Sermon 1-24-21 The Rev Jen Van Zandt
“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. 3He 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.” 6When 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 Hazards of Fishing
Perhaps some of you are familiar with the show Deadliest Catch. If not, it’s a genre of reality TV in which four to six commercial fishing boats, most of which are more than a hundred feet in length, fish for crab in the very dangerous Bering Sea. It’s one of the most dangerous professions. But when the fishing is good, it’s also one of the most lucrative.
There are many interesting aspects to this show, and it reminds me of our text in the ebb and flow of emotions by the captain and crew as they set the first pots in the ‘string’. Some of the crew will cross themselves or kiss a crucifix or some other talisman; some start to cheer like a kickoff at a football game; others light up a cigarette and raise their eyes or their hands to the sky in hopes of a big catch. It’s quite another scene, however, when they return to their string with hopeful anticipation that their pots will be filled to the brim of the right kind and the right size crab. And when they’re not, and there’s pot after pot of nothing but water, the mood turns dark and dismal. More cigarettes are lit by the captain and crew; complaints (often filled with expletives that are bleeped out) start to fly; and, if it goes on long enough, even brawls break out, especially when they’ve been out to sea for a while. They’re exhausted. They’re away from their families. They’re also probably worried that the empty pots further their inability to pay bills and debts.
The story in Luke seems far more docile than this. So maybe this is the wrong comparison. You know… the more I think about it…Deadliest Catch is actually more of what our lives have felt like for the last 10 months. We’ve been enduring increasingly intense emotions, hopes and frustrations of awaiting vaccines, hoping it will lead to decreasing new cases and deaths, which eat away at us as they continue to rise and increase. We’re being forced to live in confined spaces without physical connection to friends and family. We worry about our own health and safety and everyone is…‘in the same boat’. Also, we have to find ways to think about others who are less fortunate–who don’t truly know how they’re going to pay their bills. We’re lighting cigarettes or other destructive habits to manage our stress and our boredom. And even disagreements and arguments probably break out, because we’ve been living in confined spaces, sharing the same internet connection and seeking to find sanity while everyone is home from school and work. Alright…you get the rest of this parallel. We’re looking for sanity. We’re looking for hope. So what is there to garner from this story, because this story seems, again, so pleasant and so docile from what we’re living in now or from what happens on Deadliest Catch.
So what’s the invitation? What are the claims of this text? Well, the first one is that Jesus is calling on Simon Peter, (and on us), to look beyond our own plight, our disappointments and even our fears to a future that will be different, but abundant again. At a deeper level, Jesus is calling Simon Peter, (and us), to a place of obedience versus our complaining, our fear and our faithlessness. Simon Peter states the nature of his disappointment and probably also frustration and fear. I mean, after all, fishing is his livelihood. But when Jesus instantly commands Simon Peter to do it differently, Simon Peter obeys. Beverly Roberts Gaventa, who is a scholar on Luke, says “Peter obeys even though it actually, seems ridiculous”. This is also the same dynamic we explored in Advent with both Mary and Joseph, who didn’t debate with God, who didn’t resist, but submitted to God’s will.
The third claim of this text is also acknowledging our sinfulness. Not everybody is comfortable with that. Not everybody’s comfortable with that claim or even stepping up and actually doing it. But without an honest confrontation and conversation with God, our relationship with God stays one dimensional and also very transactional.
The fourth and final point is the invitation by Jesus to actually actively participate in his ministry. To choose and embrace and be part of God’s redemptive purposes. So what does that look like? I can hear you already saying from home, “Well, how can we do that? We can’t even leave the house.” Well, some of it may be obvious and some of it may be new because of where we find ourselves. So here’s just a small list to get you started. As Amanda talked about, the Lenten devotional is underway. It’s a great and a very low risk opportunity that you can do from your very homes to actively participate in God’s redemptive purposes. This year’s theme is “Love Thy Neighbor”; something we all desperately need to keep exploring as Christians and as citizens of the world. You may have had a chance to enjoy services, at least the Christmas Eve service that people continue to rave about. That takes a lot of time and a lot of talent, and we need as many of you to step up and offer your gifts of technology, or music, or planning, or to consider being a lay reader, or even just giving new ideas to the very small group of people who continue to make worship possible each week.
Christian Ed has been struggling to figure out how to reach out to our youth and our children in a way that is not just one more Zoom meeting. We’ve had some success, but not nearly enough to keep our kids, our youth and their families connected. There are things that you can do to help Sandy–take the work and burden off of her in ways that are simple that you can do from your home, like helping her keep up with weekly documentation of sermons, the hymns and texts that we use. There are so many things. Even helping the deacons with correspondence for those who are sick or grieving or alone.
So, my friends, there is a lot that we can do while we are waiting to come back to the shore, to this wonderful place that we call our home. First, is to be open and honest with God and fall on your knees, all of our knees, and confess where we fail to be loving and kind. There are ways in which we can actively think through how to bring more evangelism to our community and to our world. And there are ways in which we can truly help the church and Jesus Christ “fish” for more people. May it start today. May it start here. And may it start now. Amen.