Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fishing for People: Luke 5:1-11

Epiphany 5C February 7, 2010
It had been a long hard night out on the water. And Simon hadn't caught any fish while he and the others were out in the boat on Lake Galilee.

Fishing wasn't a recreational sport for Simon, his partners, or for just about anybody else in Galilee. Fishing wasn't about story telling or communing with nature. Fishing was work. You didn't fish to get away from it all with the guys at the traditional place to play cards and reminisce around the fire. People in Galilee needed to catch fish to make a living. It was a basic part of the social fabric and economy of Galilee 2000 years ago. The fisherman had to pay their bills for their boats and nets. They had their share of taxes to pay to their overlords in Judea and in Rome.1 Simon, and the others he was fishing with, just needed to catch a break and they couldn't .

They just needed to catch something. And Peter hadn't caught a thing. He needed something; but he didn't have a thing in hand.

Its frustrating to go fishing and end up empty handed; even if you don't need a catch to survive. Simon and his friends desperately needed a catch. They didn't go out just to be on the water because its fun to be out on the water. They went out because they needed to make a living. And they had nothing in hand after a night out on the water. And in that moment of deep frustration Jesus showed up. A crowd had gathered around on the shore to hear him preach the word of God.

Simon and the other folks who just come back from fishing were pretty tired by now. But he was also probably curious. Here on the lake shore a charismatic man attracted a crowd who just wanted to listen to him. Soon enough this very same charismatic man stepped into his boat asking him to put out a little from shore.

The lake must have been pretty still that morning as he spoke to the crowd gathered on the shore. Jesus' words that morning weren't recorded, except for the few sentences that Jesus spoke to Simon we heard have here in Luke there's no other record of what was said.

4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 2

Simon was tired. It's hard work to be out fishing when there no catch. It takes so much hope to go out and search for a catch. And Simon was divided. His body and brain told him it was time to give up he'd been at it all night. But his hope was strong. He wasn't totally ready to give up. He responded to Jesus invitation in hope, “...because you say so. I will let down the nets.” Luke explains that Simon's hope didn't return empty. After an exhausting night Simon and his partners hauled in an enormous catch.

6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

Simon was caught by Jesus at the very moment. He and his partners caught all these fish and hauling them all in shock him to the very core. God has a way of surprising his people with joy. He has the audacity to meet us in surprising ways in the everyday things of creation. It's God will to work in the ordinary and even the difficult times to surprise us with joy and hope.

8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Experiencing the living God who made heaven and earth is fearful and intense. The writer of Hebrews 10:31 explains it this way. He says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” 3 Simon and his friends were regular guys and now they realized they were in the presence of the almighty. Peter wasn't a professional religious person who worked in the temple or in the courts of the high priest. He wasn't the best educated man or even the member of a prestigious family. Jesus knew all that. Jesus knew Simon and he knows who you and I really are too. Our sins, our shame, our guilt, our griefs. We stand naked before God.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

God's plan for Simon and for us is revealed in surprising ways. The God who catches us and surprises us with joy and forgiveness intends to send us out. Jesus sent his friends out to catch people with the Good News. God is going to send all of us out too.

We are sent out to catch others. And God will go with you to share the same surprising joy that he used to catch you. Simon was afraid; he knew he had nothing to offer God. And that's exactly why Jesus wanted him. God wants to use us in our weakness and in our feebleness. He wants us to catch others by spreading the Good News that the kingdom of God has come near.

1K.C. Hanson “The Galilean Fishing Economy and the Jesus Tradition.” Originally published in Biblical Theology Bulletin 27 (1997) 99-111 http://www.kchanson.com/ARTICLES/fishing.html

2The Holy Bible : New International Version, (electronic ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), Lk 5:4-11.
3The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version, ( Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Heb 10:31.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Pastor John for sharing your thoughts again. I missed reading them. They give me much "food for thought".

Although I would rather read than fish; I am always suprised by how God places me with places on land where I can cast or "mend" sometimes a net among those who I meet.