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"Caught"

#89-21
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on January 23, 2022
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2022 Lutheran Hour Ministries


Listen (5-10mb)  Download (35-70mb)  Reflections

Text: Luke 4:38 - 5:16

Around a campfire when I was eight years old, I was caught up in my Uncle David's words. The way he told that story, if he had been fishing, I was hooked. Now, I don't remember all the details of it, but it started something like this. Late one night I was driving through the country in my old station wagon, returning home from a camping trip. The car's engine was giving me problems like usual. It seemed like it was about to die. I didn't want to get stranded out in the middle of nowhere, so I pull over at the only house around for miles. When the old farmer who lived there answered the door, I told him, "I'm sorry to bother you so late, sir, but my car is about to die. And I thought maybe I might be able to sleep in your barn tonight. And then tomorrow see about getting the car fixed."

The farmer said, "Don't make no difference to me." He escorted me into the barn. I unrolled my sleeping bag, set it down on the straw and was just about to get in it when the farmer says, "Well, if you're going to be staying in here, there's something I reckon you ought to see." Then he sweeps aside the straw on the old barn floor to reveal a trap door. He grabs the handle and pulls it up, creeeeek. Under the trap door, there's a set of stairs leading down into the dark. I follow the farmer down the stairs, squeak, squeak, squeak. At the bottom of the stairs, there's a thick oak door with an iron bolt. He pulls the bolt back, clunk. He puts his shoulder into the door and gives a mighty heave, it swings open, creeeeek. We walk through a dark tunnel and at the end of it, there's a steel vault. There's a padlock on the door, and the farmer unfastens the lock, click. He pulls open the door, swoosh. And inside the vault, there's a massive cage with solid steel bars thick as my wrist. And behind those bars there, I saw it, a heap of purple fur curled up in a ball. And I say to the farmer, "What is it?" And he says to me, "That there is a purple people eater." And then he looks me dead in the eyes and says, "Now, son, if you're going to stay here tonight, you got to promise me one thing, that you will not touch him. Understand?"

"Yes sir," I say, "Yes, sir."

"Good."

And then we started back out of the vault through the tunnel, past the oak door, up the stairs, into the barn where he drops the trap door, kerplunk. And then he spread the straw over the door and returned to the house.

I lay down in my sleeping bag, but as you can imagine, I cannot fall asleep. My mind would not stop thinking about what I'd seen and wondering why the farmer said what he said. So when all was quiet, I get up, sweep the straw from the trap door, grab the handle and pull, creeeeek. Down the stairs I go, squeak, squeak, squeak, slide the bolt, clunk, open the door, creeeeek, through the tunnel, release the lock, click, open the vault, swoosh. And there he is, behind those bars curled up in a ball, fast asleep. And I reach my hand inside the cage and gently stroke. his purple fur. He stirs awake, lifts his head, turns toward me with a hungry look in his cold black eyes. I stumble back as he rises to his full height filling the cage with his girth, eyes gleaming. So I turned and I ran out of there as quick as I could.

But when I get to the edge of the vault, I hear him let out a roar. I look back and I see him bending those solid steel bars as though they were tin cans. I slam the vault shut, click the lock, but he's right there behind me, rips the door right off the hinges. So, I run through the tunnel, slam the oak door shut, latch the bolt up to the barn, three stairs at a time, slam down the trap, as I hear him split the oak door like a stale pretzel. I run from the barn toward my station wagon, jump in the car, lock the doors, turn the key, but the engine won't start. And then I see a mass of purple fur crashing through the barn door, coming toward me. He tears the passenger door right from the car, casts it aside like a pistachio shell, and stares at me with that gleam in his eyes. And then he fishes his purple paw into the cab and says, "Tag, you're it."

Sometimes being caught isn't as bad as you think. I only have a few memories of my Uncle David, the one who told a story like that around the campfire at one of our family reunions. A few years later, Uncle David died of cancer. And I don't remember much about him, but I remember being caught by his words that night. You see, he told the story in such a way that it wasn't just a long setup to a silly punchline at the end. Because when he told it, he was caught up in it with us, with all the gestures and sound effects and suspense, that story became an adventure that we shared together. And he helped me see that being caught up by something bigger, something more powerful than you isn't always a bad thing.

