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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

You Walk along Our Shoreline

2014-01-25 Mk 01 14-20 You Walk Along Our Shoreline

Using Hymn #170 from the Purple Hymnal, “You Walk Along Our Shoreline.”



I’ve had several people comment that they really felt as though they worshipped last Sunday, that something special happened from 10:45 to 11:49am. I’m glad to hear that.

I know a lot of it was because of the music. First off, the Choir did, “Soon and Very Soon.” You can do that one at my funeral (if you’re making plans). Second, we sang some really good-old hymns. We sang camp meeting songs, “I Love to Tell the Story,” “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling.” And we sang the campfire song, “They’ll Know We are Christians by Our Love.” With music like that, you almost can’t help but have a transcendent experience.

I’m really liking this new, Purple hymnal. It’s got the golden oldies. It’s got new ones that are, to be blunt, sing-able. It’s got over a hundred more hymns than the Blue Hymnal, so that helps.

I know a lot of you are still having anxiety over losing the Blue Hymnal. Particularly those of you who enjoyed the Korean transliterations. We’d be singing, “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine,” but you – you who are the world, you’d be singing, “Ye su rul nae ga joo ro mee duh.” Glorious Leader Kim Jong Un found that VERY offensive, which could be reason to continue.

Whatever color the hymnal or the singers, music is SO important in the church. You can sleep through a bad sermon. It’s very hard to sleep through a bad song. We learn about God through what we sing. And we remember what we sing. Even people whose minds have been faded by age and injury remember the songs. Music sends its roots into our hearts.

This Purple hymnal has a song – kind of new – that’s written directly from today’s scripture. In its own way, it’s a poetic - and I think beautiful sermon – about Jesus and the calling of the fishermen. The music is NOT new; the tune is from 1575. The tune is old and fairly familiar. We’ve sung it before to different words. But words of this new hymn preach. Sylvia Dunston wrote it in 1984, which for some of us is a lifetime ago, but for many of us seems like last week. Her words preach to us in OUR day and age.

So I got to thinking, why just preach a sermon when we can sing it?

Take out your hymnal and turn to hymn number 170, “You Walk along Our Shoreline.”



Let’s sing verse #1:


You walk along our shoreline where land meets unknown sea.

We hear your voice of power, “Now come and follow me.

And if you still will follow through storm and wave and shoal,

Then I will make you fishers but of the human soul.”


The King James Version gives Jesus the greatest catchphrase. (Catch-phrase, get it?) He says to the fishermen, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” That’s genius. And a lot of times when we read or preach on this passage, we talk about the miraculous response of the disciples to his irresistible call. Simon and Andrew IMMEDIATELY drop their nets and follow him. James and John IMMEDIATELY leave their poor old father, Zebedee, standing in the boat. So many times we focus on the disciples and what they IMMEDIATELY do. And that’s fine. Sometimes it makes us feel guilty for not IMMEDIATELY following Jesus every minute every day. But that’s not and never is the point of the Gospel. The point is not guilt. The point is not the disciples. The point of the gospel is Jesus. Always, it’s about Jesus. This passage is about Jesus and what he calls the disciples to do. This passage is about Jesus and what he calls US to do.

The title of this hymn is, “YOU Walk along OUR Shoreline.” See what she did there?

“YOU walk.” It’s not only ABOUT Jesus, it’s TO Jesus. This isn’t just a poem, it’s a prayer. It gently forces us to speak, to sing to the divine YOU, who is Christ.

“YOU walk along OUR shoreline.” OUR shoreline. Not the shoreline of the disciples of 2015 years ago. OUR shoreline. Lucky you if you live on the lake and have your own shoreline to walk along. Actually, I think it’s TVA’s, but they let you use it.

See what the focus of this prayer does? It’s not, “WE walk along OUR shoreline.” It’s not even, “We walk along YOUR shoreline.” It’s, YOU, O Lord, you walk. And, O Lord, you walk along our shorelines.

Where are your shorelines? She writes, “…where land meets unknown sea.” What are your unknown seas? Do you stand at their edge, staring out at them, wondering? Or do you turn your back to them, preferring to stay on the land you know and are comfortable with?

What are your unknown seas? For some it’s, “What am I going to be when I grow up? Have my parents enrolled me in the right preschool? Are these peers challenging enough?”

For some it’s health. What’s out there? What damned thing is coming next?

For some it’s retirement. For some it’s picking a school or finding the right online dating service.

Where, for you, is the shoreline between what’s known and what’s unknown? How close do you get to it?

The shoreline’s a perilous, exciting, terrifying, lovely, haunting line in the sand. And nine times out of ten, isn’t that where we find Jesus? We find him when we reach the edge of our safety. Or, actually, he finds us. Jesus finds us at the shoreline where we’re not sure how to go forward, or if we even should.

We hear your voice of power, “Now come and follow me.

And if you still will follow through storm and wave and shoal,

Then I will make you fishers but of the human soul.”


