St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Fifth Sunday after Trinity, 2013

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“Brandon, the boat and Jesus...”
I speak in the name of Jesus the Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Last year, 2012, Reddam House Atlantic Seaboard, a niche private school in the city bowl of Cape Town, celebrated their tenth year of existence. In keeping with the ethos of the anniversary, management decided that it would be appropriate for the school to celebrate the milestone by holding a school concert. The school went through the usual stress of practices and rehearsals, culminating in a whole school concert during the third term. Being a Home Room or Class Tutor Teacher, I was expected to accompany my Grade 5 class up to the hall and backstage to ensure adequate discipline and organisation. I led my class back stage and watched them excitedly run onto the stage and start performing their act. It was during this time, standing for a few minutes in the darkness backstage, that I noticed a Gr 11 male pupil standing with his back to me, close to the stage curtains, obviously ready to replace my Grade 5’s with his act. As my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I realised that the young man standing with his back to me was Brandon Beake. I had taught Brandon in the preparatory school in Gr 6 and 7 and knew his Mum and Dad well. He was an only child, desperately loved, gifted academically, a Springbok Gymnast, as well as an outstanding dancer. Furthermore, Brandon had a beautiful personality, one of warmth, friendship and generosity. A more self-actualised and realised young man you could not find.

I watched as Brandon gyrated his hips in unison with a young lady, who was obviously going to be his dance partner for the next act. As I stood there quietly in the background, a few thoughts crossed my mind. Here was a young man, a gifted young man, who had the world at his feet, was popular amongst his peers and teachers alike, was an outstanding dancer and gymnast, had a loving and supportive family... he was blessed in every sense of the word, yet remained humble and modest. I began to wonder as to what incredible heights he would soar one day...

The event passed and the school term came to an end and Brandon slipped my mind... until early on in the next term, while doing break duty with a colleague, he happened to mention in passing if I had heard what had happened to Brandon Beake? I replied that I had not. Mark then told me that during the holidays, Brandon had been practicing a particularly difficult dismount from the parallel bars and had fallen on his head and broken his neck.

He was paralysed from the waist down.

In today’s Gospel reading we read the well known text in Luke about how Jesus taught his disciples from a boat and assisted them to catch multitudes of fish. This is a parable that is deeply laden with both metaphor and symbolism and it is important that we understand what message Jesus has for us in this story.

Jesus was not merely teaching the word of God as he sat in the boat, he was also showing something by his actions and words, about how he means for his followers to win men of faith.

Faith is the key word here. Faith in God, his love and his kingdom.
How did Jesus intend for his disciples to win people of faith?

Firstly, people will be won for God through His power and authority. Jesus had intentionally chosen to speak from a boat. The boat then becomes a symbol of evangelism. Therefore, to extend this metaphor, the boat becomes a platform from where the word of God is proclaimed and where fish are caught. We are told how Simon doubts the authority of Jesus when he is told to put out into deep water and to let the nets down. For a moment Simon doubts the power and authority of Jesus and his faith wains.

Secondly, we are told how the disciples then proceeded to catch so much fish that their boats began to sink... this same multitude of fish is a pointer as to what would happen later as we are told in the Book of Acts where many believers were added to the Lord.

Thirdly, Jesus made a point of teaching. We live in a society that is largely unfamiliar with the Gospel and the teachings of Christ. If we are to evangelise and procure new believers for our Lord, then we need to teach. Teach the Gospel.

Fourthly, this demands discipline, perseverance and strength of character from us all. This is not an easy task to be undertaken lightly or flippantly.

Which brings me back to Brandon.

Brandon, directly after his accident, went on to have surgery in order to stabilise the vertebrae in his neck. He was then admitted to Vincent Palotti Hospital which has a special spinal unit that assists the patient and his or her family to adjust to the new conditions. Eventually, Brandon was discharged and went home in a wheel chair. He started Gr 11 again this year at school. What has stood out for me regarding the Brandon Beake story, is that not once has he stopped smiling, not once has he said the words, “Why me?”, not once has he been irritable or downhearted. Instead, Brandon has remained a light to all those around him... not once has Brandon lost faith in his journey...

What lessons can we take away this morning from Brandon’s ongoing experience and response?

Firstly, we are all, in spite of the circumstances we find ourselves in, able to be a beacon for Christ. There is no excuse.

Secondly, we are called to accept and listen to the power and authority of Jesus. He is Lord.

Thirdly, we need to continue learning about the Gospel and then share our teaching with those who are unsaved. We have a responsibility and a duty to do this. We honour Christ when we share the Gospel. We dishonour him when we keep it to ourselves.

I would like to read a poem to you written by JV Chandler, entitled...
 Stand In Faith
Stand in faith
Even when you can’t see your way
Stand in faith
Even when you feel like you can’t face another day
Stand in faith
Even when the tears want to flow from your eyes
Stand in faith
Knowing that our God will always provide
Stand in faith
Even when you feel that all hope is gone
Stand in faith
Knowing that He is always there for you to lean on
Stand in faith
Even when you feel like giving up
Stand in faith
Because He is there ... saying, "Just look up"
Stand in faith
Even in those times you feel so all alone
Stand in faith
Hold on and be strong, for He is still on the throne
Stand in faith
Even when it’s hard to believe
Stand in Faith
Knowing that He can change your situation, suddenly
Stand in faith
Even in those times you feel it’s hard to pray
Stand in faith
And believe that He has already made the way
Faith ... is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen
So stand in faith
Because you already have the victory!
--Evangelist Johnnye V. Chandler
How strong would your faith be in Jesus if tomorrow you woke up in a wheel chair?
May God bless you this week as you strengthen your faith daily in him so that you too may bring his word to men.
Amen.
 

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