Dad on his fishing boat
Audio 5 Epiphany Yr C Feb 10 2019
Isaiah 6:1-8, [9-13], 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Luke 5:1-11, Psalm 138
My dad loved to fish. I remember being very small out in the boat with him holding my fishing pole. I don’t remember catching anything, which I think was a good thing because I really didn’t like the worms or the fish. But I’d sit with him in the boat, for hours. Years later my dad finally built his lake cabin, out of concrete blocks of course, because he was a block layer, and he loved fishing in the summer and ice fishing in the winter. In his later years it was catch and release, but I don’t recall too many fish either way. For my dad, fishin was always more about recognizing the wonder of the lake, the cool breeze in the summer, the amazing trees forming the cathedral that is the shore of the lake, and the eerie and beautiful call of the loon.
This fishing story we hear today is about that same kind of recognition and amazement, as much as it is about fish. I think it is about recognizing Jesus and then following. The setting is out beside the lake, where there was a huge crowd that had gathered to listen to Jesus teach, it was such a huge crowd it was pressing in on him. It’s in the morning, the fisherman had come in for the day, after having fished all night, that’s the way fishermen did it on the lake of Gennesaret, they could get their biggest catch in the night. They were cleaning up, washing and repairing their nets. Jesus needed some relief from the crowds, so he asked Simon Peter if he could get into one of the boats and do some teaching from out in the water. When he was finished teaching, he told Simon Peter, the captain of the fishing boat, to put out into deep water and let down his nets.
This is where the story gets quite interesting. Jesus, who is the son of a carpenter, and who we assume to be a carpenter himself, is telling Simon Peter, a well seasoned fishing boat captain, how to do his job. Jesus is like a city boy telling a farmer how to farm. Jesus is absolutely out of his element, he has no fishing credentials. Simon Peter told him that they had been out all night and hadn’t caught anything. But, Simon Peter conceded, and put the nets out one more time. And when they put their nets out, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. And then, Simon Peter, the fishing boat captain, the big fish if you will, drops down at Jesus’ knees, and confesses, right there in front of his whole crew, he acknowledges Jesus as Lord. And everyone was amazed.
And Jesus tells those fisherpeople not to be afraid, from now on they will be fishing for people, not fish. How stupid is that. Fishing for people sure won’t pay the bills. So what is this story about? It’s not about how to pay the bills. Simon Peter, James and John, and all the others left the catch of their lives, what they caught that morning probably would have kept them all in food, clothes, and new sandals for the foreseeable future.
Simon Peter recognized that day something amazing. He recognized Jesus. Simon Peter recognized Jesus and was willing to leave life as he knew it, life that was probably not cushy, but comfortable, for something that was completely unknown, for something that would scare him to death.
Jesus introduced to them that day a new way, a new economy if you will. So what does that have to do with us, we’re not fisher people.
You see, we live in an absurdly abundant world. A world where worldly success rests in our power to choose and our power to get. Our world is about an economy of getting, having, possessing. But Jesus’ economy costs us everything. After an absurdly abundant catch that Simon Peter, James and John and the others made that day, what on earth would make them pull their fishing boats up on the beach, leave them, and follow this prophet, this Jesus, the one who ate with sinners and women, the one who healed anyone, Jews and Greeks alike, the one who would be tortured and put to death. Wouldn’t they say, wouldn’t you say, do it again? Just do it again Jesus, we can all be rich. But instead, Simon Peter recognizes Jesus, and falls on his knees. And Jesus responds to Simon Peter and the rest with the call to bring in people, not fish. In the midst of the abundance, in the midst of this new wealth, they turn to follow Jesus and the new economy that he has for them.
What on earth would make anyone of us say yes to Jesus’ call of a new life, a new economy? In the midst of the absurdly abundant life many of us live, how do we recognize Jesus in our midst? People who recognize Jesus are not necessarily holy people, just ordinary people, we are ordinary fisher people and wives and mothers, fathers and children, youth and elders.
Recognizing Jesus in our midst is the call to be fishers of people. Recognizing Jesus is recognizing the truth that God loves us so much, God came into this world as one of us, so that we may love God and one another. God’s love is absurdly abundant. God’s love washes over us, as do the waters of baptism. God’s love nourishes us, as does the bread we break each time we meet together. God’s love is absurdly abundant, as the fish that were caught that day in the boat. How can we not be fishers of people, how can we not spread the Good News, when we know this truth.
But following Jesus is costly. Being fishers of people is to speak, and live, and behave in ways that Jesus in our midst is evident. It is to be with the other, as grace and gift and wonder.
It is to go to the grocery store and give thanks for the opportunity to choose, and it is to choose to fill the food bin at church each Sunday. It is to give thanks for the opportunity to be able to afford to buy food, and it is to advocate for those who cannot.
It is to go shopping and give thanks for the opportunity to choose, and to choose to dress modestly in fashion and in price, and it is to give a pair of shoes away for each pair of shoes we have sitting in our closets. It is to work for fair wages for those who make shoes.
It is to give thanks for the opportunity to learn each day, to go to school or work each day, and it is to approach those who are different than us with love and respect. It is to stand up for those who are teased or mistreated. We live in an absurdly abundant world. A world in which all that we have, and all that we are is bestowed upon us by an absurdly abundant God. Thanks be to God.