Fishing.

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

I grew up fishing with my dad.  I have to admit, I wasn’t good at it and didn’t particularly enjoy it.  I think it was because it was something my dad loved, and really wanted me to love it…but, I just didn’t.  It seems like a lot of times growing up, I had passions for some things like adventures in hiking mountains or sports, where as my dad had other passions such as fishing, carpentry, and classical music.  

As I grew older, I had some deep friendships with folks who were great fisherman.  I began to realize that fishing can be a fun exercise.  It’s peaceful, strategic, and there is an art to it.  I have been amazed at some of my friends with a gift for fishing.  They simply know where to put their lines in the water, and the patience and talent to lure fish onto their hooks!

I think it turned when I went to Alaska several years ago. We went to visit friends and to explore some of the beauty of Alaska.   Our friends were also avid fisherman.  So, every other day we went salmon fishing in some gorgeous place.  One day may be fishing off the coast of Valdez in a boat, the next maybe in a remote glacier lake casting towards the sunrise over snow capped mountains.  I still wasn’t that great of fisherman, but even there I caught enough fish to fill a huge box of salmon steaks to ship home!  

There was a gradual change within me towards fishing…a conversion if you will!

Our gospel lesson this morning finds Jesus right after the story where Jesus was preaching in his hometown of Nazareth and the folks wanted throw him off a cliff that we read last week.  He is at a lake and there are so many people crowding around him to hear him that he gets into a boat and pulls out on the water so he can speak.

When he’s done, he tells Simon, later to known as Peter, to throw down their nets again in deep water.  

Peter protests, he was a good fisherman.  

They grew up around it, it gave them fellowship, a source of income, and they were good at it.  

They had fished all night.  They knew the right places, they had the right technique, they had the correct bait to attract fish, yet, they caught nothing.  All night, nothing.  

I’m sure they are thinking, how would that help?  We know these waters, we know how to fish…moving our nets a few feel won’t do anything.  Yet, they had fished all night with no results.  They were doing what they always did which got them something in times past, but nothing on this day.

So, they take a risk, trust this guy on the beach, and throw their nets out again.  What happens?  They trusted, had some faith, and they caught more fish than ever before! 

Yet, there was also some dissonance.  Peter, always the one who blurts out what is on his mind…says that he is a sinner, and for Jesus to get away from him.  He was living into the narrative that religion has devolved into for millennium…that he was somehow unworthy of God’s love because of what he’s done or not done.  That’s a religion that’s not good for anyone!  We have to remember that we are made in God’s image, and that is good.  We are not meant to be controlled by a religion that says that we are not worthy of love…we are!!  But, we have to deconstruct this religious narrative that we “sinners in the eyes of an angry God”…that’s not healthy and it’s not true!  

Friends, this passage can speak to us in our personal lives and in lives together as .  There may be things that we’ve done for a long time in our lives that simply are not working anymore, we need a fresh perspective, maybe we need to put our nets somewhere else.  We all need to have a deeper trust in the Divine.  We certainly need to slow down, and listen to the voice of God calling us to put our nets out again.  

As we do that, we will find ourselves in a deeper way…we will become students of God’s love, disciples, people marked by growth, awareness, agency…those first disciples answered the call towards risk, adventure, loss, and gaining life, abundant life…movement towards becoming the persons that they’ve always wanted to be….

And, fishers of humans?  That simply means that we are called to connect, to love, and to build genuine friendships…but it starts with trusting ourselves, others, and God’s prompting.    

As we do this, we will find ourselves in the midst of conversion.  Conversion is a lifelong process.  The Benedictine monks got it, they would pray for Stability, Obedience, and Conversion daily.  

I believe in this process of change and growth.  One of our other scripture lessons is the story of Paul’s conversion.  It was dramatic, on the road to Damascus, a blinding light, and the voice of Jesus.  It was also dramatic when you consider that Paul persecuted Christians, killed them, separated families, instilled fear in the early church.  Yet, love penetrates even the most darkest of places when we come before the light of God’s presence and hear the voice of Jesus calling us towards the other side of the boat, out of what we’ve become used to, and into the wide open spaces of God’s expansive love.

This church, our lives, we are in the midst of conversion.  All of us, myself included, are moving towards new chapters in our lives.  That is good news for me, for us, and for all of those around us.  

We talked about “flow” last week, that change will happen no matter what.  

That flow is present in this “sacred act” of our sacraments, our relationships.  Sometimes that flow is messy, it overruns the dams and the banks of our lives that we have built.  And, that’s OK, actually, it’s good as it reminds us that God’s love flows as it will…in and through, all around us.  

 A friend of mine, Brian McLaren, reminded a group of us a while ago that the word sacrament simply means a “sacred moment”.  Our whole lives are sacred moments, not just communion and baptism, may we live into the flow, the mess, and be present with ourselves, others, and God.  

So, friends, lets put our nets out again as we move towards this sacred moment together…

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