One day a Pastor and an Elder from the church took a Visitor fishing on the Elder’s boat.
Once in the Middle of the lake, the Pastor said" I seem to have forgotten my fishing pole, be right back" and to the visitor’s amazement stepped out of the boat and walked on top of the water towards the shore.
When he had returned, the Elder said, "I need to use the restroom, be right back."
Again the visitor watched in amazement. Once the Elder returned, not wanting to be outdone, the visitor said "I need to use the restroom, too."
As soon as he stepped out of the boat, he sank.
The Pastor nudged the Elder and said "We should have told him where the rocks were?"
Simon Peter. We’re all familiar with Peter, the natural leader of Jesus’ Disciples. Bold. At times, brash, and impulsive. Peter was an entrepreneur: a fisherman (today we’d say he was a “self-starter”). A business man, who worked along side James and John... they were partners... hard working, ordinary people, working to “make a living.” Honorable. Responsible. Respectable.
Of course, Peter was also a man of faith.
One morning, after fishing all night long... Jesus, another hard working man (a carpenter) from Nazareth shows up... and there gathered such a huge crowd to hear Jesus speak... that he borrowed Peter's boat to go out into the lake, to use the shore as a kind of natural Amphitheater.
I imagine Peter still had plenty of work to do, cleaning up, tending his nets, before he could call it a night... but he agreed... and joined in listening to Jesus, before he putting everything up for the day.
Of course, when Jesus finished preaching he told Peter (and the others) to put out into deeper water and let down their nets.
Which spurred a little resistance... understandably so! Have you ever been tired to the bone, after a long day’s work, and first thing you know, someone’s asking you to do something else... calling on you to expend a little more energy, when all you want to do is go home, and rest?
Well this carpenter/preacher from Galilee may have been good a preaching, but he didn’t seem to know a lot about fishing! Of course, the best time to catch fish was at night when they were close to the surface... not in the heat of the Middle Eastern day. And besides, Peter and James and John had already worked all night, to no avail... not a single fish... nothing to show for all their efforts! They were simply ready put everything away and go get some rest.
But, because this was Jesus asking... Peter agreed. Maybe just to placate Jesus... to prove that he (Peter) knew what he was talking about! That there were no fish to be had, and that their efforts were pointless. Or... maybe, just maybe... Peter (who called Jesus “Master” - did you notice?) sensed something in Jesus... maybe he had a gut feeling that Jesus was the “real deal” and he truly trusted Jesus? I don’t know, and we’re not told!
Regardless... Peter goes out to the deeper water, as Jesus requested... and let down his nets. And to his amazement, suddenly the nets were full of more fish than he’d ever seen. The nets were so full they were about to break... so he called for his partners (James, John) to come help. And they filled, not just one, but two boats, with the catch.
Peter realized this was no ordinary carpenter, nor a “run-of-the-mill” preacher. This could be the Messiah... the Son of God.
So what does Peter do? He falls to his knees before Jesus, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
I don’t know about you; but to me... this feels like more of a confession that an excuse. Last week we talked about Jeremiah and his excuse: “I’m too young, I need more training... more maturity before I can follow!” The week before that it was Isaiah’s excuse, “I’m a man of unclean lips who lives among a people of unclean lips!” In other words, “I’m unworthy to serve God!”
Peter recognized who he was... and confessed his unworthiness to be in Jesus’ presence. But Jesus reached out to him in love and forgiveness and acceptance. No condemnation, no judgement. Only compassion. And Jesus even commissioned Peter to be a fisher of people for the Kingdom.
So what do we learn from this story? What’s the point? Why does Luke go to the trouble of handing this particular account of Simon Peter’s calling, to you and me?
Well, I’m sure there are several reasons. But one thing that jumps out at me when reading this story, and others like it, from God’s Word... is that you and I find Christ in the ordinary. We sometimes allow ourselves to believe that Jesus is tucked away, hidden in the extraordinary... among the miracles, and the miraculous! I mean, after all, Jesus is God in the flesh, Emmanuel, God with us! We’re naturally tempted to think that it requires a unique or gifted or exceptional sensitivity to experience Christ, or to be called by Christ. But this story reminds us that’s not the case.
These were ordinary fishermen... with regular, everyday fishing boats... with nets they’d woven by hand... working to feed themselves and their families. And these regular people, experienced a remarkable and life-changing experience with Jesus, in the middle of living their everyday life. Maybe it would even be correct to say, they experienced Christ when they least expected to experience anything righteous, or holy, or Godly.
So Christ reveals himself in the ordinary moments of life... often at unexpected times and unexpected places!
*I’ve experienced God’s presence here at Church, no doubt - and it’s wonderful, and transformative, when Christ reveals himself to us when “two or more are gathered together.” We long for moments like that!
*But I’ve also experienced Christ in the nursing home while praying with a resident who didn’t know who I was or why I was there!
*I’ve experience Christ in the hospitals and Hospice facilities. I’ve met Christ in the grocery store, and at school functions. I’ve felt Christ’s presence on the street as he used... ordinary, unremarkable ME to help another soul find some comfort and compassion.
Christ reveals himself to us, and empowers us to serve HIM in a million different places and ways: but one thing is always the same. Whether we meet Christ at church, or out fishing... he calls us to follow him. To use our ordinary giftings and graces; OUT THERE... in the world in which he has placed us... to bring others into the kingdom.
I wonder what it would look like... what our church would look like... if you and I would just trust Christ enough to cast OUR nets again!
Oh, Jerry... we’ve been there and done that! We tried, and tried again... we’ve worked all night, and to no avail. If everyone we’ve asked, or invited to church... if everyone we’ve shared the Good News with were to come, we’d pack out the sanctuary.
Try again. Go out into deeper water, and cast again. You may be tired, and weary... you may be ready to pack it up and call it done! But hear Jesus words... “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets” again.