Jesus calls us to follow him. But not over rainbow bridges. Not on streets paved with gold. He calls us on our shorelines to follow him through storm and wave and shoal. It’s a bumpy ride. There are blessed good days of smooth sailing and joyful windsurfing, sure. But it’s the days that don’t go according to our plan when Christ takes our hand and leads us along our jagged shorelines. That’s where we find our souls.


Let’s sing verse #2.

You call us, Christ, to gather the people of the earth.

We cannot fish for only those lives we think have worth.

We spread your net of gospel across the water’s face,

Our boat a common shelter for all found by your grace.


The prayer continues, “You call us, Christ, to gather the people of the earth. We cannot fish for only those lives we think have worth.”

Oh really, Ms. Poet? Oh yes we can. And oh yes we do.

Martin Luther King, Jr. called Sunday morning at 11am the most segregated hour in America. Like attracts like. The boat of church is too often a common shelter for people found not by God’s grace, but by personal choice. Like attracts like.

The music to this hymn is an old German tune, a beer-swilling Lutheran song. Last Sunday, people told me they enjoyed singing Baptist hymns. “Soon and Very Soon,” sounds like a Negro Spiritual but was written in 1978 by Andre Crouch, a United Methodist. “How Firm a Foundation” is an Appalachian shape-note hymn sung by coal miners and dirt farmers. Our closing hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” started in Sweden, moved to Germany, then Russia, and finally ended up in English and made its way to America.

All of this reminds me that our music may be far more like the kingdom of God than our looks. When you get to heaven, you might be very surprised at who’s standing next to you in the angel choir.

Jesus called the fishermen to step out of their small boats. The boat of Jesus Christ, which serves as a common shelter for all found by God’s grace must be very, very big. It’s his boat. Not ours. He can build that ark of salvation as wide as he wants. And he can sound the “All Aboard” to whomever he wants, whether he likes them, or we like them, or not. And he does.


Let’s sing the third verse.


We cast our net, O Jesus; we cry the kingdom’s name;

We work for love and justice; we learn to hope through pain.

You call us, Lord, to gather God’s daughters and God’s sons,

To let your judgment heal us so that all may be one.


Have any of you been to Bass Pro Shop? Amazing place. You can spend a whole lot of money becoming a fisherman. Despite what PETA tells you, there are a lot worse ways to spend your money and a lot less meaningful ways to spend your time. Fishing gives a person a chance to get out and find some peace and quiet. It’s meditative. Spiritual, even.

But the fishermen of Jesus’s time weren’t sportsmen. This was not a hobby. They were earning their daily bread. And they weren’t solitary. They were NET fishermen. The way they fished, you couldn’t do it alone. Net fishing was a team enterprise.[1] There was no “I” in team. And there still isn’t.


“We cast OUR net, O Jesus; WE cry the kingdom’s name;

WE work for love and justice; WE learn to hope through pain.

You call US, Lord…”


The poem and the scripture both remind us that Jesus didn’t call lonely, individual fishermen. He called Simon AND Andrew. He called James AND John.

When Jesus calls you he doesn’t just call you and you alone. He calls you and you. And you. And you. And me. And all of us together. He calls us to go fishing TOGETHER.

He calls us to sing together. To play together. To laugh and to cry together. He calls us to go search together not just for the lives that have worth, but especially for those who don’t. He calls us to work together, to perilously dangle out over the unknown sea to find those lost souls and bring them into the grace of God’s great, big boat.

Jesus does not just walk along your personal shoreline, although he is there when the deep darkness threatens to drown you. Jesus walks along OUR shoreline, our church’s shorelines, and he dares us to search beyond our comfort. Jesus dares us to step out of our safety. Jesus dares us to fish in deeper waters and to fill OUR nets with “God’s daughters and God’s sons,” to let his “judgment heal us so that ALL may be one.”



There are a lot of times when I’m here in the church by myself. I have discovered that if I stand in the long hallway and sing, loudly and boldly, I sound really good. Even better than in the shower. Try it sometime.

What’s embarrassing though, is to find out I’m not here alone. Someone will poke his or her head out the Parlor door. They pretend they haven’t heard me. “Oh hi. Didn’t see your car.” Or, worse, they close the door and go back to their Circle meeting.

Every now and then, I’ll get to stand beside someone during worship who sings really well. I’ll start to give a hymn my dramatic hallway voice and realize my pipes aren’t that shiny. But then I start listening to the person beside me. I start following the person’s voice. And before I know it, I’m singing way better than I ever would on my own. Not great. But better.

In a way, I think that’s what Jesus was calling those fishermen to do. I think that’s what Jesus IS calling all of us to do. To sing, and fish, and work together. To meet Jesus at our personal shorelines, and be lifted up by the loving voices of people near us, in the rising tide of his grace.


No, this isn’t about fishermen. It’s not about music. It’s not even about the miraculous calling of disciples. It’s about Jesus. It’s about Jesus the Christ who walks along the lines of our discomfort, and calls us to follow him, so that all may be made one.


Let’s pray by standing and singing, hymn #170, “You Walk along Our Shoreline.”


[1] Hare, Douglas A., Mark, Westminster Bible Companion, p. 23.