Christians believe something similar about Jesus, that He is the almighty Word of God, the Creator made flesh. And He didn't just tell a story; He became a human being and lived one, to catch us all, to pull us into a great adventure. Have you ever wondered how remarkable it is that we are still talking about Jesus of Nazareth today? That we even know His Name, that we even have any details about His life. He was a marginal Jewish peasant from a backwater town in ancient Israel, crucified by the Romans. There's no reason any of us should know anything about Him, but he continues to be the most talked-about person in human history. Someone at your work is a Jesus follower, and they keep asking you if they can pray for you. A friend keeps telling you about this television series on the life of Jesus that you just have to watch. Signs on the highways point to Jesus; church bells ring for Jesus; radio programs, YouTube channels, podcasts speak of Jesus, folks going in and out of church buildings every week.

There's something about this Middle Eastern Preacher, Healer, Miracle Worker—He's still catching people, even today. And I'm one of them. I've tried running from Him, but every time I looked back, He was crashing through whatever got in His way. I've tried locking Him in a vault of skepticism, barring Him behind a door of apathy, pushing Him behind a wall of my own guilt and self-loathing, but He keeps breaking through. He keeps sending people after me, hundreds of them over half a lifetime. They keep catching me with His Word. For some 60 generations, that's what the followers of Jesus have been doing. They've been telling and living His story. Not just another campfire story, but an account of things that actually happened, how Jesus gave Himself for us to be crucified for our sins, how He physically rose from the dead to give new life.

For the last 20 centuries, word about Him has spread exponentially around the globe, crashing through obstacles of every kind, because Jesus is still devoted to catching people, all people, to pull us like fish out of the water, to draw us into something bigger. And like fish in a net, being caught by Jesus means dying, dying to your old concerns, and living in Him, through Him, and for Him instead. Being caught isn't always a bad thing. Listen to how it goes in these scenes from an ancient biography of Jesus called the Gospel according to Luke 4 and 5.

Then Jesus went up from the synagogue and went into the house of Simon. Now Simon's mother-in-law was sick with a high fever, and they appealed to Him on her behalf. He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. And immediately she got up and began to serve them. When the sun was setting, all who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He placed His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons were coming out of many, crying out and saying, "You are the Son of God," but He would not permit the demons to go on speaking because they knew that He was the Christ, the Messiah.

The next day Jesus went and out and walked to a desolate place. And the crowds were searching for Him. And they came upon Him, and they would've prevented Him from leaving them, but He said to them, "I must go and preach the good news of the Kingdom, of the rule and reign of God, to the other towns as well, because I was sent for this." And He went off preaching in the synagogues of Judea. And it happened once when the crowd was pressing in on Him to hear the Word of God, Jesus was standing near the Lake of Gennesaret, that is the Sea of Galilee. And He saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone and out of them and they were washing their nets. And Jesus getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, asked him to put out a little from the land. And Jesus sat down and continued to teach from the boat.

And when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Now put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." Simon said, "Master, we toiled all night long and caught nothing, but at Your word, I will let down the nets." And when they had done so, they enclosed a large number of fish, so many their nets were breaking. And they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help. And they came and filled both boats full of fish so that they started sinking. And when Simon Peter saw this, he fell down at Jesus knees and said, "Part from me, Lord, because I am a sinful man." For Simon and all those who were with him were astonished at the great catch of fish they had taken as were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were Simon's partners. And Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid. From now on, you will be catching people."

And when they brought their boats ashore, they left everything and followed Him. And it happened in one of the cities, there was a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell down on his face and began begging Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." And Jesus stretched out His hand and touched the man, saying, "I am willing, be clean." And immediately the leprosy left him. And Jesus charged him to tell no one but to "Go show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing as Moses commanded as evidence to them."

But word about Him continued to spread, and great crowds were coming to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But He kept on withdrawing to desolate places and He would pray.

My Uncle David showed me that being caught isn't always a bad thing. David was a math teacher at a Christian school. His widow, my Aunt Martha, tells me that he was a phenomenal storyteller. She told me, "Michael, I remember watching you listen to David tell that story at the reunion all those years ago; you were on the edge of your seat. Your eyes were gleaming. You were enthralled. You were mesmerized." Aunt Martha says that Uncle David loved to entertain people with stories like that. But she said, "Most of all, he loved to tell people about Jesus, their Savior." And he usually found a way to somehow bring the story or the math lesson or the conversation back around to Jesus.

