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[Sermon] Jesus Sought Me

Pastor Hector Garfias-Toledo + February 18, 2024




Pastor Hector's Lent 1 sermon explores the encounter between Peter and Jesus, emphasizing themes of grace, choice, and transformation. He reflects on Peter's initial reluctance and fear, juxtaposed with Jesus' unwavering acceptance and call to discipleship, illustrating how God sees potential where humans see limitations. We are challenged to recognize the presence of Christ in ourselves and others, to embrace our calling to restore life and strength to those around us.


Transcript

From automatically generated captions via YouTube, with punctuation and paragraphs added by ChatGPT.


Grace to you and peace from God our creator and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our savior. Amen.


That was a great introduction to what we are going to try to do in the next few minutes. But I need to go back a little bit, a few days back in the past week when we were gathered in this place on Wednesday as we began the season of Lent. You may remember that we began this journey of Lent by acknowledging that you and I are in liminal spaces. You and I, our hearts are wondering. Hearts we seek to figure out faith together with this story that we started reading today and we will continue to read during Lent.


In this liminal space, you and I are facing dilemmas. You and I need to make choices. You and I need to respond. The Lord's words and call challenge us and invite us to ponder maybe one important question: What is our response to the overflowing grace of God?


We are going to watch a video that is about four minutes. This is... I sent you the link, and this is the homework that I was talking about earlier. I hope that you had a chance, not because I'm going to grade you or anything like that, but because it prepares us for today. So, I hope that you had a chance to watch it. If you watched it, great. Don't tell the next person to you what you saw. But this is a video from the series "The Chosen," which is the study that the adult faith formation is doing before the service at 9:00 in room 203. And I hope that you have a chance to join them in this study of the series.


And to be honest, this video that I'm going to show you is a video that David Greenlee introduced to the staff last Sunday. And in that discussion that we have when we watch this video, we were talking about something that is important. It is how do we listen to the story in a way that we are able to enter the story without getting into this idea that we need to dissect the story in a logical, intellectual, rational way, but to tell the story, to let the story speak to us.


So, I'm going to ask you that as we are watching this video, just sit back, open up, notice, listen, look for details, be curious about it, and be open to the spirit as the spirit speaks to you. So let's watch this video.



Now, the version that we watched is a little bit different from what we read today because it's based on one of the different gospels, but the point is the same. So, I invite you just to take a moment and just to think, what did you notice? What emotions or feelings or thoughts came to you? What was new when you heard the story?


Again, turn to the person next to you or behind you or and just share quickly what came to your mind, what was your feeling or your emotion with one or two words. Find someone for the next 30 or so seconds. For those of you online, you can write in the chat section what came to your mind, what was in your heart as you watched this video.


All right, now just as popcorn with loud voice, just say what you heard or say what was in your heart or what came to your mind as you were listening and enter the story.


[Congregation shares]


I invite you that after the service, you find each other and continue sharing with one another what it was in your heart as you listened to this story. But before I go, before let me just show you a linguistic interesting fact. What was Peter's profession? Fisherman. In Spanish, the word for fisherman is "pescador." How did he see himself when he faces Jesus? As a sinner. And the word for sinner in Spanish is...


And maybe this is the letter and the words that we need to reflect on today. "Pescador" fisherman, "pecador" a sinner. And there is only one letter that makes a difference, the "s" that perhaps is the letter for Jesus sought me and sought you, and yes, that also can mean "saved." So, let's reflect a little bit on that.


"Go away from me," says Peter. "Lord, I am a sinful man." Maybe Peter was overwhelmed by the fish, by the amount of fish, but I believe that he was also overwhelmed by Jesus who approached him. And as I was thinking about this, I was thinking of Empires and remember that they are living under the domination of the Roman Empire. But I invite you to think of the empires of the world today. An empire is successful when an empire uses the power to dehumanize, to minimize, and to deify people. It is to instill the idea in a person that this person is not capable and is not worthy. And that idea leads people to internalize that idea to the point that they come to believe. A person comes to believe that this person will never be seen as a person. But today, Jesus tells us that Jesus was different, and Jesus saw things and people differently.


Peter's reaction of fear was not because of the bad things that were happening to him or the dangerous experience that he had in that moment, but because God's reckless, abundant love is incomprehensible. Maybe it was too good to be true. And then Peter faces the dilemma, a choice. A choice on the one hand between what he thought that he knew, what he thought that he had control over, and what he thought that he had for his future life. On the other hand, he finds that he needs to choose between that and the challenge to change and live a life that will run completely against all the traditions, all the logic, and all the practices that he knew.


Moreover, he was challenged to detach from the culture that promoted a self-image of unworthiness and victimization. I don't know of you, but for people, maybe like me, who has lived under the subjugation of empires that dominate a culture, it is extremely hard to detach from that internalized idea that we are victims and that that's the way that we are should be.


Peter sees maybe Peter sees Jesus as this powerful Lamb of God, as we heard in the video, the man that they were have been praying for, and he thinks that he's a powerful master just like the Roman Empire Emperor who will reject him and despise him and dispose him. And maybe that's why he says, "Go away from me." He wanted to get rid of Jesus, but Jesus won't go. Nothing will keep Jesus away from Peter. And Peter had to live in this tension. His heart wonders.


As I was thinking of wandering hearts, I came across of something that I probably knew but I forgot because it was so many years ago, but it is related to the time when I was studying trees and wood and paper, etc., in my previous life as a chemical engineer specialized in paper. So this came to me and I found it again. A wondering heart is a fault in timber where the heart of the tree wanders from side to side rather than remaining central. It is caused by sustained strong winds that twist the young tree. And the words that come from that tree are twisted and short-grained and they are not suitable for construction due to the tendency to warp and their weakness, as you can see. However, these trees are good for poles and posts.


One time, I read or I heard these words: God does not call the equipped, but God equips those who are called. Maybe this was going on that day. This story portrays the mystery of God's grace. It makes our hearts wander and as Peter's heart wandered, yet changes us and do not leave us in the pit of despair and victimization.


Jesus tells Peter, "I see in you." Maybe not explicitly, at least in the scripture, but Jesus tells people, "I see in you what you cannot see. I see in you what God needs for the reign of God to continue to go, to unfold, and to reach out to many people." And I believe that this is the invitation for you and for me. And this is the challenge that you and I have is that maybe when we leave this place today, we need to start thinking and how we are going to see in each other what God is doing and the presence of Christ in each other to be able to see in each other and to be able I see in you the world may tell you, but I see in you because when we do that, we will be returning and reminding people that God-given dignity of all people. We will see the Lord in others, and we will recognize that we are neither better or worse than anybody else because God sees in us what God needs for the reign to come and to heal and to transform this world.


Jesus liberates us from the bondage of victimization and the unworthiness inflicted by a society that despises us and disposes us. And Jesus tells Peter, "You will be catching people." And the verb catching in Greek also conveys the idea of catching a life. That, we put it in the context of what we are reading here in the passage today, it can be also translated, "You will be restoring people to life and strength."


Imagine, think, reflect, and what this call that you and I have. We have been called to restore people to life and strength. I see in you. We are sought, we are caught, and we are restored to a life and to strength even with wandering hearts that resist and can embrace the overwhelming grace of God. Jesus comes to us and makes us into useful instruments of God's grace, even though when our hearts and the winds of daily life make our hearts to wander from side to side. Even when our hearts are not in one place, Jesus says, "Come, follow me." And for that, we thank God.


Amen.

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