Greetings! Welcome to the show! It’s good to have you with us. Our passage today comes from the book of Mark; chapter 1, verse 16. It reads…
Mark 1:16 (ESV)-- 16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.
A Key Location-- You know, in talking about the calling of Jesus’ first disciples, we often times focus on their occupation (fishermen) but overlook the location. And yet this location (the Sea of Galilee) had huge significance for Jesus and His ministry, as we find it the common backdrop for much of His preaching and teaching. As I was going through the opening chapters of the gospel of Mark this week, I kept seeing how often Mark highlights the Sea of Galilee as the place Jesus taught by and often even on (as the crowds were often so large he had to get in a boat and stand in the water just to avoid being crushed by the crowds. But what made the Sea of Galilee so important? And why is it important to us?
Seeing The Sea of Galilee-- Several years ago I got to go on a pilgrimage to Israel. And it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before in my life. For 10 intense days we traversed the land of Israel from early morning until night. And though we traversed many many places and got to see many incredible things (even the temple mount in Jerusalem), my favorite place that we visited (and we spent several days there) was Galilee. Seeing where Jesus taught along those peaceful shores amidst those quiet fishing villages was one of the most exciting and moving moments of my life. And I remember that The Sea of Galilee was full of life. You could see fisherman still (over 2,000 years later) still netting and pulling in multitudes of fish. There were many beautiful trees and luscious green plant life growing around that beautiful sea. But moving on from there, we went to another body of water to the south, at the other end of the Jordan River. And that body of water was of course the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea— Now the Dead Sea, though connected to the Sea of Galilee by the same river, was anything but like The Sea of Galilee. While the Sea of Galilee was full of life, the Dead Sea was not. As its name implies, it is dead. Why? Because it is filled with salt. In fact, it is one of the saltiest bodies of water on this planet, being about ten times saltier than the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In fact, it is so salty that the water gives you buoyancy, meaning you can't sink in it. We laid down in the water and the sensation was that of something lifting you up as you try to push down. It felt kind of like laying down on a liquid couch. But the salt content is so high that no life can exist either in or around it. No trees are around the Sea. No plant life whatsoever. Though it is much much larger than the Sea of Galilee, not a single fish lives inside it's waters. It is so salty, only minuscule amounts of bacteria can even survive in the water. And though it is known by different names, The Dead Sea is no doubt the best title for it because there is no life whatsoever in or around it. It is a place void of life. It is a truly dead, lifeless, fruitless place.
Which Sea Are You?-- Now if you wanted your life to be like one of these places, you would no doubt say, "I want my life to be like the Sea of Galilee!" I want to be filled with life and want to be a source of life to others. But if you were to be honest in giving an evaluation of your life, which Sea would you say you are most like right now? Do you have true life inside of you or do you feel Dead inside? Do others walk away from interactions with you more dead or alive? That's a tough evaluation to make. And that may be something you want to ask those around you this week. And most of all maybe we need to ask Christ Jesus Himself to give us His evaluation of our lives. If He describes Himself as being "Living Water" (water that brings life; and our lives are to model His), how much do we really reflect Him by bringing life to those around us?
The Difference-- There is something you should know about the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, and that is what makes one of them alive and the other one Dead. While both seas have fresh water pouring into them, the Sea of Galilee has an outlet but the Dead Sea does not. With the Sea of Galilee, fresh water pours into it and then it pours out. But the Dead Sea only has water pouring into it. And because it has no outlet (because it is too far below sea level) you have all this water pouring into it that just sits and then evaporates, leaving behind its minerals. [It is estimated that over a million tons of water evaporate from the Dead Sea every day, leaving it salty, full of minerals and unfit for any … life”.] And one of the ladies on our trip really highlighted this, saying that this is what makes all the difference in the Christian life. If everything is inflow with you and you never have any outflow you will become in your heart and to those around you a place of death. But if you receive from the Lord and also invest what He has given into the lives of others, you will be a source of life for many. I have never forgotten that imagery. And that is why people flocked to Jesus; and why people eventually came to flock to the apostles; because people found them to be sources of life.