You see, Uncle David is one of the hundreds of people that Jesus has sent to catch me. There have been times in my life when it felt like I was passing through a series of doors and tunnels, trying to find myself. And like me, maybe you've been told that to find your true self, you have to look inside yourself, express yourself, figure things out for yourself. But God's counterintuitive truth is that you find yourself by losing yourself caught up in a relationship with Jesus for others. We heard about Jesus, true to His divine nature, lives forever joyfully, willingly, caught up in a relationship with His Father. You don't have to run from Him. He knows you better than you know yourself. He loves you more than you love yourself. He catches you to give you the gift of your true self. And He sent me to speak to you today. And now He's sending you for others. For those people that you know who are still running from Him, they need Him, too. So, tag, you are it. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.







Reflections for January 23, 2022

Title: Caught


Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. Coming up next we pay a visit to the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. For FREE online resources, archived audio, our mobile app, and more, go to lutheranhour.org. Now back to our Speaker, Dr. Michael Zeigler.

Mike Zeigler: Today, I'm visiting with Dr. Jeff Kloha. Dr. Kloha serves on the Leadership Team at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C, and the mission of the Museum of the Bible is simply to invite all people to engage with the transformative power of the Bible. Thanks for joining us, Jeff.

Jeff Kloha: Well, thanks, Pastor Zeigler. It's great to be here.

Mike Zeigler: Okay, Jeff, so let's say that I'm visiting Washington D.C., with my family and, of course, I would say, "Let's go to the Museum of the Bible."

Jeff Kloha: Right.

Mike Zeigler: But let's imagine my kids might say, "Dad, come on, that's boring." How might I begin to be able to change their perspective on this?

Jeff Kloha: We really wanted to make the Bible and its history, its impact on the world, to make it very accessible and exciting. There's a lot of interactivity, video, things you can do, sight, sounds, things you smell. We tried to hit the sweet spot of really getting the truth of the Bible and its impact out there as well as make it very accessible and entertaining for people of all ages and all backgrounds.

Mike Zeigler: The sights and the sounds and even the smells of the Bible.

Jeff Kloha: And smells, yeah. And we have a ride.

Mike Zeigler: Yeah. Okay, tell me more about the ride. I'd heard about this from someone.

Jeff Kloha: Yeah.

Mike Zeigler: What the Museum of the Bible ride?

Jeff Kloha: The ride per se is a virtual fly through Washington D.C. And it's a tour of Washington where you see all the places where the Bible is mentioned or cited throughout the monuments and buildings in Washington, D.C. And so you fly into the Library of Congress; you fly past the Supreme Court building; you smell the cherry blossoms; you feel the wind on your face. It's a lot of fun and it's a great way to show how the Bible, the phrase we use is, "The Bible's hidden in plain sight." You might pass these things every day; you might pass by it on your tour, but the Bible has impacted and is a part of our history even here in Washington, D.C.

Mike Zeigler: So let's say I've persuaded my kids to come along, and my wife's coming along, we come into the Museum of the Bible. What's our experience going to be? How's the museum structured?

Jeff Kloha: Well, right away you walk in and we have a grand hall, high ceiling, and digital ceiling, 140 foot long, and highlights different arts and nature, just highlighting the Bible. And then the museum itself is built around three main themes, the history of the Bible, the stories of the Bible, and the impact of the Bible. The place you might start is the more serious, to get that while you're fresh, so the history of the Bible, which talks about really the history of the Bible from its ancient Near-Eastern backgrounds, all around the world through different languages and cultures, all the way down to the continuing work of translation that still happens today.

There's over 700 Bibles and manuscripts on display there. There's lots of video. There's serious stuff there, but also some Indiana Jones-ish stuff to keep the kids interested and entertained. But, especially for younger people, I really recommend the stories of the Bible. So, we wanted to give people a sense of, what's the overall story being communicated in the Old Testament in the Hebrew Bible?

We also have a full-size reconstruction of Nazareth Village. To help people understand the context of Jesus' ministry, what was going on with the Roman Empire, what was daily life like. There's literally a village of Nazareth that you walk into, and we have people in character who will talk about how they prepare food, what life was like, and how they interacted in the synagogue, how they made olive oil, background of some of the imagery in the parables.

