Tag Archives: Aldersgate

Going Fishing!

In the Aldersgate 2013 pre-conference worship service, the Rev. Ric  Wright shared the biblical story of the resurrected Jesus and his encounter with his disciples in John 21:1-14. It starts off in verse two with Peter, who is so wounded by his failure during Holy Week he decides he’s going back to what he knew before he met Christ: “I am going fishing.”

Some of the other disciples have even less idea what to do next, and in an unconscious nod to Peter’s leadership, they decide to go with him fishing. After all, it sure beats the pain and disappointment of their failed venture in the ‘Christian’ life.

But Jesus shows up to thwart their plan to leave this ministry stuff behind them and start over in a different life. Like the hound of heaven, he goes after them before they give it all up. He wants to restore them and renew them in their true calling.

In some divine way, he ensures that they fail at the fishing gig. All night long and they catch nothing. But then, divinely, he helps them remember some of the miracles they had witnessed and participated in while following Him. He tells them to throw their nets over onto the other side of the boat and they are overwhelmed by the catch. Peter catches on right there and eagerly jumps into the water and heads for the shore. Jesus reenacts the multiplication of the fish and the bread (he’s cooking fish before they get there with their newly caught fish). He reenacts the breaking of the bread, the very thing that they had seen Him do on the night in which He was betrayed. In the midst of their confusion about what is next for each of these men, Jesus is restoring their memories as His disciples. He is restoring them as His disciples for the next part of their lives as Christians.

Between Peter jumping into the water and yet before he gets to Jesus, Peter apparently remembered how he had betrayed Jesus. His shame and remorse is overwhelming. He goes back to the boat and starts hauling in the fish and, literally, counting the fish. (There were 153 fish in that net, by the way.) Anything to keep busy enough to not have to face Jesus face-to-face again after failing Him so miserably.

In Wilson’s challenge to each of us, he commented that many of us, like Peter, have memories that still are filled with our pain, our shame, our failures, our hurts, our fears, our jealousies, and our unforgiveness. Those things become barriers that keep us from Jesus, and keep us from stepping into what God wants for our lives.

Jesus directly calls on Peter, and Peter comes, pain and shame and all. Then Jesus, with the fire, the smells, the reenacted miracles, and the three questions about Peter loving Him, takes Peter back to that night of failure and redeems it. He gives Peter another opportunity to face that night, and Peter gets it right this time. Peter is restored as the past is released. He can’t carry his past with him anymore.

So many of us, when we’ve been hurt in the church, opt to retreat back to the ‘easier’ days before we started following Jesus just like Peter here.

If we are hurt in the church, and we successfully avoid the temptation to return to our earlier ‘before-Christ’ activities, many of us still fall by following someone into their escape from the pain of Christian life, like the other disciples in John 21 did.

How many of us carry hurts and pain and shame that keep us from Jesus? And keep Jesus from being able to work in us and through us? He wants to heal us and restore us… but we have to go to Him with our pain and face Jesus as we really are. We have to let go of the things that have separated us from the pain of facing God with our past. Confess it to Him. Ask Him to forgive you. And allow Him to heal, redeem, and restore you in the process.

Aldersgate 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lexington Convention Center, Lexington, KY

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Passing The Mantle

As much as Sunday (3/21) was an awe inspiring kind of day, it followed a really tough day: Saturday, 3/20/2010.

Saturday was the memorial service for the Rev. Dick Burns not far from here in DuBois. I’ve known Dick for about 2 decades, but really started to get to know him well when I was appointed in the DuBois area in 2003.

Being a United Methodist pastor who moves around as part of my ‘job’ means that we don’t get to be near the relatives much. So when we moved here, Dick took our daughter Sarah under his wing and she worked occasionally at the barn with him and the horses. When we dedicated our newborn son in November, it was Dick that we stood before, offering ourselves and our son to Almighty God for Him to lead and guide us as parents and asking for God’s blessing upon our Josh. One of our prized pictures is of Dick lifting Josh up before God in prayer.

He’s preached in our churches. We’ve fellowshipped with he and his wife Wilma Jean over the years. He used to ride with me to Renewal Fellowship meetings from DuBois to wherever the meeting was that time. He was the one who sponsored me to be on the national board of the Aldersgate Renewal Ministries.

My daughter Michele, who was shocked that she actually knew someone with that big of an obituary in the paper, probably said it best the other day: “Dad, he was like a grandpa to me and Sarah.”

Yep. And like another dad-figure for me.

I sat in that funeral service and saw and heard what a great man he was from so many others’ point of view as well. And I walked away realizing that God still has A LOT to do in me. It’s hard not to compare yourself to someone as great as Dick was.

But there was only one Dick Burns. Truth is, I don’t want to be just like him. He had his own style and traits (and guffaws and snorts!). I could never be like Dick was in the physical. God made me differently.

But I do want the infilling and empowering of the Holy Spirit flowing in and through me like Dick experienced.

In the service, Pastor Doug Burns, Dick’s son, compared Dick to Elijah, and so many of us that he poured his life into were compared to Elisha. Elisha was given the chance to walk away and not follow Elijah to the very end. But by sticking with him, Elisha received the double portion of Elijah’s spirit.

Pastor John Zimmerman, Dick’s son-in-law and pastor of the Corry First UMC (where Dick once pastored), invited anyone there who wanted to be like Elisha and ask for a double portion to rise while Pastor John Seth prayed for that ‘passing of the mantle’ like Elisha saw so long ago.

Everyone stood!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Since last Saturday, I’ve been thinking and pondering that experience, their words, and my own reading of the Elijah/Elisha passage which culminates in 2 Kings 2. The truth is that Elijah was never the “coolest” prophet. He spoke harsh words when God gave him a harsh word to be given. He had his own struggles with depression. At the end, he kept claiming that God had sent him first to one place, then another, then a different city altogether. If any of those things were to happen today, our churches, and many of the fellow clergy themselves would deliberately seperate themselves from such a person who claimed he was led, in the big things and in the daily little things as well, by the Holy Spirit, by God Almighty.

Elijah clearly gave Elisha the chance to take the relaxed, easier way of serving God… and he would have been just as much a prophet if he had. He still would have been God’s man for his times.

But Elisha didn’t want to just settle for the comfortable, easily encountered, publically acceptable version of following God. He wanted to be 100% sold out for God, able to be moved by God’s Spirit wherever God wanted to lead him and wanted the “double blessing” of what Elijah had had.

Even as well as I knew Dick and as much as I appreciated him, I didn’t know him even a quarter as well as most of the people that were at Dick’s service of celebration that day. I can’t say if he ever felt any of those things like Elijah did. But I do know that most of us who claim to be Christians now-a-days try to avoid appearing like a ‘fanatic’ who is ‘led around’ by God’s Spirit. That’s weird or strange or ‘holy roller’ kind of stuff.

We would rather be like those 50 other prophets in training who were ‘orthodox’ or ‘ordinary’ in their pursuit of God. I’m sure they served God faithfully and had important ministries to God’s people.

But the young protege to Elijah wanted to build his ministry and service to God on the foundation his mentor had already laid.

I don’t know about others, but I pray that I can not only follow in Elijah and Dick Burns’ path, but also in Elisha’s. I want to know and experience the God who leads and guides in ‘normal, acceptable’ ways AND in the ‘non-traditional, Spirit-led moment-by-moment’ ways as well.

That’s the mantle I want to bear.

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