The Holy Gospel according to Luke, the 5th chapter. Glory to you, O Lord.
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.
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ. (297)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Call stories are well known throughout the scripture. A call story is the story we tell when we talk about how God calls us to serve. People are often curious to hear the call stories from deacons and pastors and bishops. They want to know when we knew we were called. They want to hear if there was something special that happened in our lives or if we just always knew.
It isn’t just deacons, pastors, and bishops who have call stories, though. You all have call stories, too, even if you haven’t shared them out loud with anyone. There is no higher calling than being a baptized child of God. You may have a call story with a lot of drama, or like many of us, your story might be that you grew up in the faith and never wandered.
Our Old Testament reading is the call story of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah may win the prize for the most dramatic call story ever. In his vision he gets to see the greatness of God and there are angels flying all around the Temple. In this story we also get the hymn “Holy, holy, holy” we sing every week as part of our communion liturgy.
Today’s gospel reading is Luke’s version of the call story for Simon Peter, James, and John. The call story of these three disciples is more of a process than a one time thing.
Michigan ELCA Bishop Craig Satterlee has suggested that a call story is always a process, not just a one time event, and that we are always somewhere in the midst of the process, both as individuals and as a congregation. We are always in the boat with Jesus.
The first part of the process for Peter, James, and John is instruction. Jesus gets in the boat and starts teaching the disciples and the surrounding crowd, (that is, us). It seems logical and wise that the life of faith should begin with instruction. When we were young our parents began by reading us Bible stories. Then it was time for Sunday school and confirmation classes.
But, instruction from Jesus is not something we ever outgrow. We are never too old to learn from God’s Word. We can attend Bible studies throughout our lives. God is always using the word to open our hearts and minds.
Perhaps you are at a place in your life where you are sitting in the boat with Jesus listening to his teachings.
After the time of instruction, Jesus told Simon Peter to put out the nets into the deep water. In the ancient near east, deep water was symbolic of chaos. The disciples had already been fishing all night. They had the boats out in the deep waters already and hadn’t caught anything.
There are times in our lives of faith that we feel like we are deep in the waters of chaos and aren’t accomplishing anything. It feels like we are doing the same things over and over with no results, and before we even get a chance to rest, we have to go do it over again.
This part of the story reminds me of a verse from the hymn, There is a Balm in Gilead: “Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work’s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.”
Because, that’s exactly what Jesus does next! He revives their souls! The disciples were discouraged, but this time, Jesus is in the boat with them. Jesus is in the boat!
This time they catch more fish than anybody knows what to do with. This is an overwhelming experience of love and acceptance for the disciples. This is a clear sign that God has blessed them and their work.
Maybe you can remember a time in your life when you experienced a clear sense of God’s love and acceptance. A time when you know that you are blessed. Last month, when we baptized four new members on a Wednesday evening and then six more new members 10 days later, I looked out on the congregation and saw your faces. Those were times when we didn’t just know that those new members were blessed, but we as a congregation were able to experience God’s abundance.
The next stage in the call process is resistance. Peter recognizes that he is a sinful man. He tries to send Jesus away. He feels completely unworthy to even be in the same place as Jesus.
Perhaps you have been there, too. You know you don’t deserve the good news you are hearing. You try to get away from Jesus because you feel unworthy. You know what you have done and what you have left undone. You avoid coming to worship. You stay away from anything that reminds you of church.
But, Jesus didn’t leave Peter. Jesus didn’t let Peter leave him. And Jesus hasn’t left you. He is still in the boat with you. Jesus reassures Peter. He tells him not to be afraid.
Then Jesus tells Peter and Jesus tells us what the call means. “From now on, you will be catching people.” We know what that meant for Peter, James, and John. Their lives were changed forever.
Perhaps you can remember a time when you were confident in the midst of change because you can hear Jesus say to you, “Do not be afraid.”
When we hear the call to follow Jesus, our lives are changed forever. We don’t know what that new life is going to look like. Peter, James, and John dropped everything and followed Jesus.
Jesus may call you to drop everything, to leave your home and family and job to follow him. Or, He may call you to follow him by staying where you are, because he has work for you to do right here.
Where are you in your call process? Listening to teaching, over the deep waters, experiencing abundance and blessings, resisting the call, being reassured, or dropping every thing and following Jesus.
The good news for all of us is that no matter where we are in this call process, this process of Christian living, Jesus is in the same boat with us. Jesus is in your boat and Jesus won’t get out of the boat without you. Amen.