February 4, 2007
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
1Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." 5Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets." 6When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" 9For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who are partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." 11When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! The title of our sermon this morning is ďGot Blessings?Ē You know, like ďgot milk?Ē The theme Iíd like to talk about is this: turn your eyes toward your blessings. Turn your eyes toward Jesus.
Where have your eyes been this week? What have you been focusing in on? Itís an important question, because what we focus on, we give power to. What we focus on, we head towards. Have you been focused on some worries? Have you been focused on some anxieties? Have you been focused on some problems in your life? Oh, we all have them, of course. But what are you focused on? What you focus on, you give power to.
Iím inviting us this week to make a special effort to focus on our blessings and focus on Jesus. Your attention is absolutely powerful and extremely valuable. And so, this week, if youíre facing something thatís hard, thatís painful, thatís challenging, or thatís frightening, I invite you to do this one thing: turn your eyes toward your blessings and youíll be headed in the right direction.
Your attention is extremely valuable. That is clear today, because you see, my friends, today is a special day in the Christian year. It is the fifth Sunday after Epiphany, also known as the Feast of St. Super Bowl. Many, many people will be watching television this afternoon, and advertisers know it. Now, Iím not going to preach to you today about the Super Bowl, because that would be a dangerous thing for me to do. For those of you who are new to us, God has blessed me in many ways, but knowledge of sports is something I simply do not have. When God was passing out that talent, I was down in the practice room. I donít know much about sports, but I think the Super Bowl is terrific. Iím going to watch the commercials. How about you? They tend to be a lot of fun.
But speaking of those commercials, advertisers know how valuable your attention is. I hear tell that for 30 seconds of advertising time during the Super Bowl, advertisers are paying somewhere between 3 and 5 million dollars! Can you imagine that? Five million dollars for 30 secondsí worth of advertising? Think of how many houses you could buy for 5 million dollars. Maybe not many in some areas, but even here in New Jersey, you can do a lot with 5 million dollars.
I understand that thereís a gentleman who is going to propose to his girlfriend on the air during the Super Bowl. I donít know if thatís true, but I heard that it was being planned. He was going to put up that kind of money to do the proposal. Well, at least heíll get to watch the game that way, wonít he? I just wonder how the rest of the evening is going to go for them. Either sheíll be thrilled to pieces, or sheíll wonder why he put that kind of money into that kind of enterprise.
The point is, people are willing to spend millions of dollars for a few seconds of your attention. Your attention is valuable. Guard it wisely and well. What you pay attention to, you give power to. Again, Iím inviting us to turn our eyes toward our blessings.
I had a situation not long ago where I suddenly found out about a challenge I had to deal with that was very distracting. It was a business situation that I had to untangle, and it was very distracting and challenging, and I found myself obsessed with it. I could hardly think of anything else except how I was going to find my way through this situation. And in the midst of that obsession, a wonderful thing happened. I had a very special message from the Lord. I happened to put my hands on a card that was given to me by one of you when I was recovering from my cardiac event a year ago. It was beautiful. The words were so tender and encouraging and kind. I read it over several times. And I said, ďThank you, God. Thank you for this uplift. Thank you for pulling my attention away from the problem and focusing instead on the promise.Ē Turn your eyes toward your blessings, and youíll be headed in the right direction.
How do we do it? If you face a challenge this week, how are you going to do it? Please remember three things: past, present, and future. Think about blessings God has given you in the past. Iím wondering if there are pictures in your home, maybe hanging on the wall, of people or times that were very special and that just make you smile. Hasnít God blessed you in the past? Hasnít God done wonderful things for you in days gone by? Iíll bet you thereís a photo album somewhere in your house with pictures that you cherish. Oh, dear friend, the same God who has blessed you so abundantly and richly in the past isnít going to let you go. Your God isnít going to abandon you now. Take a look at the blessings of the past, and rejoice. Let God turn your eyes in the right direction.
Think about the blessings of the present. If youíre going through a hard time, if youíre going through a challenge, take a blessing walk. Take a little walk Ė around your house, around your block, in your neighborhood Ė and think about all the ways that God is blessing you, in the present moment. Can you walk? Can you see? Can you hear? Can you think? You have a heartbeat? Iíll bet you do. Those of us whoíve been challenged in that direction value that especially. Do you have balance? Iíll bet you do. You all walked into church this morning. You have this remarkable thing called balance. Do you know how precious that is? Ask anybody who has ever had to deal with a condition called vertigo whether balance is important. I could go on and on, endlessly. You are blessed in this present moment. Turn your eyes toward your blessings, and you will find a way out of the challenges that face you.
There have been blessings in the past. There are blessings in the present. How about blessings of the future? Look what happened in the gospel this morning. Jesus went to the side of the lake and was teaching folks. He needed some help. He said, ďPeter, can I borrow your boat? I canít address these people in any other way. Iím going to pull out a little from the land and speak with the folks.Ē So Peter gave Him his boat. And Jesus went out on the water and spoke to thousands of people. Frankly, I donít know how He did it. He must have had a very large voice. He didnít have anyone helping Him out with a sound system. He just projected, and He spoke to all those people. When He was done, He looked at Peter, and Peter was sad. He was sad, because he hadnít caught any fish. He was a professional fisherman, and he didnít have any fish to bring home.
Jesus said, ďPeter, cast your boat out into the deep part of the water and cast your nets down for a catch.Ē He didnít just say ďlet your nets downĒ; He said ďlet your nets down, for thereís a catch coming.Ē Watch what Peter said. Peter said, ďLord, we have been fishing all night and caught nothing.Ē Donít you love that? I love that, because thatís what I would have said to Jesus. ďJesus, we tried it and it didnít work.Ē
And then, did you notice the next thing Peter said? He said something inspired and beautiful. He said, ďBut if You say so, Iíll try again.Ē Wasnít that wonderful? That was the flash point; that was the great moment. ďIf You say so, Jesus, I will turn my thoughts away from what didnít work, from what was a failure, from what didnít happen the way it should have, and Iím going to try again.Ē Maybe you need to do that, too. Have some faith in the future.
You know what happened next. Peter set out into the deep water of risk, and he threw down the net, and there were so many fish that he had a whole new problem, ripping nets. I believe thatís what we call a good problem in business. He had the problem of almost-sinking boats, because the bumper crop of fish was so large. He had the problem of needing to call in friends because the blessing was so big. And it was all because he turned his eyes away from the failure and to the blessing and to Jesus.
I hope it will be so for you this week. Whatever challenges you face, my friend, may you be blessed; may you be encouraged; may you be strengthened. And may you turn your eyes away from the problem and to the promise. May you turn your eyes away from the impossibility and to the possibility, away from the difficulty and to the blessing, and to Jesus. Because when you face that way, youíre facing in the right direction.
God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2007 Anthony J. Godlefski