Life in the Unexpected

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Introduction:

On April 11, 1970, 3 men set off on an adventure. They were the Apollo 13 crew, and their adventure was to be the 3rd manned moon-landing. Their spacecraft looked like this (picture). The main module (the Odyssey) was designed to be their home for the journey to and from the moon and attached to that was the “lunar module (the Aquarius) that would allow 2 of them to land and lift off the moon (picture). A little over two days into the flight, they contacted NASA with these now famous words: “Houston, we have a problem”

Now that was something of an understatement. What they’d had was an explosion. Exposed wires had set off an explosion that destroyed one oxygen tank and damaged a 2nd. Now, they still had enough oxygen to breathe, but those oxygen tanks were also used to power the fuel cells in the main craft. With those tanks gone, the fuel cells would be increasingly depleted to the point where the crew would never be able to make reentry into earth’s atmosphere. BUT, if they could power down the Odyssey and then move into the landing module… they just MIGHT make it home.

But that created a new problem. The landing module wasn’t designed to hold 3 men that long. The biggest issue was CO2. The lunar lander was equipped with scrubbers designed to clean the air for 2 men for 2 days…not 3 men for a 4-day trip. If something wasn’t done soon, the constantly increasing CO2 in the landing module would poison their air and they’d die long before reaching home again.

Now you’d think: Why didn’t they just change the filters on the scrubbers?

Well, they would have, except they didn’t have any that shape. The scrubber filter in the lander was round… but the spare filters they had were square. (picture). They literally had to fit a square peg into a round hole.

NASA worked round the clock to find a solution. Ultimately, they came up with a jimmy-rigged contraption made of, duct tape (yes they had duct tape on board), cardboard, plastic bags and hoses from their space suits (picture). The crew followed NASA’s instructions… and made it safely home. Apollo 13 was 1000’s of miles away from home. The crew was in a hostile and unforgiving atmosphere. But they survived because they had been trained. And they survived because they asked for the help of mission control. Thus, they overcame the impossible and they survived where ordinarily they would have died.

This historical moment in the lives of the crew of Apollo 13 is reminiscent of where the disciples found themselves in the early days after the death and resurrection of Christ. They were floating in the dark expanses of space, wondering what is happening, and hoping there is an answer.

Movement 1:

The disciples have been on quite the journey.  They have been captivated by a man from Nazareth named Jesus and left everything to follow Him. It really was like living a movie – they are snatched up into this incredible story, filled with growing popularity, miracles, an extensive travel schedule, and more.

Then it comes crashing down as their leader is killed in the worst possible way. They are fearing for their own life and they scatter. Then Jesus is no longer in the tomb, he has been raised from the dead and he visits them. As we heard last week – he appeared behind locked doors with a message of peace and encouragement. They believe and are sent with the power of the Holy Spirit with the message of the Messiah.

But just a short journey into this new faith – just like Apollo 13 – the disciples are faced with “A PROBLEM”.

They are terrified and confused and wondering if they will be next to hang on a cross, even though Christ has appeared to them.

Here we are a few weeks after the resurrection the disciples are still tempted to hang out in the tomb. Imagine they are looking around, trying to figure out how Jesus got out or how someone got in to steal the body. They see the grave clothes and look out and the stone is not there but they sit down again, replaying the past week over and over again in a state of disbelief.

After gathering behind closed doors for a couple weeks, they try to get back to life as normal and head to the Sea of Tiberias. John 21 records this story and they go out on the water to fish. All night long they wait and they do not catch a single fish.

I love getting out on the water. It is always so peaceful and serene to sit in a boat and hear the gentle breeze, and the sound of the water.

It was probably a much needed time for these men. Times of talking. Times of silence. Times of listening.

As they cast their nets and hear the sound of the sails in the wind, what was going through their minds? They clearly had a lot to reflect on.

The dawn breaks and still no fish. I really can’t believe that they lasted all night without catching something. I have a hard time after 5 casts into the water.

Movement 2:

But here we see this story after the disciples have been fishing all night without catching a single fish.

Starting in verse 4, this is the rest of the story.

At dawn, Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied.

Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it. Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire and some bread. 10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn. 12 “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. 14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.

Once again Jesus appears to His disciples and they do not recognize Him at first. A stranger standing on the shore shouts out to try something different. If you had fished all night without a catch, I imagine you would be eager to try anything as well.

Much like the disciples who are figuratively wandering around the empty tomb, here in this text, they are literally fishing on the wrong side of the boat. They didn’t have fish finders back then but you would have thought that they would have tried it in the previous 8-10 hours that they had been fishing.

But they didn’t. They were bound and determined to catch fish with their nets right where they have them. And here walks out a man and asks them to change what they were doing.

Often we are so focused on what is right in front of us that we lose sight of everything around us. We get so focused on the grave clothes, we get so focused on the task and need to catch fish to eat and sell that we become blinded – blinded by misplaced priorities, obedience, and even our worship… We have our nets on one side of the boat and Jesus asks us to put our nets on the other side.

