Sitting on the dock of the bay

Sitting on the dock of the bay “Wasting Time”

Matthew 4:12-23

A few years back and being a collector of “things” I noticed that Elvis Presley’s personal bible was being sold and should I have been from another echelon of personal wealth,acquiring it would have certainly taken my fancy. That was never going to happen but just reading of it said something of the man himself where after having underlined a certain piece of scripture he had written on the side that “to be judged on a particular sin is like picking a single wave in the ocean”.

Elvis changed the world with his take on rock and roll, yet underneath it all his first and probably greatest musical love was Gospel songs and I still remember listening to one of those records in my grandma’s house when I was four or five years old. Later in life, I remember after his death his pastor saying that Elvis struggled his whole life wondering and asking God why He gave a man such as him the talent of such a voice.

Recently, without notice and put on the spot I was asked of what I had learnt in my first years in ministry and the first thing that came to mind was the reality of evangelising in our current times where the words from Luke 15:10 not only describe to me both reality of the roadblocks we face but also the gravity of what’s at stake as we are told “that there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents”.

The picture and reality of the heavens rejoicing in song for each person who turns to God leads one to ask like Elvis did of his golden voice, why me, why such as us have we been blessed with the glorious gift of faith. Said so well in song by Johnny Cash when he asks:

“Why me Lord, what have I ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures I’ve known…Or the kindness you’ve shown…. Tell me Lord, if you think there’s a way I can try to repay all I’ve taken from you. Maybe Lord, I can show someone else what I’ve been through myself on my way back to you”.

Lyrics of life that sit so well with the Johnny Cash story that I am certain have led many others to access Christ in their own lives and never underestimate His love so great. Yet ironically, while this song was written specifically of John’s life, it was not written by him but by Kris Kristopherson who at the time was yet still to be acknowledged for the fine song writer he was to become, and so in not being able to get an appointment with John to give him his song, and that legend has it that he hired a helicopter and arrived at John’s door with demo tape in one hand and a bottle of whisky in the other somehow speaks to me about the magnitude of the Lord’s love for His people displayed in and with us when we least expect it or even understand it.

Elvis, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristopherson and the like, while not as obvious as a Billy Graham, a Wesley or a Luther, were even if they did not realise it themselves were in their own way fisher of people for the Lord as we see in them their awareness of, living in and clinging to the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Why me Lord? “Or “Why Lord?” is a question that is asked when the storms of life threaten to crush us, yet those same questions can be asked when we contemplate the miracle of faith given to us.

“Why me Lord?” I wonder if those fishermen in today’s Gospel asked that when asked to leave everything and follow Jesus. I wonder when suffering persecution those same men then asked the question again and after seeing the raised Son of God and knowing of their own shortfalls in abandoning Him prior, I’m sure that question would have been greater than ever if by then they had not come to know who Jesus was, what He stood for and the greatness of His unearthly and never ending love for all who walk this earth.

Like the apostles, the Christian Church is given the command to “Go therefore, and teach all nations (and all people) baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.

When getting taught things in my previous employment I always liked the “KISS” method in keeping it simple and often after I few minutes I would stop my instructor and say please don’t assume I know anything about this, thus so treat me like a five year old (because it won’t insult me, but help me).

“Go and teach all people of Christ and baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” seems pretty straightforward, yet like you can “take a horse to water but not make him drink” I think we all can attest to the same in our efforts of evangelising and while that may lead us wonder why things are not seemingly happening, we have no need to wonder what’s going on, because we know, that as with us, the Holy Spirit does not tire in effort that the truth of the Lord be heard and felt by those in faith, hanging onto faith or yet to experience it.

Teach, preach and baptise is our call and yet the only control we have is to throw the truth of Christ, the seed of Christ to the world and trust not in ourselves but that those seeds will land in fertile ground. The fertile ground that though to us may seems harsh and barren, for all we know may have  been prepared long before we came along through people we may never know and through ways we could not even have contemplated.

God does indeed seem to work in mysterious ways and what a blessing when he does and the shouts of joy abound in heaven as another hears his call. Mysterious ways that are God’s and God’s alone as we as mere mortals are mostly only asked to keep it simple by hearing the Word, living the Word and sharing it and our lives with those he brings before us.

In my previous employment I was working in a large department of a large organisation that had placed upon it sometimes, often unreasonable expectations. These unrealistic key performance indicators always resulted in the latest hired gun with an ascent being moved on and leaving behind a workforce completing their duties in spite and fear rather than thanks and gratitude.

It was an at times torturous soul sapping workplace. Enter CEO number four thousand who upon arrival met with our section of the leadership team of about nine members and talked at length about his plans to bring respect, ownership and an enjoyable workplace to those on the “shop floor”. I thought finally and as luck would have it, after having talked with him publicly in the meeting, not more than thirty minutes later I came upon him in the office space and as our eyes caught contact and I started raising my hand to formally introduce myself, he looked the other way and kept walking as if I was invisible. Yer right.

Two years later enter CEO number four thousand and one. Same job, same unrealistic and unachievable goals and eventually same outcome as number four thousand and two was being “head hunted”.

Yet this man was different and in one of our leadership training courses after his demise and after re-hearing the same principles that we had heard from the past bevy of trainers I made an observation of our recent removed CEO where I said what was different on the floor was that while their sometimes realistic expectations were the same, not once did I hear them blame him and when he was eventually given notice, they actually felt empathy for a good bloke given a rotten job. Asked why this was so I said that as far as those on the floor, the only difference was that he always acknowledged them with a friendly hello or goodbye.

After the trainer had publicly ridiculed me in front of my colleagues I did agree that there is a lot more to leadership but I did remark that being friendly and accepting people how they are might be a reasonable place to start. Previously I felt like the invisible man and now I seemed to be speaking in some strange dialect.

That sometimes the simple and seemingly peripheral things of life are actually the point can be hard to comprehend and after finally agreeing to taking my son Josh fishing when he was very young, it didn’t take long till a repeated question was being asked “how long till we catch a fish”, which was probably fair enough because we could see them there swimming past our hook and occasionally nibbling on a floating cigarette butt. .

I few hours later and leaving fishless I mentioned that when fishing I always look at it as a time of rest and when with another, a great way to spend the day chatting and spending time with them and should a fish be caught, it’s like a bonus. As we left the wharf I saw a few nods of approval although when loading the car with our gear and hearing Josh state that he at least expected to “catch an old boot” left me wondering.

Like Jesus walked past four fishermen and asked them to follow him he asks the same of us. For most, not that we re-invent the wheel or spend our lives in a monastery, but that we keep it simple by trusting in the truth that we are saved in Christ alone and have eternal life and that in the truth of what he has done for us on the cross and in our lives, He too has done for others, wants to continue to do for others, and wants them to know it as they come to know Him.

We are to be fisher of people for our Lord and saviour and though we may not be seeing the results as the disciples in the book of acts, we trust that as He did to us, should we do likewise and share the gift of the Gospel in action and words to those regardless of status high or low, of nationality or any human division, that in accepting them, they may accept Him and should in of our actions the seed land on the ground prepared by Christ and through others and we see that the heavens are rejoicing yet again like at that hour when we first believed, we too rejoice knowing that though they may still suffer and celebrate in equal portion, we know that as Christ suffered and celebrated with them in the past when they knew His grace not, that Christ will certainly in need suffer and celebrate with them again to ensure that they follow that grace home, and that as we fish, still standing on the wharf as the fish seem to pass us by unnoticed we do not need to concern ourselves as our concern is not that we are on the wharf without result, but that we simply remain on that wharf recasting our line.  Amen.