February 6, 2022
Rev. Patricia Wagner
You are Calling Me? Lord, Have Mercy!
Scripture: Luke 5: 1-11
Luke 5: 1-11
Once while Jesus1 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.
Its morning, Jesus has just he healed a man in Capernaum, and he has spoken with such authority that Luke says the people are amazed, and they’ve followed him down to the sea of Galilee. And as the fisherman are standing on the shore, cleaning their nets. After a long, discouraging night, and Jesus steps into one of their boats and asks to be taken out a short ways. So, to teach all those along the beach.
The boat is Simon’s, who will be renamed Cephas, Peter, the Rock. We do not hear Jesus teaching to the crowd, That’s not the focus of this story, it’s this, that once done he says to Simon and the others, ‘Take the boat out farther to fish’ And they say, “Nope, we already tried, “ ‘Try again, he says, but cast your nets on the other side’. And once they haul up all those fish, so that they begin to sink, Simon is the one who is immediately aware that he is in the presence of the divine and just as aware of how unworthy he is.
And I don’t think his life is any less worthy than mine or yours. Nor social ranking, we know that means nothing to God. Imagine Jesus climbs into the boat of my life and says, ‘I need you to help people hear me’. And then says, ‘Lets go out deeper’. How unworthy I would feel to be in the presence of such holiness. But and here is the revelation, perhaps the real miracle. The Lord needs Simon. He needs those who are lowly, and those who are highborn. He invites all of them, all of us. For there is work to do. To lend him our boats, these vessels, our lives.
There are people to fish for. That’s a metaphor exactly right for fishermen, but it rings of entrapment. And don’t fish die once you catch them? But the direct translation in Greek is ese zogron: You will take men/humans alive. You will save them. When I was in Vietnam with my daughter to explore her heritage, meet her birth family we spent time with church folk there. Including a young woman, who among English speakers called herself Beth, the first and only Christian in her family. Beth was teaching bible school for children as she prepared for seminary. At a restaurant in Saigon, Beth shared about her family. Her brother and father’s estrangement. Her brothers suicide. And her struggle to forgive her father. And to help him see how he needed to change. She looked at the tables around us filled with young people, young families and her eyes filled with tears. “These people they don’t realize that there is more to life than money. They are so thirsty for it, but they don’t even know it”. She was a fisherwoman. She wanted to bring people out alive. It is hard work, and she found the place to begin.
Now its not been an easy time for the mainline churches, not in Vietnam, nor in the U.S. For a while, David Brooks, the centrist columnist for the New York Times wrote an extraordinary article about the evangelical churches and how young people, including those in seminary are leaving in numbers.
“Even those in seminary are moving away from church as we normally conceive it. They want to get away from all the bitterness of their elders. ‘Modernity has peaked,’ Said one leader.” And Brooks agrees: The age of the autonomous individual, the age of the narcissistic self, the age of consumerism and moral drift
has left us with bitterness and division, a surging mental health crisis and people just being nasty to one another.
What are churches offering? 12 Historic Black Colleges were attacked on February 1. As a warming at the beginning of African American History Month. And what do we hear from churches? 900,000 persons have died in this country from COVID, and churches, from Evangelical to mainline have split over masks! Millions are looking for something else, says Brooks, They want to build communities that are smaller, intimate, authentic, which can often fit in a living room. They see faith as inseparably linked to community service with the poor and marginalized. Some they want system of belief that is communal, that gives life transcendent meaning. Go out into the deep and try another side, says Jesus and bring the people out alive.
But we protest, we are inadequate, we say. Lend me your boat, lend me your life, Jesus says and I will lend you my authority. Lend me your life, Jesus says
and I will give you a life one that fills your nets. And we realize that somehow this life, this vessel was already his. That it was God’s to begin with. But what have we but the grace that calls us to Christ’s service? The grace that allowed Simon and all the rest, to set down their nets, and follow. Let the grace that moves us be the authority may the Christ you feel inadequate. Good, so do I, but Jesus, who walked the lakeshore who healed the sick who forgave those who hurt him, who loved his enemies, who died at human hands and was raised by God’s power and love, calls us anyway. Says that we are good enough to be vessels. To be couriers, to be fishers of people.
Who says, lend me your life, follow me. I will close with these words of Albert Schweitzer. A physician and theologian and musician: “He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside. He came to those men who knew him not. He speaks to us the same word: "Follow thou me!" And sets us to the tasks which he has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, he will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in his fellowship, and as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience who He is.”