Luke 5: 1-11
January 24, 2021
It had been a long day for Simon, James and John.
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They had taken their boats out into the lake … just a bit off shore. They strung their nets … weighed down by lead weights with gourds bobbing on the surface so that the nets were like a fence running parallel to the shore.
Then, they spent the night banging on the sides of their boats and slapping the surface of the water with their oars … trying to make as much noise as possible to scare the fish into their nets.
Clearly, fishing back in Jesus’ time was a bit more involved than baiting a hook and throwing out some line …
Scholars say that the fish that they were trying to catch was a type of Tilapia that could grow to almost a foot-and-half in length and weigh as much as three pounds.
The men … like all fishers earning their livelihood on the lake … knew the terrain … where there were outcroppings and sand bars … where the shallows ended … all the structures that held the promise of fish.
The fishers knew that the darkness of the night held promise of good catches because the nets could not be seen.
They knew what they were doing because their livelihoods depended on it.
Now, probably bone-weary tired … exhausted from hauling in the nets that … even empty … could weigh as much as 100 pounds, the fishers were on the shore cleaning their nets with no catch to show for hours of effort.
They were probably feeling a bit discouraged … diminished by doing all they could and coming up empty.
Jesus, wanting some room from the crowd that has gathered to hear him teach, transforms one of the boats into a pulpit, and taught the crowd from the water.
When he was done, he told Simon to put the nets out into deep water.
Let’s take a different approach, Jesus tells him.
Simon didn’t expect any different results than they had experienced the previous night.
Experience told him that moving the nets into deeper water didn’t hold too much promise … the nets would be higher off the bottom of the lake and the fish could easily go under the nets … which would be visible in the light of day … and just head out toward the middle of the lake.
Still, he did as he was instructed.
AND …. He was rewarded.
The nets quickly became so full they were at the brink of snapping … and hauling the catch back into the boat became so difficult and the boat was in danger of sinking from the weight of the fish and nets that Simon had to call to his friends to help.
And the abundance threatened to swamp the second boat, as well.
After they got the boats back on shore, in a moment of humility, Simon Peter tries to send Jesus away and confessed his sin. But Jesus, forgave him and told him that he would be catching people from now on.
What’s more … Jesus and the men simply walked away and left the abundance lying on the shore … where others could benefit from the sustenance that the catch offered. They left their old lives to follow Jesus on an uncertain course to deeper water.
This is a story about discipleship. It’s about where and how we cast out nets to bring people together and into community … to bring abundance to others’ lives.
It takes courage and daring, patience and determination to work on the seas, and it also takes a great deal of faith.
Fishermen must be willing to work together and help one another as they operate the nets. They had to develop the skills necessary to get the job done quickly and efficiently.
These are also among the key elements of discipleship that responds to the urgent needs of the community.
In Luke’s mind, discipleship … answering the call to serve … means detaching oneself from their former life and the things that anchor us in unproductive waters. Today’s lesson calls us to detach from self-doubt and a sense of being unproductive and move to a place of faith and abundance … to the deeper water.
During this pandemic, we can enter into a period of reflection and use this time as a transformative moment.
It is a time when the world quiets around us and we can consider what calls us … what claims us … how this call informs our daily and work lives.
It is a chance to gain some perspective.
Perhaps, we can reconsider where we’ll place our nets after the ice of the pandemic is off the water … to consider if we are we willing to head out to deeper water?
What happens when we do our best … when the methods or locations that have always produced results … come up short or epically fail? Do we let self-doubt creep in and take over?
Are we willing to be open to trying new ways and new places to share God’s abundant gift or do we just shrug our shoulders and walk away content that at least we tried?
This sense of self-doubt and futility is the opposite of purpose … which is necessary for discipleship to be effective.
This pandemic has exposed things in society in terms of poverty, health care disparity, and social justice … that call for our attention. Perhaps, the pandemic could lead to a renewed sense of purpose … a time of renewal for our discipleship.
Deeper water … more uncertain and potentially wilder … but it is also a place that holds untold promise and abundance. It is a place where faith leads us.
The gospel is deeply personal and calls us into deeper relationships with one another and with God … it is a place where teaching, healing and inclusion … in other words ministry … are followed by abundance that is woven through by love.