This is the manuscript as written of the sermon I delivered at First Presbyterian Church in Red Wing, Minnesota, on January 22, 2017.
The sermon text was Luke 5: 1-11.
I have a confession to make.
This week it was hard to writing this sermon. I have been distracted, distracted by the events leading up to this Sunday. The inauguration, the woman’s marches all around the globe. I have been distracted by the tenor of the conversations in our country. I have been distracted, but yesterday I was inspired. I was inspired by all things a presbytery meeting. I was inspired by seeing the pictures of men and women who are part of my life, speaking up and speaking out for justice, equality, and constitutional rights. I am hopeful, in what is happening in our country, in our town, and in our church.
In our reading from Luke today we here Jesus’s famous words, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
But how did we get there?
Jesus comes to the lake in Gennesaret, the crowds were pressing in on him and he stepped into Simon’s boat. There just happened to be room in the boat because there were no fish in it. After he finished speaking he began talking to Simon, who was called Peter, and said, “Why you don’t you put your nets out into the deep water. Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When he did this, he caught so man fish that he thought the nets would break, it felt like the boat was going to sink, he called his partners out, and before they could get the nets securely back in the boat, Simon falls onto his knees and says, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
This is like saying, I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy.
As Rev. Mary Austin says, “When Jesus presence allows them to catch way more fish than they think is possible, Simon Peter reacts with shame. He urges Jesus to get away from him, “for I am a sinful man.” Peter knows that he is experiencing more than fish – he’s getting a glimpse of the divine, breaking into the ordinary world of fishing. It evokes the later moment, after Peter has been with Jesus for a long time, when Jesus tells Peter to get behind him, because Peter’s understanding then is so limited. In this early moment, Peter sees clearly who stands before him.”
This is why in our worship services from the Reformed tradition, we open with a call to worship then we sing a song of praise, then we confess our unworthiness. When we come into the presence of the almighty, we can’t help but confess our sins, recognize that God is God and we are God’s children.
Jesus tells Simon Peter to put his nets out in the deep water. This is a big ask. The water, the deep water, is a scary place, it’s unpredictable, it’s dangerous, it’s chaotic. In fact, the Bible begins with the fear of the deep. Genesis 1:2 says, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep,”
Peter and his crew had been fishing in the shallow water and catching nothing, Jesus calls them out of their comfort zone, out of the safety of the known. When they move into the deep they are shocked with what they find, and when they realize what they can do with God’s help. They begin a new and unknown adventure.
There are a lot of churches in the US that fish in the shallow water, it’s safe to say that this church has been in the in the deep for the last few years. You probably feel like you had no choice. But you did. You had the opportunity to say no to the Holy Spirit, but you didn’t. Given the recent history of this congregation could of sat on the shore, you could of folded up shop, but you didn’t you packed your nets back in the boat and went fishing. It hasn’t been easy, it’s been tiring, you felt like the boat was going to sink, you called in reinforcements, and the nets you have pulled in are filled with the knowledge that you are not alone, you are gifted, and you are capable of a lot more than you thought you were.
Christ is still calling; the Holy Spirit is still moving.
You know you can swim, you know you can fish. Now we are going to fish for people. We will fish for those who can’t fish for themselves. We will fish for those on the margins, we will fish for those outside the shallows of our own walls, we will go into the world proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. We will be with the lost, the lonely, the poor, the elderly, the young, the old, those in between, the parents, the kids, we will be there because we have before, we know how to swim, we know that God is with us, and we know that no matter what happens, no matter what storms come, we will be right here.
I know this from the deepest depths of my soul, we have seen the power of God to do miraculous things. Now it’s our turn to be co-creators with Christ as we step into this new, wild adventure.
May it be so.