May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
First, let me tell you that Bishop Terry sends his blessings to you all. He had hoped to be here this morning, but we had to make the call yesterday afternoon, and we decided that it wasn’t worth getting stuck somewhere between here and Valley City. We are hopeful that he will be able to find a Sunday to join us in the near future. His first thing when we made the decision to not have him come this morning was to ask if we could reschedule, so please know that he very much wants to be here and spend time with you.
Once we made that decision, I sat at my computer, trying to put ideas down for this sermon that I didn’t think I was going to need to write. And I was intrigued. Intrigued because Bishop Terry had picked the Epiphany texts when he could have picked the Transfiguration ones. Intrigued because all week long I thought how much they were what we needed to hear, but I didn’t want to have to be the one to preach them. Intrigued because I was just so dang tired after a challenging week that I couldn’t even think of what to say.
And then I read the texts he picked again. I read them and I laughed. I laughed because the first lesson is the first text I ever wrote a sermon on in seminary. “Here I am” Isaiah says after a hot coal has been touched to his lips. After his guilt and sin have been taken away. “Here I am” Isaiah says “send me”.
And I laughed even more when I re-read the gospel text. The calling of the disciples. This story of the calling of the disciples who are fishermen is in 3 of the 4 gospels. But only in this version of the story have they been fishing all night. Only in the version of the story are they tired, bad fishermen that Jesus calls. And it makes me laugh. Because in this version of the gospel story, Jesus calls the tired, worn out, bad fishermen to make a difference for the kingdom.
In this version of the gospel story, Jesus has just healed Simon’s mother-in-law and been staying at Simon’s house. So whether Simon takes Jesus out into the deep water because he would do anything for Jesus because he just healed his mother-in-law, or whether Simon Peter was just that kind of guy, who would be dead tired but still would be the one who Jesus could ask to put out into the deep water and Simon does it we don’t know.
But we do know that Simon, the tired, worn out, not so skilled at fishing Simon is the one that Jesus uses to show his grace and abundance to… with a net so loaded down with fish that it begins to almost sink his boat.
Tired, worn out, not-so-skilled Simon is the one that Jesus calls to fish for people. Tired, worn out, not-so-skilled Simon is the one that Jesus speaks 4 words to in this gospel lesson that he doesn’t speak in the calling of the disciples in any of the other gospels.
And I think it matters. For us this morning, for us this week, for where we are at in ministry, it matters.
Did you catch those 4 words? Because I think those four words are what the gospel of Luke is built on. In fact, I think those four words are what being a disciples of Christ is built on.
Those four words that Jesus turns to Simon Peter and says once Simon figures out how amazing Jesus is. Did you catch them? Because they have as much weight as his big net of fish. They have as much weight as anything else Jesus says.
Grab your bulletin and look at verse 10. What does Jesus say to Simon Peter?.... He says “do not be afraid”.
It can be easy in the world today, when we see the darkness and challenges of the world around us to say, “nope God, not me”. “I am not qualified to follow you. I am not qualified to be a leader.”
It can be easy in the world we live in, where every minute of our waking day is scheduled to death to tell God, “nope, I’m sorry, I am too busy, or too tired, or too worn out to follow you. I am too worn out to be a leader.”
But isn’t that just what this gospel for this morning is about?
Jesus doesn’t call the fishermen who have the best boat or the best lures, of the best fish story to tell. He doesn’t call the ones that we see on tv and are amazed at their skill. He calls the tired, worn-out, not so skilled Simon and tired, worn-out, not-so-skilled James and John and tells them to not be afraid.
He tells them that even though they think they aren’t so great at fishing…that they are going to do more than just catch fish, they are going to catch people. He calls them even though they feel they aren’t qualified. Even though they are worn out. Even though they would probably rather finish cleaning their nets and go home and take a nap. Jesus calls them.
And you know what? Jesus calls us too. He calls us not just on the good days or in the good years when it seems like we have all our stuff together and we feel like we have time to follow him.
But he also calls us when we are stretched thin and worn out and feeling not at all qualified. He calls us then, and he tells us not to fear. And then he fills the nets of our lives with more than enough fish to remind us that he will give us more than we need if we just trust in him and follow his calling.
It might not be easy to follow Jesus. It might not be where we saw ourselves going. We might not be confident in our skills or our call all the time. But Jesus is calling. He’s calling you and he’s calling me.
He’s calling us to not be afraid, and to leave our nets and follow him. Jesus is calling ….you…how are you going to respond?
God of grace, you remind us today that you call the tired, the worn-out, and the not-so-skilled fishermen to make a difference in the world, just like you call each of us. Come into our lives and cast out whatever fears we may have…and give us the courage and the strength to follow you. In your heavenly name we pray, Amen.