16 Feb Excuses, Excuses
Sermon: “Excuses, Excuses”
Scripture: Psalm 138 and Luke 5: 1-11
February 16, 2020
One day nine soldiers were late for morning roll call. As a matter of fact, the first soldier didn’t arrive until 7 PM. The Commanding Officer confronted him and yelled, “Where have you been, soldier?” The soldier explained. “Sir, I had a date and missed the bus. So, I hired a cab then it broke down. I went to a farmhouse and bought a horse. Ten miles from camp the horse fell over dead. So, I walked the last ten miles and just arrived, sir.” The CO wasn’t happy but thought to himself, that’s the most creative excuse I’ve heard in a while. So, he let the soldier off with a warning. Oddly enough, the next 7 guys came with the same story: they had a date, missed bus, the cab broke down, dead horse, walked ten miles. When soldier number 9 came back the CO was fuming. The soldier said, “Sorry, sir, I had a date and missed the bus, so I hired a cab…” “Don’t tell me,” the CO yelled, “It broke down.” “Oh, no, sir,” the solider replied. The cab was fine… It’s just that there were so many dead horses in the road that we couldn’t get through.”
When I was a financial advisor, I began to realize a pattern forming among many of my clients. After we would talk and I would recommend investing in a financial product I often heard, you know David this sounds good, but I not going to invest any money today. One day I will get around to it. At lunch I shared my story with a more seasoned financial advisor. He simply chuckled and said that he had heard that excuse too. After lunch he came into my office and said, next time someone tells you that they will invest when they get around to it. Hand them this. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a round silver dollar size piece of wood. I examined the small piece of wood and it read “one round to it.” This was genius. The next time someone said I’ll invest one day when I get around to it. I simply reached in my pocket and handed them… one round to it. In other words, no more excuses.
Don’t you just love excuses? We are all good at making them. Everyone has an excuse. Some are good, and some are ridiculous. Why do we make excuses? We think excuses absolve us of our responsibility to participate in some project or event. We can think of many biblical examples of excuses. Abraham thought he was too old to have a child. Jeremiah, the prophet thought he was too young to communicate God’s message. Moses thought he was unable to do God’s work. He gave multiple excuses: he wasn’t a good public speaker; the Israelites wouldn’t accept him, and many others. Fortunately, for us, all these people got past their excuses.
So, how can our excuses keep us from a complete, fulfilling spiritual walk with Jesus? The fisherman in today’s scripture had ample opportunity to provide Jesus with excuses. As we read this morning, the crowds are growing and are beginning to press in on him because people are trying to hear what he is saying. As it turns out, along the lakeshore close to Capernaum where Jesus was, there is a sequence of inlets, a sort of zigzagging shoreline with each inlet forming a sort of natural amphitheater. Jesus knows that if he can get in a boat and push out from shore just a bit, he will be able to talk in a regular, normal voice, and everyone will be able to hear him much better. As luck would have it, there were a few fishermen with boats nearby. They had been out fishing all night and they were busy cleaning their nets and putting away their gear. Then Jesus calls to one and asks him to take him out in his boat so he can continue teaching the people. After Jesus was done teaching the crowds, he looks over to Simon (we know him as the Apostle Peter) and says, go out a little further to the deep water and cast your nets. Now, even the most novice of fishermen know that fishing in broad daylight is pointless. The best times to fish are late into the night, or very early in the morning, which, as it turns out, is exactly what Simon and his companions have been doing all night with no luck. So, you can imagine Simon’s hesitation when Jesus tells him to row out and cast the nets again.
Simon had just come off a long night on the water, the nets have been cleaned and put away, and now Jesus (a carpenter of all things) is trying to tell Simon, the master fisherman, that he needs to cast the nets out and begin fishing again. It’s easy to imagine Simon’s frustration, and the excuses must’ve flowed so easily. He probably said something like “Really, Jesus? I haven’t caught anything all night, I’ve just put my nets away, and you want me to start fishing now? I really don’t want to go through all this again! Why me? You know, James and John are just over there, why don’t you ask them?” But then in the end, Simon complies, and drops his nets. And look what happened the moment Simon dropped his nets into the water. The nets were so full of fish they began to tear, and when he called to his companions for help, their boats were piled so full of fish that they were on the verge of sinking.
So, here’s what we need to ask ourselves this morning. How many times when Jesus has called on us have, we made excuses like Simon Peter? We do it all the time, don’t we? There’s always some reason that we can’t help a friend. There’s always something else going on… that keeps us from running an errand for your spouse. Or, sorry, I can’t help you…it’s cold outside. So, I think I’ll just stay in bed for a few more months until it warms up a bit. We make so many excuses that it’s probably comforting to see that even the disciples made excuses when Christ called upon them. And yet, look at the result. After all the excuses, Simon finally gave in, and look what happened. The Lord wanted to bless Simon after a particularly trying night of fishing, and so he called on him to push out his boat into the deeper waters, and to cast his nets just one more time. And indeed, Simon was blessed with a miraculous catch. Christ wants to bless us too. But in order for that to happen, we have to be willing to offer ourselves to the Lord, not just when it’s convenient… but all the time.
