does, we become aware of God’s holiness and our sinfulness and we are forever changed.
Luke 5:1-11 “Career Change”
Where do we go to encounter God? This question has been debated and attempts made to discover the answer for centuries. Some people have followed the example of John the Baptist and traveled the deserts and wildernesses of the world. In the middle ages, it was popular to enter a monastery or convent. When I was growing up, in the sixties, many thought that the path to god was through drugs. Today we have New Agers making pilgrimages to Sedona and its vortices.
Better places to encounter God may be found in worship services, Christian retreat centers, or Bible camps. Certainly it is our prayer that everyone encounters God in our worship services at Desert Streams. I personally appreciate the ministry of retreat centers and avail myself of them every chance I get. Thousands upon thousands of Christians had encountered God as young people during a week at a Bible camp.
None of these places rank in the top five places in Scripture.
The story of Jesus and the calling of the disciples reminds us that most often we encounter God in the mundane activities of life. The disciples were cleaning their nets. Moses encountered God in a burning bush while he was tending sheep. Paul had his encounter with God when he was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus in order to persecute more Christians. Luther encountered God traveling during a stormy night.
For the residents of a sub-division called Amor de Christo, they have seen God as they worked with hundred of others who built them their homes through Habitat for Humanity. Others have caught a glimpse of God while walking for cancer. People have experienced God in the scores of casseroles that were baked for them when a loved one died, the cards and letters they received during a difficult time, or in the words and actions of a co-worker.
Two small groups that I participate in every week ask the question, “Where have you seen Jesus this past week? It is a question that encourages the proper perspective on life. God is not a distant God. The God whom we worship is here among us. We need to be attentive to that reality and see the world through the eyes of faith.
HOLY GOD/SINFUL HUMANKIND
Peter’s response to catching the shoal of fish catches us by surprise. “Wow,” “Cool,” or “Awesome,” might be possible responses that we would make. Peter asks Jesus to leave because Peter is a sinful person. God’s goal in revealing himself and his glory to us is not to impress us, or entertain us. God reveals his glory in order to draw us closer to him.
When we encounter God we are immediately aware of God’s holiness. At the same time, we become aware of our sinfulness. Peter isn’t the only example in Scripture of this truth. When Isaiah was called to be a prophet (Isaiah 6) he responded to see the Lord fill the temple by saying that he was a man of unclean lips. Paul, perhaps the greatest theologian and missionary of the Christian church identified himself as the chief of sinners.
Mature Christians are not those who strut around in their self-righteousness proud that they are such good people who have so few sins to confess during their times of prayer. True mature Christians are a humble crew. As they grow in their relationship with God, they are more and more aware of God’s grace, love, and holiness, and of their sinfulness. These “saints” are constantly aware of their need for Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and they cultivate an attitude of gratitude for God’s gracious, unmerited movement in their lives.
CHANGE OF DIRECTION
There is a third consistent element in God’s revelation, or epiphany, to us. Not only does it usually occur in the mundane, and cause us to be awesomely aware of God’s holiness and painfully aware of our sinfulness, but there is also a change in the direction of our lives.
Peter, Andrew, James and John, didn’t continue in their fishing enterprise and bore their families and fellow fishermen with tales of the great number of fish that they caught—their number and size increasing daily. Rather they left their boats and followed Jesus along a path that they did not know where it would lead. They certainly didn’t think it would end at the cross and an empty tomb.
Moses stopped tending sheep and became a leader of his people. Paul stopped persecuting Christians and became the greatest advocate for Christ. Luther dropped his law studies and became a priest and a leader of the reformation.
When we see Jesus, we might realize that we haven’t been living in a relationship with him, and chose to accept his forgiveness and his offer of a new relationship with God. We might experience God and become aware of other gods—gods of this world—in which we have placed our faith and trust. Encountering Jesus may make us aware of our refusal to take up our cross and follow him, or our decision to love only a select few and to be harsh and judgmental with others.