Luke 5: 1-11
I caught a fish once. Just once.
I was about 8 and my mum took me fishing.
I think it was in the Royal National Park.
Just a hand line dropped in to the river,
and not all that long after up came the line and fish
It was about the size of my two hands together.
But because I was an 8 year old, my hands weren’t that big,
and the fish went back.
I have fished probably about 20 times since that first time
Off a wharf, off a boat, off the beach, off rocks
and I have done my best for the environment
and not ever run the risk of overfishing the waters.
Not once did a wise teacher come past
and tell me that it would be better to fish over there
I wonder if I would have listened.
I wonder why on earth Simon listened.
He was a professional fisherman and was working all night with professionals
and then a carpenter told him where to put the nets down.
The carpenter didn’t even know enough
to realise that the nets they were cleaning were trammel nets
and because they were made of linen
They were very easily seen by fish during the day,
and were only used at night.
I wonder if Luke has edited – or censored – the words that Simon really used.
Who knows what happened next.
Luke borrows from a story that John also uses –
though John uses it after the resurrection
You work out whether the fishy part of the story is meant to be understood literally
or whether the story is laced with symbol from the early church
where the Greek word for fish – icthys –
spoke of Jesus and was a sign for Christianity.
Luke takes us into the world of response.
Just as the focus of the story seems to be
what goes on between Jesus and Simon (as a follower)
then I don’t think the importance of the story
is about the catch threatening to sink the ship.
We are now in Luke chapter 5.
We have had the announcement, the birth, Jesus’ ancestry,
Jesus has gone to the temple as a youth
he has been baptised,
proclaimed the purpose of his mission,
been threatened with death
driven out evil spirits,
healed Simon’s mother in law
and gone out teaching
And it takes Simon’s response to Jesus in this story before the concept of “sin”
gets a look in with anything to do with Jesus at all.
And it is Simon who raises it – not Jesus.
Simon doesn’t have a perfect track record in life –
either before this story (from the sound of things)
or afterwards (from what we read).
Maybe the nickname “Peter” – “stone” can suggest to us “rocky” as it is “solid”.
Simon knows he doesn’t have it all together.
But that doesn’t seem to phase Jesus at all.
No hint of punishment, or of suggesting he should go and get his act together
before he does anything in terms of following in the way of Jesus.
Simon says “I have things in life I am unhappy with”
Jesus says “I need some help” –
Sure, there are things that need work,
but don’t make yourself the centre of the focus here
Already Jesus has gone into Simon’s personal space – his home
He has got involved in his relationships –
affecting his mother in law, and, presumably, wife
He has got involved in his economic or public life – his boat
He has affected the way that Simon earns a living
He has got Simon to push out a bit into a space that is for Simon, safe territory,
a bit out from the shore, and in that safe territory he has “taught”
And the Jesus has told Simon to go out into the deep: go the whole hog, so to speak.
Heading into the deep is a scary time,
and Simon’s first reaction when encountering God in the deep part of life is to be afraid.
But Jesus keeps bringing him back to the bigger picture, the deeper point.
I’m not going to stand here and point out the things that are wrong in life, Simon
that’s not what I am interested in.
We have more important things to be concerned with
than layers of guilt and feelings of inadequacy: don’t let them hold you back
We have real fishing to do.
But there is just one extra quirk in the passage.
Already the passage has been talking about catching fish,
but the word that Jesus uses isn’t the word that was used to catch the great haul.
That form of catching meant death to the fish, so they could be consumed.
Jesus uses a word that means to catch and keep alive.
Jesus’ ministry is always about life, not targets.
Has there been for you an encounter with Jesus in your personal space? Your home?
Has there been some way that Jesus has affected relationships – family or friends?
What are the ways that Jesus impacts on your economic life
or the way that you are living in public?
How have you been asked to take a little step into safe waters
and heard the impact of God there?
Now is it time to head into the deep?
For all the feelings of unworthiness or unpreparedness, even guilt and shame
Jesus looks far beyond those, ready to empower us for who we can become.
Imperfect, distant from God at times,
able to point out all the things that aren’t right with us?
We can do that. And we do.
And God calls us to something more important that the things that hold us back
– the life that is in store for us and for others.