Watch for the dawn. Listen for His voice.

David Ruis, Oct 11, 2023, 5:26 PM
Jesus on the shore.jpeg

I don't have a reflection today as much as an invitation to consider something we feel the Spirit has been prodding us to pay attention to for some time now. It is that of (the Lord's) timing. But not simply timing in a general sense, but to be heightened in awareness as to His precision timing. It would seem a key to this level of perception is a lean into a discernment that is anchored to spiritual sight and faith, not only robust assessments and the wisdom gleaned from observation and what we may think needs to be done.

I would also be remiss without an acknowledgement of the backdrop of current events which has captured international attention as I write. Israel is at war. Nothing seems to trigger as much debate and opinion in our faith communities as what happens in the middle-east.

Just when we thought we may get a breather from the tumult and felt chaos of the last several years, another war of significant international ramifications breaks out, all the while the foment of climate change, economic uncertainty, and viral mutations continues, so much so that it's created a sense of a "new normal", which of course feels anything but normal, and yet we all continue to try to find our day to day, step by step, way through it all. The Church is not immune and we are called to lead in such a time as this.

Yet we know we're not to be afraid. Nothing takes God by surprise so we must not lose sight of the big picture and keep our wits about us. Discernment. Timing.

"Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities, claiming, 'I am Christ, the Messiah.' They will deceive a lot of people. When reports come in of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don't panic. This is routine history; this is no sign of the end. Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Famines and earthquakes will occur in various places. This is nothing compared to what is coming." (Matthew 24:5-6)

Notice Christ's call, invitation, to cultivate clear discernment (the deception and deceivers spoken of in this text feed off panic and a lack of trust in the way of Jesus) and to be aware of the timing of the Lord. As the NIV captures the words of Jesus, "see to it that you are not alarmed" (or you'll be susceptible to deceivers and their deception) and understand, "such things must happen." There is precision timing that is in play. God has things in hand.

I received a text from a friend just recently. Given what has been coming to us as we glean what people are hearing across the country and as our National Listening Team has been distilling what we feel the Lord is saying to us, I thought it had import for us in Vineyard Canada as well.

"The sense I have is that there's a whole new season for you. Embrace the constraints of the present moment...the Lord is with you and it will not end in death or disaster...and watch the way that, through the most mundane or tactical of circumstances, the Lord produces DELIVERANCE. There's something important about timing for you — and really the dynamics of time itself. The Lord can do more in minutes or days than we can strategize in years."

Not my normal practice to share like this, something that I received in a personal text message. Yet, it seemed to say so well what I perceive the Lord is saying to many of our local communities in Vineyard Canada, and certainly as a national family. Note again the sense of clear discernment, especially in the midst of the mundane and tactical, and the sense of precision timing that the Lord is highlighting.

The National Listening Team was led to pray through and highlight another part of the Gospel Narrative recently. I think it captures the essence of this invitation regarding discernment and timing. John 21:1-6. Here's The Message translation:

"Simon Peter announced, "I'm going fishing." The rest of them replied, "We're going with you." They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the beach, but they didn't recognize him. Jesus spoke to them: "Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?"
They answered, "No."
He said, "Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens."
They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren't strong enough to pull it in."
Ah. Starting to catch these emerging themes the Spirit is asking us to consider regarding discernment and timing?
Here's some excerpts from NT Wright's take on this passage. I think these insights not only give us a great understanding of the story here, but give us a lens to understand what the Lord is saying to us today.
"Why had they gone fishing? It's a puzzle, and I suspect it was a puzzle for them too. Like half the things Peter proposed in the gospel, it was probably a case of the right motivation and the wrong judgment. He wanted to get on with life. To do the next thing. This was the world they knew. It would feel strange, going back to it, but they had families who needed looking after, who must have been bemused to have them back again after all their adventures, and might well have been suggesting that they should settle down and do something sensible for a change. Like earning some money. Like catching some fish.

"But it didn't work."

Something jumps out at me from Wright's reflection here. They went fishing because "this was the world they knew." We are like the disciples on the shore knowing that the ministry of Jesus, His death and resurrection, had changed everything, and yet what to do now? A " new normal" is upon us but it's hard to wait and trust His timing. We want to get on with it. So challenging to discern what needs to be done.

Wright continues:

"It might have been easier for Peter if, as happened on that occasion, Jesus had simply vanished. But he didn't. He stayed on the shore and waited for them to come in ... If it's a puzzle why they went fishing, it could be a puzzle working out why John has told this story. It seems to have been added after he'd finished the first, and main, draft of the book ... But the detail of the present section suggests that it has a purpose of its own, too.

Jesus, after all, has given his followers a strange and striking commission in chapter 20. They are to work for him. They are to be filled with God's breath, and be sent into the world as Jesus had been. But if they try to do it their own way, they will fail. They will toil all night and take nothing. The only way is for them to admit defeat, to listen afresh to Jesus' voice, and to do what he says. Then there is no knowing what they will achieve.

Let Tom Wright's conclusion of this text be my closing words to us today.

"Watch for the dawn. Watch for the figure on the shore. Listen for his voice. And then do whatever he tells you."

Step by step.
David Ruis