United Church of Christ

February 10

Lectionary Preaching Notes from the lens of UCC Humanitarian and Development Ministries
(Disaster, Refugee and Global Sustainable Development)

These ministries are made possible by your participation in the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering (UCC)

Year C

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Text: Luke 5: 1-11

Preaching Focus:  Following Jesus means making an impact for the common good that is more than we can imagine.

Interpretation and Informing Stories

The disciples are fishing, without success.  This story like many others has multiple layers of meaning.  There is the physical, that these people who fish for a living, need that catch for their livelihood.  No fish – no income. Jesus steps in and the fish that have eluded them are present in abundance.

In UCC sustainable development ministries, we are part of such experiences in sustainable agricultural work.  In Central America, people need their farms and gardens to produce food in order to live.  When that land does not produce food because climate change has caused drought or violence has made it dangerous to cultivate the land, people suffer.  They need the land to produce food for their livelihood.  When people are brought together to teach each other new cultivation techniques that work in the new drought-prone lands, or when access to a microsavings loan cooperative enables women to gain access to cash for agricultural inputs, the community as a whole is strengthened.  Families have money for uniforms and shoes to send their children to school.  People connect with their neighbors in new ways to depend on each other.  These strong communities have a greater impact than we can imagine.  Communities thrive. Violence is curbed. People can stay in their home countries and not have to risk a dangerous journey north to try to enter the U.S. for asylum. 

The story of disciples and the disciples fishing also has a layer of meaning about where assistance comes from.  In humanitarian work, the danger is that those with access to resources may create systems that exercise power over rather than power with those who need access to those resources.  Whether deliberate or not, the transfer of resources can become disempowering rather than a building up of community. A needs-based mission based on identifying needs and then meeting those needs can be disempowering.  A grace-ful mission, however, identifies strengths and gifts present among a community and seeks new ways that these strengths can be brought together for the building up of community.

Greg Jarrell, in his 2018 book “A Riff on Love,” exemplifies this asset and strengths-based approach to life and faith.  Using his experiences as part of the Enderly Park Community in Charlotte, North Carolina and as a professional saxophonist, Greg writes of abundant community and belonging.  As the book cover notes “Surprising teachers. Tragic losses.  Unexpected gifts.  Every neighborhood has stories and ways of singing the stories of their place.  Start digging in, and you find all sorts of music.  In a neighborhood skilled in improvisation, like Enderly Park, you also discover new ways to sing those songs, and a choir of new kinfolk to sing them with.”  I recommend this book to you for your devotional and activist reading.

Be Thou My Vision

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