5 Jesus was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, teaching the people as they crowded around him to hear God’s message. 2 Near the shore he saw two boats left there by some fishermen who had gone to wash their nets. 3 Jesus got into the boat that belonged to Simon and asked him to row it out a little way from the shore. Then Jesus sat down in the boat to teach the crowd.
4 When Jesus had finished speaking, he told Simon, “Row the boat out into the deep water and let your nets down to catch some fish.”
5 “Master,” Simon answered, “we have worked hard all night long and have not caught a thing. But if you tell me to, I will let the nets down.” 6 They did it and caught so many fish that their nets began ripping apart. 7 Then they signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. The men came, and together they filled the two boats so full that they both began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this happen, he knelt down in front of Jesus and said, “Lord, don’t come near me! I am a sinner.” 9 Peter and everyone with him were completely surprised at all the fish they had caught. 10 His partners James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were surprised too.
Jesus told Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you will bring in people instead of fish.” 11 The men pulled their boats up on the shore. Then they left everything and went with Jesus.
Then they left everything and went with Jesus.
Just like that, they left everything.
They left after one of their most successful days ever—-two boats so full of fish they almost sank. They left behind a dependable business. They left behind their families, their homes, and followed Jesus.
They did not volunteer. They responded to Jesus invitation.
Why? What did Jesus say or do?
We know what Jesus said. It’s recorded in Scripture. We know what Jesus did. It’s recorded in Scripture.
Jesus was not just any preacher. His words were fresh, inspiring, encouraging. Heal the sick. Feed the hungry. Comfort the grieving. They were directed to everyday living, to everyday suffering. They addressed what laws and economic systems could not address.
In a world full of bad news, Jesus preached Good News. The Good News that Jesus preached was the coming of the Kingdom of God. Imagine how that fell on the ears of the listeners. Some pictured a physical kingdom that would replace the Roman Empire. Some pictured a separate Jewish nation with a new monarch—possibly Jesus.
How do we picture the Kingdom? After all, we hear the exact good news that those crowds heard two thousand years ago. What is the Kingdom?
Some Christians believe that the Kingdom of God will begin on a specific date in the future. They believe Jesus will return in person and overthrow all earthly rulers. They see the Kingdom of God as a time when the whole world will be freed from evil, sinners will be banished and only good people will remain. (Good luck separating the sinners from the non-sinners.)
In our traditions we believe that the Kingdom arrived in the person of Jesus, the baby in the manger, the boy in the temple, the preacher on the hillside.
The Kingdom became real when Jesus came to earth to bring salvation for all people.
Martin Luther struggled with this idea of the Kingdom.
In the vernacular, the word denotes rulers, borders, bureaucracy. But Jesus’s Kingdom has no rulers but God, no borders, no bureaucracy.
Luther came up with a way to talk about both kingdoms. In his theology, he says there are two kingdoms. One is the spiritual kingdom which is in inhabited by people who are filled with the Hoy Spirit; it is ruled by love, and its inhabitants act out of love. The other kingdom is the secular kingdom in which all people live; it is ruled by laws that seek to keep the peace; people have to do something before they are accepted.
We live in both Kingdoms. We are ruled by the earthly kingdom, in our case, but the rules of our government. And, we live in the Kingdom of God, where we are ruled by love.
This brings me to another concept that is misunderstood by Christians.
We don’t make God love us. We don’t lead righteous lives so that God will love us.
We’ve talked about repentance the last couple Sundays. Do not think that God is waiting for you to repent before God will love you. God is the first great lover of all creation. God loved before any molecule was ever created. We were created out of love because God wanted someone to love. Love is not a response to repentance. Repentance is a response to love.
Richard Rohr explains this clearly:
“Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change.”
We can use this story of Jesus and the fisherman as an allegory. Rev. Cathy M. Kolwey explains it this way:
This story lays out in a very clear way how grace works in our lives (at least how we Protestants believe it to be). Jesus reveals his abundance through a huge catch of fish, even with Simon’s doubts that it was possible. In the face of that catch. Simon feels he is unworthy and repents, and as Jesus responds, the new disciples leave everything and follow him. This is the pattern for which we understand grace: God’s abundance comes first, and discipleship is the joyful act of service that flows from God’s love.
Jesus reveals his abundance, his loving engagement with the fisherman and they respond. He does not help them because they are paying attention to him. In fact, they are busy working when he approaches them.
Why did Jesus choose Peter and Andrew and Jams and John? Think about it: Jesus had dozens, if not hundreds, of people following him around town. I imagine many of them were day laborers, that is people who hung out in marketplace waiting for someone to hire them for the day. If work was not available, listening to Jesus was a great way to pass the time. Why didn’t he choose people who had some spare time?
Why did Jesus preach in the ordinary hangouts of the people? Why not in the temple, in the synagogue?
Well, what if I preached in our sanctuary every Tuesday morning? Who would join me? You know that I like to keep office hours—but not in the church building. You know that Heinee Jo’s and the American Legion are my “offices”—when there is no pandemic. Ministry is impossible without people. There are no people in my office on any day of the week. There are always people in Heinee Jo’s and the Legion. A bar stool is a great place to sit, elbow to elbow, next to people, not separated by a desk. My greatest impatience with this pandemic is the loss of my office hours. Jesus is my example. There is a huge difference in the way we do ministry. I do not preach. I do not tell stories. I do not offer advice. I do not spout wisdom.
We moan and groan about the empty pews, but in fact, we don’t need pews to follow Jesus, to be, as Martin Luther put it, “little Christs.” Luther had a great respect for vocation, that is the work we do in the secular world. He believed we could live as Christians wherever we were, at a job we hated or loved, in prison, on the town council, even sitting in a rocking chair in quarantine.
Peter and Andrew and James and John left their vocation of fishermen and traveled full-time with Jesus. Eventually, they all became preachers themselves, to the ends of their lives.
Perhaps we Christians have made too big of a deal of our buildings. Walls divide. They keep people in; they keep people out. We spend a good deal on maintaining a building that is empty of people most of the time. We have not met in our sanctuaries for several months now. The electricity bill for Hope Lutheran for the month of December was $500. No one was warmed. No one was fed. No one was taught. Is that good stewardship? Our buildings do much good; most importantly, they give us a place to gather in worship. We need to worship, not because God needs our worship, but because we need to remember who loves us. Worship is one response to that great love.
A question pastors are asking each other these days is: What will worship look like after the pandemic? We have learned that we can worship outside our sanctuary, that we can gather in new ways. We have also learned that people need to be together physically. How will we address that need? Will it be enough to unlock the door on Sunday morning.
In the meantime, we are not prevented in any way, shape or form, from following Jesus. God has not changed. Jesus loves us, comes to us where we are, whether it be fishing or working or dozing in the LazyBoy. We respond with loving thoughts, with loving words, with loving deeds. Amen.
Interesting article about fishing in the Sea of Galilee:
Richard Rohr, OFM, is an American author, spiritual writer, and Franciscan friar based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was ordained to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church in 1970. PBS has called him “one of the most popular spirituality authors and speakers in the world.”
https://revgalblogpals.org/2021/01/18/narrative-lectionary-luke-5-1-11/Rev. Cathy M. Kolwey is a write, artist, and pastor who works in the SW suburbs of the Twin Cities in Minnesota.