If You Say So
History is being made today. Not only is this the first Sunday of Black History Month, but Black History and American History is being made today as we prepare for Superbowl 44. Another black coach is about to take his place in the pantheon of greats as he attempts to coach the Indianapolis Colts on to victory. Jim Caldwell will become only the 4th African American head coach to stand on the sidelines during this premier sporting event. But even though our beloved Bears didn’t quite make it this year, it was the
Let me reminisce for a minute. It was February 4, 2007, Superbowl 41; this was the first time in the history of the sport that a black coach had led his team to this championship game. Not only did we have one Black coach, but it’s like God had rigged it so that no matter what, whichever team came away with the victory, on that first Sunday of Black History Month, African Americans everywhere would win. For not only did we see the first Black man to ever coach in the Superbowl, but we will also saw the second to have reached this distinction on the same day. The coach of both teams was endowed with Ebony grace.
I am reminded of a story told by Bishop Richard martin. Bishop Martin told the story of Booker T. Washington who was working in the field in
I am impressed by these 4 coaches, Lovie Smith, Tony Dungy, Mike Tomlin and now Jim Caldwell. Each has coached his team to or won a world championship, something no other African-Americans have ever done in professional football. Tomlin was the youngest coach to ever win a superbowl.
Jim Caldwell even commented, “Obviously, it is no secret that I am a Christian, and I don't hide from that fact at all.” He was quote also as saying, “I do believe that because of faith, often times it will keep you a bit calmer in certain situations. Overall, I think it has certainly taught me a lot about discipline, a lot about commitment in my life -- and it's helping me today as well."
Men of faith; Men who trust in God; The songwriter perhaps expressed it best for these men when he proclaimed:
I trust in God wherever I may be,
Upon the land or on the rolling sea,
For, come what may, from day to day,
My heav'nly Father watches over me.
So it is here, this morning, that life intersects with the scripture, and so I would like to call you attention to the scene at the
By this time the fisherman, including Simon Peter, were tired and perhaps frustrated. They had gotten out of their boats and were getting ready to pack it in when Jesus decided to get into one of their boats. Something happens when Jesus jumps into our boats. Business as usual is not possible when Jesus gets into our boats. You don’t have to curse at and belittle your players to be on top and go to the superbowl when Jesus is in your boat. You don’t have to go and find love in some bottle or crack pipe when Jesus gets into your boat. You don’t need to feel afraid when Jesus gets into your boat. You don’t need to worry about what he said or she said when Jesus gets into your boat. You don’t have to worry about how you weather the stormy seas when you’ve got Jesus in your boat. You don’t have to worry that you are not good enough when Jesus gets into your boat. You don’t even need to worry about your past failures when Jesus is in you boat because all things work together for the good for those who trust in him and are called by his purpose.
Jesus climbed into Simon’s boat, and Simon would never be the same. And so Jesus taught the crowds from Simon’s boat, and after he was done, he gave some fishing tips to the frustrated fisherman. He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch."
Simon is well aware of what is involved in his work. It is not for lack of effort that he comes up empty from the previous night's work. They probably did give it their best shot. But Jesus gives them a pointer; he says if you want to catch some fish, you must go deeper. You cannot expect to remain in shallow water and be successful as a fisherman. You must go deeper. In other words, you’re fishing for something and coming up empty; you want to have successful relationships; you want to feel loved; you want to be successful in life; you want to have life and have it more abundantly; you want to be healed from your hurts; you want peace and joy; you want to catch some fish- Go deeper.
Sometimes all we do is wade in shallow water. We want to keep up some shallow appearance of success when inside we are a mess. Folks ask us how we are doing, and instead of telling them you’re catching hell right now, the shallow response is “fine”. That’s why we can never get the help we need; that we have been fishing for, because we stay so shallow that nobody knows that we are in a crisis.
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.
Simon's initial response is a sign of his lack of faith. "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing." The point is that Simon regards the task as pointless. Without faith, he does not believe that there is more that can be done to change the circumstances of his life. He regards himself as subject to the fate of a bad day on the boat (or at the office or in our homes). But it is more serious than that. Simon is too proud to concede that an amateur like Jesus may actually know more than a professional like himself. And in that pride, he is walled up in his emptiness. His nets are empty. Jesus is asking Simon Peter to trust him. To trust him so much that Simon Peter would be willing to leave the shallow places in his life and in his work and begin to explore the depths; To go to the limits of what he thinks is possible, not only for him but for those all around him. “Go out into the deep water,” says Jesus, “trust me and see what happens.”
But behind the period after Simon’s sentence of selfishness and faithlessness is the hope of a new syntax. Simon says, “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” It is amazing what a little trust will do. It is amazing what a little faith will do. If you say so- Not if you prove it to me before hand or show me the statistics of how much I might expect to catch; If you say so-Not because you’ve given me all the answers to my questions and my problems before I can do it; If you say so, Just because you said it- I trust and believe in you, so I will do it. No questions asked.
My dear friends, what I have come to know and to realize is that a faith which just does because God has said so is a faith without fear. If God’s word says Forgive, then forgive. If God’s word says love your enemies, then love your enemies. If God’s word says go deeper, then we must go deeper. If God’s word says put God first, then put God first.
But we are afraid. Of course, if you look hard enough, there is always something to get frightened about: crime and global warming and nuclear destruction. Then there is cancer, randomly selecting its victims and drug abuse invading our families at unsuspecting times. There is always something to take your breath away if you look for it. But we cannot give our hearts to fear and then waste our lives on the shallow shores of existence, having caught nothing. Jesus says to Simon Peter today, “Do not be afraid.” The economy could get worse, or the warmongers will continue to howl, or social security could run out before we get ours or we may drop dead. Even so, we must face the day with a courage that allows us to trust God just because God said so. “If you say so.”
We cannot behave as though we have no Heavenly Father and continue to wade in the mud of shallow living and the status quo. We can’t lay our religion down like that. Lovie and Tony and Mike and Jim would never have made it this far if they had gone out like that. For we must understand that the “Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear. The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid.” And Lord, if you say so, I will do it.
If all of us had to count on our quick wit and our own feeble strength and the few facts available to our finite mind (my circumstance is that I have been fishing all night and I have caught nothing, so it is impossible for me to catch anything), we may have to go on living with fear. But a believing and trusting child of God has more than that. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Lord, if you say so…
And the bottom line is that when we live an “if you say so” life with God, then we are living a life of faith that has infinite possibilities; superbowl possibilities. For our faith approaches life in other terms all together. The psalmist assures us: “The Lord is my Shepherd, and I shall not want…He leads me…He restores my soul…His rod and staff comfort me…my cup runneth over…goodness and mercy shall follow me…” if we live a life which responds to the voice of God, “if you say so.” There is a familiar saying that perhaps captures it best: “God said it. I believe it. That settles it!”
It appeared throughout the history of Major League Football that we would never see a black coach. Everyone had become accustomed to it and it seemed that only a miracle could change it. Fear of change had frozen the entire situation. Some of life’s greatest opportunities are lost to the phantom of unwarranted fear. But God raised up leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., whose faith left no room for fear, and so a change came over this country. It is not the same as it used to be when we have a Barak Obama as president and we have a Lovie Smith and a Tony Dungy a Jim Caldwell leading Superbowl teams. It is not the same as it used to be because people of God dared to say to the Lord, “If you say so!” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break…
You see, conventional wisdom says, “Play it safe. Stay in the shallow end. Don’t take any chances.” But a wisdom beyond our own says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.” The voice of fear says, “Self-preservation is the first law of nature,” but the voice of faith says, “Seek ye first the