"Selective Hearing Never Works"

Printed Meditation By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - February 7, 2010

Isaiah 6:1-8; Luke 5:1-11

     The scene described in Luke’s Gospel lesson today is the one where Jesus climbed into Simon Peter’s boat in order to teach a large crowd that had gathered at the shoreline.  After preaching, he instructed Peter to take the boat into deeper water and begin fishing.  Peter told Jesus that his crew had fished all night and had no luck, but they lowered their nets anyway.  They caught a large number of fish.  Jesus used this experience to teach Peter and the others, “You catch fish now, but I will teach you how to catch people by becoming their teachers.” 

     This same story was used by the writer of John’s Gospel to illustrate a similar lesson.  John placed this same incident as happening during Jesus’ third appearance to the disciples following his crucifixion.  The writer mentioned that there were 153 fish caught and he wrote that Jesus had prepared a dinner of fish and bread for his disciples before the others came ashore.  After they had eaten Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”  After Peter’s response, Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:1-19) 

     The story of the large catch of fish was linked with Jesus’ instructions to become a light in darkness, to become the teachers of others who are struggling with how to interpret their life issues and to remain a human point of reference for all that Jesus had taught them.  

     In spite of where this story was placed in Jesus’ ministry, what becomes clear is that Jesus was not asking to remain the center of their lives; he was sending them forth to teach others how they could be agents of change that would eventually transform societies all over the world.  Isn’t this what has happened in our country in spite of how divided the witness of Christians has been? 

     When I am walking through the halls of our church during the day, I often see groups of children walking to music class or headed outside to play.  Each class illustrates why America has become the great melting pot for all the world’s races and cultures.  We can be proud that St. Matthew’s is playing a role in continuing to bring children of all races together in an environment that assumes that we are all one.      

     In spite of prayer being taken out of schools and some communities having problems with public displays at Christmas of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the shepherds and wise men, the imprinting of what Jesus asked his followers to do has already been made. It is now our turn to imprint future generations. 

     While there will always be others who don’t get it, Americans, for the most part, understand a spirit of community.  We are the most generous nation in the world, we have churches, synagogues and mosques in many communities and we have individual freedoms that are the envy of countless cultures that are still ruled by fear. 

     As a nation, Americans did not develop this consciousness and our values easily or overnight.  We have to remember the same thing Jesus’ followers understood -- we walk forward trusting that God’s spirit will inspire humanity to continue moving toward the horizon of promise so that one day the world’s people will see themselves as one.

     All around us we see pockets of people who compromise the values most of us understand.  A good example occurred a week ago when the University of Maryland basketball team played at Florida State.  In the stands students were holding up signs that said, “Send the Mexican back home.”  “Deport Vasquez.”  The Maryland star, Greivis Vasquez, said after the game that he was surprised by the ethnic slurs.  What is remarkable is that only a small minority of people in our country would support such ignorance.  Besides, Greivis is from Venezuela.     

     In spite of the vast diversity in beliefs among the Christian family, the essentials of what Jesus taught have produced a remarkable nation that has become a witness to the rest of the world’s people of what is possible.  Even though the teachings of Jesus have become invisible to the understanding of many Americans, those insights and values became the foundation upon which our nation was built.  The consciousness that Americans have developed through the centuries is our greatest invisible export to other lands.  

     When we look at Africa’s separate countries and examine the numerous nations that are part of Europe, we recognize that we have 50 individual states that have formed a common consciousness of what it means to be in community. 

     The Preamble of our Constitution tells how the consciousness of Americans came to be -- “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  

     The Preamble and the document that follows is one of the most remarkable national statements that exist in the world.  Again, becoming the leaven for the loaf was what Jesus sent others to do.  Think of the possibilities of establishing The United Nations of Africa!

     While the often stated mission of the Christian Church is to save souls, Jesus’ mission was to create an environment where the consciousness of love and peace would become the new foundation from which human responses are made.  Jesus wanted people to realize their potential because all of us were created in the image of God.  

     Jesus brought something much greater than individual salvation; in fact, the Church’s mission was never mentioned in the prayer he taught his disciples.  Even while experiencing excruciating pain, Jesus saw the vision of a new day when he said, “Father, forgive them, they do not understand what they are doing.”  He knew even then that most people were living in ignorance of their true identity. 

     For years the Church has engaged in selective hearing.  The Church has wanted people to gather around its message rather than what Jesus was preaching.   Jesus instructed his followers to go and make disciples of all nations by teaching others what he had taught them.  He asked that they help others to become part of a community where inclusiveness and loving energy patterns reign so that a day will dawn when everyone, everywhere will live in peace.   

     This process will take a while, but if Jesus saw it, we must have hope that one day his vision will be made visible through the lives of people living in the future.  Until then, we must do our part to live that vision now and let the details for the future of the world’s people up to God.


      We thank you God for awakening us through the life and teachings of Jesus.  His words of invitation cause us to think before we speak, to empathize before we judge and to place compassion toward others above self-interest.  We confess that moments come when the demands of the world motivate us to play smaller than you created us to be.  We want the power of letting go of hurts while often find the ability to forgive eluding us. We want integrity to be visible in our character, but we know how often we prefer expedience.  We want to take responsibility for our attitudes but also know the times when it is much easier to blame others for how we feel.  Touch our minds and hearts so that your call to us becomes unmistakably clear.  You have given each of us many distinctive gifts.  Inspire us to share them as Jesus invited us to do.  Amen.


     With humble and grateful hearts, O God, we have come into your presence to celebrate life and the vast number of possibilities you have given to us to reach for the stars. We have learned that we can do that through our vocational pursuits, our choices and our willingness to take risks.

     Thank you for our confidence to step into the darkness that many unknowns represent, knowing that we no longer need to fear what our imaginations can easily create. Thank you for teaching us how to release to you the outcome of our next surgical procedure, our business decisions, the transitioning of those who were once an intimate part of our world or our choice of life's next adventure.

     Help us to move beyond the right and wrong of what is appropriate so that we can think in terms of how best to serve, how best to make a positive difference, and how best to redefine what it means to be a follower of Jesus so that our lives represent your presence in what we do.  Inspire us to play big, to wear more smiles, to bring more laughter and to spread more joy – qualities which will brighten up our corner of the world.

     Thank you, God, for enabling us to sing our song. Together our church family produces harmony that invites others to sing too. We pray these thoughts of thanksgiving in the spirit of Jesus, who taught us to say when we pray . . .