31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
January 22, 2017
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
It was a beautiful sunny August day on Lake Diamond with the sun reflecting off the water, giving truth to the diamond part of its name, although lake was a bit of a stretch for this large pond in East Glastonbury.
I was six years old and visiting family friends. The sons, two brothers a little bit older than me, took me out for my very first fishing experience – first and last.
I didn’t mind the patience fishing took. I was quite content to sit on the floor, in the middle of the canoe, with my little fishing pole over the side. I don’t remember being grossed out when the boys baited the hook for me. I do remember the excitement of finally catching a sunfish large enough to keep and take home – and that is when I discovered that I was expected to eat the fish. No thank you. I’ve never been fishing again.
So I don’t have a lot of experience with fishing. I’ve never tied a “fly” and put on hip waiters to stand all day in a stream. I’ve never been deep sea fishing and felt the rush of adrenalin as I reeled in a really Big One. I’ve never even been clamming, which is something I’ve learned some of our church members are really good at.
I don’t have a lot of experience with fishing, but I know it’s hard work. I know it requires getting up early. I know it requires patience. I know it requires strength and hard work – and that’s fishing in modern times. Imagine how much more difficult fishing was in Jesus’ time.
When Jesus comes upon Simon Peter and his fellow fishermen, they are washing their nets after a long night of having caught nothing. Can you imagine how tired they must have been, how their muscles must have ached? Can you imagine their frustration? Hours of work and nothing to show for their labors?
We don’t know if Simon Peter usually came back with plenty of fish to feed his family and sell to others or if this was a common experience and Simon Peter was not actually a good fisherman.
What we do know is that when Jesus tells Simon Peter to “put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4), Simon Peter listens. Simon Peter obeys, “Master, we have worked hard all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5)
“Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” Peter is willing to step outside his comfort zone. Peter is willing to take a chance. Peter is willing to go into the deep waters. Peter is willing to trust.
And when the nets are so full that they are almost breaking, Peter falls to his knees and confesses his unworthiness to be in Jesus’ presence.
And perhaps that is exactly why Jesus calls Simon Peter as the first disciple. Not because of Peter’s skills and abilities. Not because Peter has been a great success as a fisherman. Not because Peter has hidden talents as a speaker, preacher, and teacher. It’s because Peter is willing to step outside his comfort zone, take a chance, go into the deep waters. Peter is willing to trust Jesus and let Jesus work through him.
Our wonderful new members who are joining today have many amazing talents. Their life stories are a treasure trove of riches. They have the ability to enhance the ministry of our church significantly, and yet, that is not why Jesus calls them. That is not why Jesus calls us. It’s not about the money we can bring to ministry; it’s not about what we are good at – our talents, abilities and hard work. It’s about trusting Jesus – about being willing to follow him even when the path forward isn’t clear. It’s about being willing to try something – again, simply because God is calling us to, knowing that we might fail, our nets might come up empty, but we will have listened to God, trusted in Jesus, let God’s Holy Spirit work through us.
Simon Peter and his fellow fishermen might have been very successful fishermen, but that is not why Jesus called them to follow him. It’s not about our talents and abilities – proven or yet to be discovered – God has created all people with amazing, special talents and abilities. It’s about our willingness to listen, to trust, to follow, to allow God to work in and through us……
For the purpose of catching people.
We have a purpose as Christians. We have a purpose as followers of Jesus Christ, and it is to fish for people. It is to go out into all the world and make disciples. Those are actually the last words Jesus spoke to the disciples in the gospel of Matthew, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Jesus’ instructions cannot be clearer. We are called to fish for people. To catch others with the unconditional love of God and show them how a relationship with Jesus will transform their lives and our world.
This is our purpose as Christians.
Unfortunately, the church of Jesus Christ can forget this. We get caught up in our traditions; overly busy with our administration and programs; too comfortable in the shallow waters.
We have a calling; we have a purpose as Christians, as the church of Jesus Christ, and it is to go forth. Go forth and fish for people. Fish for people with God’s love in whatever form that takes – food, shelter, a listening ear, the commitment to peace and justice, a cupcake and a cup of coffee.
Go out into all the world and make disciples, fish for people, not because you are good at it, not because you are comfortable with it. Go because Jesus has invited you, called you. Trust Jesus and allow God’s Holy Spirit to work through you, and perhaps like Peter, you will find that your catch is beyond your wildest imagination. It always is with God.