The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany; Year C (2/7/2010)
A Good Fish Story
Lessons: Isaiah 6:1-8 [9-13] Psalm 138 (2) 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 St. Luke 5:1-11
Prayer of the Day: Most holy God, the earth is filled with your glory, and before you angels and saints stand in awe. Enlarge our vision to see your power at work in the world, and by your grace make us heralds of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
5.1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 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. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning 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 that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 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.
St. Luke 5:1-11 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
I can’t help but wonder if St. Luke is slipping us a good fish story here. In this Gospel lesson, Jesus meets Simon (known by most of us as Peter) – a professional fishermen – a man who spends every night on the boats, working the nets. The night St. Luke describes is a difficult one. Simon has been up for hours with no success. At daybreak he heads for shore and begins the long, tedious task of cleaning and mending the nets so that he will be ready for the next night's fishing.
Then along comes Jesus. Simon knows a thing or two about him — and is beginning to sense some of the power he has. A short time earlier, Jesus had healed Simon’s mother-in-law, who was seriously ill with a high fever. (St. Luke 4:38-39) Simon is happy to comply when Jesus asks him to put his boat back in the water, so Jesus can teach the crowd from there. And it will give Simon a great seat for the day's teaching.
But he isn't so happy when Jesus instructs him to put out into the deep water and cast the nets. He is a professional, after all. He knows when conditions are right. He has decided the fishing is over for the day. He knows that once the sun comes up, the fish too easily see the net, and he won’t catch a thing. It is a ridiculous request. After all, who is this carpenter to tell a professional fisherman how to do his job?
And what happens... well that sounds even more ridiculous than the request itself. St. Luke tells us that when Simon does as Jesus asks, there are so many fish that the net is about to break. He calls his partners over, and they haul the fish into the boats until they are about to sink.
It certainly sounds like a fish story – and a good one at that! But St. Luke is clear to show us that it isn’t just a fish story. It is a people story too. In this story, three people (Simon, James and John) are witnesses to the power of Jesus. Three people are called to leave their old lives behind and follow Jesus. Three people walk away from their boats, their nets, and a rotting pile of fish, to live as followers of Jesus. Three people begin a new kind of fishing – casting about for others who will listen to the words of Jesus – inviting them into the new life that they themselves were only beginning to understand.
We see, in this story, that one of the central purposes of our faith – of our church – is to be so touched and shaped by the presence of Jesus that nothing else seems as important as sharing that experience with others. God has claimed us in baptism, transformed us by grace, and made us to be a holy people. Now we too, like Simon and James and John, are called to leave behind us anything that distracts us from our faith, and give our full attention to “catching people” for Christ.
May God fill our hearts with faith and hope and joy, as we are forgiven and welcomed into the promise of God’s eternity. And may we respond to God’s touch, by reaching out and inviting others into the same grace we have received.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What did those three fishermen know about Jesus before he approached them?
- What was their response to his miracle?
- How must that experience have changed their hearts and minds?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- When have I been reluctant to participate in something that seemed too hard or too complicated?
- What ministry might God be calling me to, that I’ve previously been reluctant to consider?
- When have I observed God’s power, and its ability to help a believer accomplish what would have been impossible without it?