Mike Zeigler: You said there's three main floors, a floor for each of these themes, history, narrative, and then impact on the world and around the world.

Jeff Kloha: So the impact floor is divided into two sections. One section is the impact of the Bible in America, so how has the Bible intersected with American history and just been a part of our culture from the beginning, really from the pilgrims in 1620 who brought a Geneva Bible with them across the Atlantic, all the way down through the present day. So how has the Bible shaped our understanding of life together, of religious liberty is a key topic, and was so for the Founding Fathers, of course, the abolitionist movement. And the Bible's used actually by both sides of the debate around slavery. And we want to make sure people understand the full history about how the Bible was a key instrument for change, especially in the abolitionist movement, down in through the 20th century, and how it's just been a part of our heritage and still is part of the conversation today.

And then the other side of the impact of the Bible is the impact of the Bible on culture. So how has the Bible impacted literature? How has it impacted movies, popular movies? How has it impacted rock and roll, actually? Not just hymns or something. Nine Inch Nails has biblical references in their songs, so they're in the museum.

Mike Zeigler: Yeah.

Jeff Kloha: How has it impacted our understanding of justice, on human rights, politics, on family life, on vocation? All kinds of areas where, again, the Bible has shaped us to be a certain way and, frankly, that our culture would be worse had it not been a part of our history.

Mike Zeigler: We've been listening to one of those books of the New Testament, the Gospel according to Luke. I would think going through that Nazareth village would give you a vivid picture of what the context of this narrative is. How does that help us understand the Bible and Jesus and His mission and message more deeply?

Jeff Kloha: Yeah, the context in which Jesus came in Galilee initially in the first century is really critical, and understanding that is critical for getting Jesus' message. And the kinds of questions that He gets asked, the kinds of issues that He deals with—all are related to the everyday situations that people in Galilee were living with. So, in Luke 7, you have a centurion whose daughter is sick at Caesarea. Well, why is there a Roman soldier in Caesarea in Jesus' day? What is that dynamic? What does that mean? Right?

Mike Zeigler: So, in the reading from Luke we heard today, Jesus mentions that His followers are going to be about catching people. He's talking to Simon and James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They're all fishermen. So the metaphor, of course, makes sense to them.

Jeff Kloha: Right.

Mike Zeigler: How do you see this metaphor in your own work? Now, again, I know that the Museum of the Bible isn't explicitly about making disciples for Jesus. That's the mission of the church.

Jeff Kloha: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mike Zeigler: You're reaching in a broader way or a more general way, but how do you, as a follower of Jesus, see the museum in the light of our calling to be catching people for Jesus.

Jeff Kloha: That's a really interesting question. You're right. It's not a come-to-the-museum-and-get-converted approach. That's not really going to help anybody. But it sets the table for the church to do the work that it's been called to do. So we're doing this in a very public way, in a way that's accessible to people, and sets the stage for them to get excited about the Bible, interested about the Bible, intrigued by the Bible, and want to follow up. We have people for two hours, three hours, four hours. We don't have them for an extended period of time, but we want to spark something and get them excited about a book that might be familiar, might not be, but is definitely worth looking at again, or maybe for the first time.

Mike Zeigler: There's an analogy between that and what The Lutheran Hour is doing. We are explicitly sharing the Gospel, but there's obviously things that we can't do on a virtual broadcast radio or internet medium. We can't baptize people over the radio.

Jeff Kloha: Right.

Mike Zeigler: We can't share the Lord's Supper; we can't show Christian hospitality. But we're sowing the seeds and ultimately maybe whetting the appetite or setting the table for the people of God to embody the message for those who hear it.

Jeff Kloha: Yeah, one of our board members, original board members, years ago, said, a famous pastor, I won't give his name, but you'd recognized the name immediately, said that "People will go into the museum who would never come to my church." And so, there's a unique opportunity that we have and, of course, the church has plenty of responsibility and mission that the museum does not have. So, they're complementary, not competitive.

Mike Zeigler: Thanks for joining us, Jeff.

Jeff Kloha: Thank you.







Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"O Christ, Our True and Only Light" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)


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