Then we must stop making excuses and recognize the blessings that come through our willing and faithful service to God. And finally, we must be able to step out of our “comfort zones,” and head for the deeper waters.
Have you ever really stepped out of your comfort zone? Have there been times in your life when asked to do something or go someplace that it made you cringe? Here’s an example: Perhaps, the last thing you wanted to do was to attend another meeting with a bunch of people you don’t know. But, you reluctantly relented and went to the meeting. After the meeting concluded you thought to yourself, that meeting wasn’t that bad. There were a lot of nice people here, and I think I may have made a new friend. I used that example because in March there is a 4-day meeting in Boise that I need to attend. And yes, I have exhausted all my excuses. So, I am starting early to convince myself how much fun I will have.
Some time, you might feel Christ is calling you into deeper waters. He may be calling you to become more involved with the poor and homeless, maybe giving them rides to job interviews or helping them find housing or making sure they have the clothes they need. You see, that’s the kind of thing Christ does. He calls us, even to the places that push us beyond our comfort zone.
The Jewish people were not known for their love of the sea. In fact, for many Jewish people, the sea was a dark and scary place. Even the fisherman who lived on the sea held a healthy respect for its power. Going into deep waters isn’t something they would just do without a lot of consideration for the wind and tides and weather. So, when Jesus directs Simon into the deeper waters, Simon must have been a bit apprehensive. Simon was just like us when we get apprehensive when Christ calls us and pushes us to new places and new adventures.
When Christ calls are you willing to go? Are you willing to venture to places with Christ; places that scare you a little bit? Because the thing is, that’s where the blessing really happens. A lot of people say Christians have a faith that is a mile wide, but only an inch deep. Yet, we have an opportunity everyday with Christ to change that perception. But for our faith to be deep, we need be willing to go with Christ to the deep waters. And here’s the most important thing to remember about all this. As Christians, it’s our job to answer Christ when he calls. No excuses.
Sometimes when Jesus calls, He doesn’t always call us into deeper waters. He simply meets us exactly where we are. Jesus came to Simon as he was working, doing what he did every day. Jesus didn’t ask him to do something different. He didn’t ask him to walk 10 miles to the next town or change his profession. Jesus worked with him right there in the same boat with the same nets on the same sea where Simon always worked. In other words, our work and our mission as followers of Christ are not separate events. Christ can meet us where we are every day. Christ can call us to the people we know, and to the people who know us, whether its colleagues or family or friends.
And Christ wants to go to work with us; he wants to help us right where we are because that is where the blessings and miracles are most likely to happen. We can’t ever forget that our job, whatever it may be, is also our mission and our calling. Christ calls us just the way we are, and he calls us to work right where we are today. Jesus climbs in the boat with us; he steps into our lives, our homes, our workplaces, and he says, I want you to come with me. I want you to follow me and do my work. We can try and run from it, we can come up with all the excuses we want, but that doesn’t change God’s call on our lives.
Brothers and Sister please remember this. The good news for us today is we don’t have to be perfect; it doesn’t matter if we’ve made some terrible mistakes in our lives. It doesn’t matter if you think you aren’t qualified or not prepared for the task. So, make today the day where you stop making excuses, trust God, step out in faith, and follow Christ. All you need to do is every morning say to God everything that I have is yours. Put me to work, here I am, send me.
So, where are we today? Are we the ones offering excuses? Or, are we the ones offering the warm hand of friendship to all of those in need? Are we making excuses for our lack of spiritual depth? Are we more occupied by possessions than we are with possessing the Spirit of God? Are we allowing business concerns to get in the way of the concerns of God? When we think we are secure, we begin to make excuses for not doing the work of God. We make excuses for not helping those in need. We come to our church, sit in our padded pews, and think we are doing something great for God. And yet, we make excuses like I can’t help those people. I have my family to think about. Well I’ve got news for you. Every single member of the human race is part of our family. The prostitute on the corner is part of our family. The grumpy guy at work is part of our family. The homeless man standing outside of McDonald’s is a part of our family.
Is there someone at work who bugs you to no end? God loves that person. Is there a neighbor that drives you up the wall? God loves them too. Can’t stand the Republicans? God loves them. Do the Democrats get under your skin? God loves them too. God loves the jailbird, the rapist, and the murderer. Don’t forget, Jesus died for each one of them just like he died for you and me. And here is what really bugs us. God loves the people we don’t like. And that keeps us from answering his call to be the fisherman that he needs us to be.
We are called to be change agents in our world. James 1:22 tells us that we are called to be “doers of the word rather than just hearers of the word.” And Jesus is calling out to each one of us today to follow him.
Now the choice is yours. Are you going to keep making excuses? Or, are you going to let Jesus in the boat… and let him lead you into the deep waters of forgiveness, love, healing, and discipleship? Amen.