This sermon was offered on February 3rd by Jessica Torgerson, Director of Children’s Ministries. The focus text is Luke 5:1-11.
I have taught this story to children probably four times since I began teaching at WCUC. I love this story. Jesus is blossoming at the very beginning of his ministry. He is baptized, he spends 40 days tempted in the desert, then he returns to Nazareth and begins traveling, preaching, and healing. Word spreads about this guy really fast. So fast, in fact, that by the time this story begins in Luke, there is such a crowd pushing in on Jesus that he has to escape to the water in Simon’s boat where he continues to teach. Now Simon is a fisherman, and perhaps a sub-par fisherman at that, as he tells Jesus he was out all night and literally caught nothing. He’s probably exhausted and frustrated, and I’m betting he just wants to clean his nets and go home. But he welcomes Jesus into his boat and pushes out into the water – allowing Jesus to finish teaching to the crowd.
In Sunday school, whenever we present bible stories to the children, we always spend some time wondering. “I wonder how that story made you feel,” “I wonder why that story is in the bible, “I wonder what happens next.” Sometimes our wondering is general, sometimes it is specific. In this story, I wonder a lot. I wonder if Simon grumbled when Jesus asked him to use his boat. Or did he offer without hesitation? I wonder if the two of them knew each other before this. Were they buddies? What was their relationship? Turns out just before this story in Luke, Jesus visited Simon at his home and miraculously healed his sick mother-in-law. So maybe Simon figured he owed him one – you saved my mother-in-law, I’ll let you use my boat for a bit while you teach. Little did Simon know how central he would become to this story very soon.
So Jesus is in Simon’s boat and finishes teaching. Interestingly, Luke says nothing about what Jesus was teaching to the crowd. That part isn’t important – it’s what follows his teaching that becomes vital to the story. Jesus says to Simon, “Put your nets out there in deep water.” Jesus is not a professional fisherman. Not even sure if Jesus has ever fished before. So Simon responds, “yeah – we tried that all night and caught nothing. But sure! If you say so!” So the experienced fisherman, on the advice of Jesus – again, not a fisherman – trusts him so much that he does it. Doesn’t even really hesitate about it. “If you say so, I’ll let down the nets.” I wonder – could I do that? Could you? Could you trust someone so deeply that you respond to a call or an invitation with very little logic behind it? Would you say yes? Would I?
So we all know what happens next – nets so full of fish they begin to break, boats so full of fish they begin to sink. Simon becomes overwhelmed with fear and wonder and expresses his complete unworthiness, falling on his knees, telling Jesus “Get away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Jesus comforts him saying, “Don’t be afraid. From now on you will be catching people.” The boats full of fish are brought to shore, and Simon and his partners James and John leave everything behind – leave behind the greatest catch of their fishing careers – to follow Jesus.
This encounter with Jesus has completely turned the lives of these fishermen upside down. There is really nothing extraordinary about Simon Peter and his fishing partners. They were doing what they did every day – fishing (not particularly well), cleaning nets, getting ready to go home when Jesus comes along and changes everything.
Jesus calls Simon and his partners exactly as they are. He doesn’t ask for Simon to get his act together and come back with a resume for a detailed interview for a discipleship position in his ministry. He accepts them with all their sins and vulnerabilities and inadequacies. And what’s more amazing to me – these fishermen say yes!
In the past when I have heard and taught this story, I always end up thinking – I could never do that. Literally drop everything to follow Jesus? I can’t. I’m definitely not worthy. Not prepared. Not trusting enough. But I wonder – what would it be like to go deep sea fishing with Jesus? Would you go with him if he called you? Stepping out of your comfort zone, letting go of certainties and logic? Because the truth is, we have all let down our nets in response to a call from God. That is why we are here.
In each of your bulletins you will find a little paper fish. I invite you to think for a moment – what brought you to West Concord Union Church? Every one of us has heard a call or an invitation to join our community, maybe to get involved in a ministry. Why did you say yes? When you cast out your net, what did you catch? On your fish, I invite you to write down what has brought you here to our church. What call are you responding to? How is God inviting you?
Thank you God for calling us in so many different ways to get to know you and each other. Thank you for catching us in your deep, wide net of mercy and love, as we continue to cast our nets out and fill them to bursting. In your holy name, Amen.