What does a story about fishing have to tell us about life with God? Probably more than we realize. This week we look at an encounter that primarily features Simon and Jesus. The fisherman and the carpenter revealing what life with God is like.
We return to in-person worship next Sunday, February 13, 2022. Proof of vacinnation is required.
Scripture: Luke 5: 1-11
There is something about today’s passage from Luke that has alarm bells going off in my head. It’s a word found in that first sentence! Did you guess it? The word crowd. We’ve spent the majority of the past few years avoiding crowds and watching our distance. All in an effort to keep ourselves and others safe. Yet, here is Jesus in a crowd. We might not think much of it, but the past two years has shaped how we read and approach scripture. If we read through the gospels we find that Jesus had a tendency to draw large crowds to him.
In our passage today Jesus teaches the crowd from Simon Peter’s boat. We aren’t told what Jesus taught the crowds. Instead the focus shifts to an interaction of trust between Jesus and the disciples. Some major themes become apparent as we read this passage, they include:
The call to discipleship in our passage comes in the midst of learning from Jesus and witnessing hope in Jesus. We witness the risk that comes with trust, the need for persistence in faith even in the face of discouragement. Ultimately, we witness that God is a god of abundance.
Let’s take a closer look at the interaction between Jesus and Simon. The response of Simon is one of practical reality. He’s been there all night; he’s already tried what Jesus has suggested. The man is a professional fisherman, he knows what he’s supposed to do. I imagine it is mixed with hope and perhaps more profoundly trust. A lot of trust. Think about it, Simon is a fisherman, Jesus is a carpenter. The gospel text makes it seem like Simon doesn’t have a clue, and who knows perhaps he was a terrible fisherman. But I confess if I was on a boat with Simon on one hand and Jesus on the other, I would ask Simon for fishing tips and Jesus if he was free on the weekend to help with a renovation project. And so would you.
Simon, knowing who Jesus is, choses to trust him even though Simon is the subject matter expert when it comes to fishing. Other than allowing Simon to when a fishing contest, what does this sizeable catch represent? Kendra Mohn writes, “the size of the catch indicates provision beyond the immediate moment. This is food enough to sell so that the fishermen will have resources beyond today. They can eat again tomorrow. And, the food that is sold becomes daily sustenance to others. So, while the large catch of fish conveys provision and plenty for Simon and his partners, it also signals a world beyond these fishermen and their immediate needs. The obvious surplus that can feed many more surpasses instinct or ability for hoarding or secrecy. The community is in view.” (Kendra Mohn)
The image shifts to people and the correlations are clear. If we can trust in God, God will provide in abundance. However, the emphasis here is not on the individual it remains focused with the community. The image is of food and nourishment, but when Jesus shifts focus and says now you will fish for people a light bulb should go off for us. If we can trust God, not as individuals, but as a community then what abundance might await us? Again, not for us, but for the community.
Though the fish represent food and sustenance we should not equate the trusting in this story to material gain or possession. This is a story about renewal and faith in something larger than ourselves. This is about the story that we are encouraged to share with one another. This is about faith and healing, building one another up and drinking deep from the well.
Through a story about fishing Luke is able to share something very profound about following Jesus. The themes found here have been echoing around us for the past two years and they need to addressed. When we encounter Simon in this passage, he is having a bad time of it. An unsuccessful night of fishing.
We need to acknowledge that in life there are times of emptiness, they exist, they happen. Simon was having one of those times. Think about it, the crowd has already gathered around Jesus. Simon is fishing to provide for them and he has had no luck. There is a crowd of people who are soon going to be very hungry. Simon is tired, facing emptiness and failure. It’s with an exasperated shrug that he puts the nets over the other side of the boat. Why not he thinks, nothing else has worked. His response to finding the fish “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” represents the reversal that occurs when he places his faith in Jesus. When he remembers who it is he follows and why.
We also need to acknowledge times of encouragement, hope, and abundance. There are many themes we can tease out of scripture. One of the most prominent themes that weaves its way from beginning to end is that of abundance. Out of nothing God creates. God provides for the Israelites in the desert. God provides for us in the person of Jesus Christ. The living embodiment of hope for us.
Today we have a message that moves from desperation to hope, from nothing to abundance. What do we do with that message? How should it move or inspire us?
A lifetime ago, when we were meeting and worshiping in-person a common remark I received after a service was “Good sermon.” The Rev. Bill Chadwick, likes to respond to the compliment, “Good sermon, pastor!” with the retort, “We’ll see.” That is, a truly good sermon in his estimation is not one that people enjoy hearing, but rather one that spurs people on to doing—to living out discipleship in new, even radical ways. (Cameron Howard).
The message from today is to find hope in moments of despair. To find abundance when you have nothing. To trust in the God of creation. To know that God is with you. That God wants good things, not just for you, but for the company you keep and the community you are a part of.
As we exit this time of closure and distancing, what are we entering? Look around for signs of God’s abundance. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
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