What is keeping us looking to the wrong side, what is keeping us wandering around the empty tomb when Jesus is not there?

Jesus sees us, he knows right where we are and what is capturing our attention in such a way that it is keeping our eyes focused apart from Him. But he gently calls us to simply pick up our nets and try them out on the other side.

Movement 3:

Peter, being one of those who was fishing, then has a personal encounter with Jesus.

15 After breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.

18 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others[f] will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”

Peter understood Christ’s call on the boat to change where he was looking. No longer could do what he had done in his youth but Christ was calling him to the deepest commitment, to love. He had professed his willingness to follow yet denied Christ 3 times. Now there were to be no more denials.

This past week was I was at the Oregon Pacific District NMI Convention. NMI stands for Nazarene Missions International and is the organizational arm of the Church of the Nazarene that overseas mission work around the globe, having a presence in over 160 world areas.

It was inspiring to hear one of the missionaries talk openly about his struggles with doubt, struggles with a change in pace of ministry – from being busy to not busy and how we are trained to equate that with value. Struggles with an understanding of what Christ really meant when he said, “follow me”.

We have been talking about that very thing as well. What does it really mean to follow Christ – to breathe out this faith? The missionary continued and began to tell about the last 5 years of relearning what it means to be a disciple and what it means to live your life not just in a vocation as a minister but actually live your life as a disciple.

Many times we have confused our mission in the world with being busy.

We wear it as a badge of honor a lot of times. People say, oh I know you are so busy but…

We like to have a full calendar because it makes us feel like we have important things going on in our lives.

But what happens is we push God out of the equation, we push the very life that we are called to live as a Christian out of the picture.  We eliminate any margin in our life.

If we are to live as Christ calls us to live, we must do so with margin, this white space with nothing in it in every area of our life so that when God calls, we can respond freely.

Movement 4:

Peter thankfully is willing to accept in the deepest sense the call to follow Christ. He is willing to create the space, the margin in his life to accept the mission of God in the world.  He appears in the book of Acts in chapter 2 before a crowd of people and this is what he says…

Acts 2:14, 36-41 (NLT)

 “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. 36 “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” 37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away[a]—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 40 Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” 41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

As Jesus called Peter, Peter calls this crowd and us to something deeper. He declares, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”

Before Peter in John 21 and the crowd we find in Acts could embark on the mission that Christ was sending them, they had to respond to this call.

Hearing all these things, the crowds who heard Peter’s sermon were “cut to the heart.”  The crowds were not defensive or combative, not clinging to the trappings of death, but eager to shed their grave clothes.  They ask Peter and the other apostles, “What should we do?” (2:37).  How can we leave this behind us?  How can we follow this Jesus whom death could not contain? 

 

His response is direct—Repent and be baptized, so your sins may be forgiven. 

The disciples and the 3000 refused to just exist in the empty tomb, alone and afraid. They chose freedom in Christ and community over isolation.

Before we can ever embrace the mission of God, we have to respond to this invitation.

Repent is the Greek word metanoeo, which literally means to change your attitude toward God, sin, the world, yourself.

It is a complete change of your heart and mind and rearranges your life. The focus and priorities shift and margin appears to make room for the move of God through you.

 

Conclusion:

The disciples, just like the crew of Apollo 13, faced a hostile and unforgiving atmosphere. They had unexpected difficulties arise, yet they are quick to respond to Jesus’ call to repent, to follow, to accept the call of God to preach the Good News of Christ.

The first act in accepting the mission of God in your life is to change and turn more fully towards God. If we as individuals ever want God to use us, it begins with being able to surrender everything. It means saying no to the temptations of this world because you love God more. What are those temptations and sins in your life that are pulling on your love for God and hindering the mission he has for you?

Maybe busyness is your vice to keep distracted and to feel valuable. Perhaps self-gratification through the allure of sex, fantasy, and pornography. Or yet, maybe you speak ill of those around you, gossip, cast a negative shadow over others by your words. Or maybe it’s a substance that is gripping you and choking out God – drug and alcohol abuse. Or perhaps it is not committing a sin but its choosing not to do what God is asking you to do.

There are so many ways that the evil one tries to get us focused on the other side of the boat and Christ is quietly calling us to turn and to focus on the other side.

It’s his kindness that leads us to repentance and he is patiently, and lovingly, standing on the shore calling us to follow Him, repent, and love Him with all that we are.

Response:

Are you trying to live your life as a circle when God is asking you to be a square?

Are you listening? Do you feel him speaking to you?

Are you going to believe?

Are you going to surrender and repent?

Jesus is standing beside you, asking you to follow. “Do you love me?” he asks. If you do you will listen, believe, and repent.

How can we leave this behind us? How can we follow Jesus?

Then God will be able to use you and work through you.

Breathe Out
Breathe Out
Breathe Out