Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
The Rev. Elizabeth R. Broyles
BCP – Epiphany 5 C - Sunday 04 Februay 2007
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
When I was in undergraduate school, I enjoyed a group of close friends that spent innumerable hours together. We sat in the student center talking about all manner of things. We were very serious about these conversations. We were sharpening our intellects–and our tongues.
Then there were the times we delighted in being silly.
One winter night we were at a party at the home of one of the women’s boyfriends. Three or four of us took up residence in the room for the coats, sitting on the floor. Each time someone would come in, several of us would say [whining]
"Oh no, not another coat!
Oh no, another scarf too!
Oh no, she has mittens!"
Imagine the distress of the host!
I will spare you the variations on whining that we tortured party guests with that night.
I hear a bit of whining in the Gospel today when Jesus tells Simon to put out into the deep water and let down the nets for a catch.
"Master, We’ve worked all night long, but have caught nothing."
All night casting nets; all night nothing.
And Jesus wants him to go back out there.
Simon’s protest was justified.
Why bother if there is not a fish in sight?
Sometimes we, too, work all night long without a catch.
When do you have the experience of your net coming up empty? When have you-or, do you–work very hard at something, repeatedly, with the sense that it makes no difference? That you have failed? That you have been failed by the circumstances, by other people, by God?
Perhaps with a son or daughter who is troubled–or in trouble. Nothing you try yields results.
Perhaps at work there is an unreasonable set of expectations you cannot fill. Or an employee that you cannot supervise well.
Perhaps you have been chipping away at a personal character flaw with no difference in sight.
Perhaps you hear the Spirit calling you to act, to respond, to change, to love more or differently in your Church. To move into mission or confront some problems. Fear or anger block the way.
Sometimes that night seems very long and the net terribly empty.
Why put the nets down again, indeed?
Why take the boat back into the deep waters of disappointment, worry and sense of failure?
I hear an echo of an end-of the line response my mother made:
after all the arguments I could muster:
"Because I said so."
Only it isn’t Jesus using this; Simon comes back with a variation on that:
"IF YOU SAY SO."
When it seems useless, sometimes the best reason to continue along the difficult way is IF YOU SAY SO.
I’ve been at this for a dog’s age,
Yet if you say so, Jesus, I will do it anyway.
Maybe not happily. We do not necessarily have to like it.
With God, whining is allowed.
God has a lot higher tolerance for it than we do.
Let’s follow Simon’s example, though: He moves right through whining, right through resistance, to willingness to take action that matters.
Like Simon we can allow ourselves to find out what Jesus has in store
Abundance beyond the imagination.
Acceptance beyond our hopes.
And belief in us that is beyond our–well, beyond our belief.