Sixth Sunday after Pentecost 2011 notes

The more appealing of the two texts this week is the passage (5:1-11) from Luke’s gospel: the story of Jesus, the boat and the overfull nets.

Surely from a Universalist point of view, the idea that Jesus’ promises are overfull is appealing and comforting. But the story needs some consideration before we can get that far. For one, it’s hard for Christians to hear this passage and not think of evangelism. Jesus tells the fishermen to go and fish for men. There will be many pulled in, and it’s easy to leap to a well-populated church.

But I don’t believe that’s what going on here, at least not primarily. First, the idea that grace is a benefit of belonging to the right (Christian) club is antithetical to Christ’s gospel, however common that’s lifted up in big pulpits today. So Jesus isn’t sending out his apostles for some big membership drive: a cosmic version of a PBS telethon with salvation offered in place of tote bags. Instead, it seems to me that the goal is the fullness of life, in concert with God and escaping the peril of sin — a listless state out of communion with God and his will — and also the goal that all should know and enjoy the same. That’s a worthy mission of the church: to give, rather than to receive.

Looking back to Peter’s letter, we get help with the how, including “unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

An aside: it’s not easy to carve out time in a work week to make up sermon notes, but harder still to think like a preacher after having not done so in so long.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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