The reading this morning from Luke follows the account Jesus preaching in his hometown and the people wanting to drive him off a cliff! Jesus acts as if he knows the fishermen, borrowing a boat as his platform for teaching. He teaches the crowd and the tired fisherman. Let’s listen, as the story unfolds in Luke 5: 1-11:
5:1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.
5:3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
5:4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”
5:5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
5:6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.
5:8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
5:9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who are partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
5:11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
I don’t know about you, but if I have been labouring all night and Jesus wants me to go back out there and do more of the same, just in a different place, I am pretty sure my first response is going to be a little less eager than Simon’s. So imagine, you have been labouring hard, and you have NOTHING to show for it. And Jesus comes to you, and asks you to do the same thing you have been doing… doing it without results…. And Jesus asks you, no tells you, to trust him! Of course, because it’s the Bible and Jesus, we know that their nets are overflowing with fish!
But is the story about fish? Is it about trust and obedience? Is it about abundance? Is it about fishing on the other side? It could be about all those things… and many more… the enduring power of scripture is that it changes for us and it changes us. Just as we never step into the same river twice, we never encounter scripture in quite the same way.
When I was in my second year at the Atlantic School of Theology, I took an on-line class from the Rev.Dr. Shelley Finson, entitled Voices of Women Theologians. Shelley was a tall, imposing woman, British, who was one of the first people to bring feminist theology into the teaching at AST. It was a great class, exploring the work of women I hadn’t been exposed to. It was early December… I hit ‘send’ on my final paper for her and headed to the Advent service here. My classmates and I were giddy as only theology students can be when they have passed in their final pieces of work for a term. Shelley was at the Advent service and at the reception came up to me and said, “Catherine, your paper is looking a little skimpy… do you want to take another look at it before I mark it?”
My internal reaction was NO! I am done with it! Just mark it! I was smart enough to NOT to say it out loud. I realized that based on my previous work for her, Shelley knew that this paper was not up to my usual standards. So, I thanked her for the opportunity to go deeper into the subject. Believe me, I did NOT want to go deep into the various books I had from the library again, back into the same places I had been! But I did and it came back with an A on it!
Shelley expected more of me that I did myself. Shelley would probably be very surprised to hear herself likened to Jesus. But weren’t her words and actions similar to Jesus asking Simon to listen, trust and respond. Jesus expects more of us than perhaps we think we have it in us to give. Jesus always calls us into places that we’ve never known before. Jesus always calls us to ‘set out our nets’ once again.
Does going deep sometimes take you to places that surprise you with their abundance and blessing? Where are the deep places that Jesus is calling you? What are your nets? What it is it that you are offering to the world?
Most people don’t leave their homes, families etc. to follow Jesus. So what does this passage mean for us today?
We have been going deep this past three years. Working hard on the goals for this interim time. And sometimes it seems like our nets are coming up empty! And sometimes they are overflowing with abundance. I have challenged myself and you to keep Jesus at the centre. To follow him.
Debie Thomas wrote, “… the story honors the “same old same olds” of our individual lives. Jesus’s call in this story is specific and particular, rooted in the language, culture, and vocation his hearers knows best. Simon and his partners understand the nuances of the “catching people” metaphor in ways I never will. That is, they know from years of experience what depths of patience, resilience, intuition, and artistry professional fishing require. Simon knows the tools of the trade, the limitations of his body, and the life-and-death importance of timing, humility, and discretion. Most of all, he knows the water. He knows how to respect it, how to listen to it, and how to bring forth its best. When Jesus shows up and commissions the seasoned fisherman, Simon understands the call not as a directive to leave his experience and intelligence behind, but to bring the best of his knowledge and expertise forward — to become even more fully and freely himself.” (https://www.journeywithjesus.net/lectionary-essays/current-essay?id=2075)
We are being called to use what we already have… the gifts already given, the skills already known and the skills we can learn… to bring the realm of God into fuller measure. And we don’t have to wait until conditions are just right, we can start right now, right here, with the person right next to us!
Sharon Salzberg, a meditation practitioner, teacher and writer, says that when she asks people what they value the most, people usually say things like fairness, honesty, generosity, honor, and compassion.
They say them almost wistfully, as if they exist in their imagination or in some world to come. Yet the world we can most try to affect is the one immediately around us.
She wrote, in an On Being essay entitled Your Three Feet of Influence, “Few people are powerful enough, persuasive, persistent, consistent, and charismatic enough to change the world all at once, but everyone has the ability to affect the three feet around them by behaving more ethically, honestly, and compassionately toward those they meet. https://onbeing.org/blog/sharon-salzberg-your-three-feet-of-influence/
We are called to follow Jesus deep into our neighbourhoods,… deep into our relationships… deep into the heart of Jesus’ ministry. Deep into the heart of Jesus’ ministry.
Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of following Jesus. Amen.
February 10, 2019
Elmsdale Cooperative Ministry
Photo Credit – Nancy Arthur Best – Sea of Galilee