No Failure. No Success.

Homily 230 – Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
September 25, 2016

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!

The apostles had been fishing all night with no luck. No success.

They called it a failure, and began to do the drudgery of fishing. Mending the nets.

Every time they fished, the nets would get caught and break and tear. And every time, with fish or without fish, they had to be mended.

Jesus stopped by and taught from the boat, so that the faithful, and when he was done, he told Simon Peter to put out from the land and drop his nets again.

Had I been unsuccessful all night, I would not have been excited about the idea of fishing during the day, with no rest. Everyone knows the fish retreat to the bottom of the lake during the day.

Fish are harder to catch. Jesus didn’t promise a big catch, either. He just asked to put out to the deep and let down the nets.

Couple of things. First, Jesus meets us in adversity. He meets us in what we consider failure.

He doesn’t meet us in success – because it is too easy for us to take credit for success. After we fail, the credit has to go to God, if we are honest with ourselves.

Second. Jesus doesn’t make promises. And when he does make promises, they aren’t necessarily what we think of as a blessing.

He didn’t tell Abraham that Isaac would survive. He didn’t tell Paul that he would suffer blindness. He didn’t tell Stephen he would be slandered.

He did promise his disciples that they would be hated, persecuted, beaten, even killed. They would be slandered, thrown out of the temple, and despised.

How’s that for motivation?

But in that testing – that lack of a promise – comes a revelation. God tests us, not for Him, but for us. He tests us to show us the depths of our own faith.

When we complete, or don’t complete, our test, we know about ourselves. About our own faith in God.

If we do what we are asked by God, we know our faith is strong. If we choose not to, we know our faith is weak.

Some of you have heard this, but during my visit to Albania in 2011, I had the opportunity to meet with Archbishop Anastasios. I asked him a question.

You have had great success here in Albania – but are there any failures, and what did you learn from them?

He smiled gently and replied, “My son, in God there is no success. There is no failure. There is only faithfulness.”

At the Metropolitan Council meetings I go to, we often talk about what – quote – “works” and what “doesn’t”.

In other words, what is successful, and what fails. But that is perhaps the wrong debate. What is God asking us to do? And, will we do it?

Our job is not to grow the Church. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. Our job is not to generate buzz.

Our job is to be faithful to what Christ has commanded us to do.

And what is that?

Go and make disciples in all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

What are disciples? They are ones that follow Christ. They feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned.

In other words, the ones who love, as Christ loves.

The story continues, though. The fish are caught, two boats are required to complete the haul.

And in the success, St. Peter discovers something quite important.

He discovers his faith. He recognizes his savior, his master, his Lord.

He discovers the Son of God. Not just in the fishing. But in the depths of his own faith.

And, the sight frightens him. Because he also sees the times he was not faithful.

Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord.

And in the midst of their stunning success, a gift of God, they found something greater. Something that made everything else pale in comparison.

They found the living God, incarnate.

And they left their boats, their families, their homes – everything – literally everything – and followed Him.

Jesus asked them to return to what they failed at. And they walked away from success. All because of faith, and faithfulness.

So, remember. There is no such thing as success or failure. Only faithfulness. That will get you everything you need in life. And everything there is in life.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!