It’s A Wonderful Life— Not long ago my wife and I again watched the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. And many of you have probably seen it many times. But I think that that movie really shows just how much the few good actions of a righteous man can have on a community and the lives of others. James Stuart saves his brothers life as a young kid and, after they grow up, his brother goes to war and ends up shooting down some planes before they slam into the ship and kill many of his comrades. James Stuart also manages to keep his local family bank afloat. But, you know the story. His clerk misplaces a large sum of money and he is on the verge of being thrown into prison and he goes to the local bridge and gets ready to kill himself. But an angel appears to him and he tells the angel that it would have been better if he had never been born. And the angel (Clarence) begins to show him what the town and community would have been like if he had never been born. And the difference is tremendous. Those things that he thought were the most insignificant turned out to change the course of the whole town.
Small Acts of Faithfulness— And similarly, I don’t think we will ever know the impact that our “small acts of faithfulness” might have on another persons life or even (for that matter) in our relationship with the Lord. And I think we often times get thrown off track when we think that all God wants us to be some kind of spiritual super-heroes. But that is not what God wants. Never in scripture does He call someone who is a superhero or would even think of themselves as spiritual giants. He chose men like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Noah and what made them super was the fact that they were obedient in the small things; not just the big things.
Dwight L. Moody once said: “There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”
“Why The Halfling?”-- Not long ago I watched the movie the Hobbit. And there is this very powerful scene in which the Lady Galadriel is talking with Gandalf the Wizard and this very subject comes up when talking about Bilbo Baggins, a small (seemingly insignificant) Hobbit.
Galadriel: Mithrandir... Why the halfling?
Gandalf: Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? I don't know. Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.
From Trickles to Streams— Everything you and I are called to do as Christians is important. Those little investments we make in the lives of other people may seem like a trickle now, but who knows what rivers they will turn into later down the road. And I think that is important for us to remember. It’s not great deeds of powerful righteousness that God is looking for. It’s the small, everyday obedience in doing those things He has called us to do in the here and now. Abraham was a nobody. He knew the surrounding world was in a spiritual hell. He saw what separation from God had caused on the earth. God didn’t say, “Hey, go change the world.” He called him to follow Him. And from him came Isaac; from Isaac came Jacob (called Israel) and from him came the people Israel. From Israel came the Messiah; from the Messiah came the redemption of the world. That trickle of obedience shaped the course of human history and influenced the spiritual change of the entire world. Joseph was sent to Egypt. He remained faithful to God in the little things; showing integrity and responsibility in the workplace and not fooling around with another man’s wife. And it was Joseph, because of those little acts of obedience, that God chose to place over all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. And he ended up saving not only Egypt, but many nations from starvation and hunger.
Hidden Springs-- Now there is one more thing that I would like to tell you about the Sea of Galilee. If you look at a map, you will notice that all of the fishing villages during the time of Christ were located on the north-western side of the Sea of Galilee. Now the reason for this was because the Sea of Galilee is naturally saltwater; not as salty as the Dead Sea; but salty enough to make it hard for tilapia and sardines (the fish living in the Sea of Galilee during that time) difficult to live in. But interestingly, the northwestern side of the Sea of Galilee was fed fresh water by hidden underground springs. Now what this says to us is that if we want to be life-giving people, we in a similar way need to have a life-giving stream flowing into us. And that stream is nothing less than He who called Himself the Living water. You have to maintain fellowship with Him. You have to abide with Him. Because it’s not your spirituality that changes people; it is Christ changing people through you because you have allowed yourself to become a channel of grace rather than a Dead Sea of grace. And that is my challenge to you today. Draw near to Him and (in Him) be a Channel of Grace in somebody else’s life this week. Bring the life-giving water of Jesus to somebody who needs to hear about Jesus Christ. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.