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In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I have never been on a fishing expedition because it is not something I'm interested in. I don't know about the science or the skill of fishing. I have however, been in a boat ride on the Sea of Tiberius (also called the Sea of Galilee or Lake of Gennesaret) where our guides showed us how the fishermen would cast their nets. After two tries he caught nothing. His crew was a group of American tourists on a sightseeing trip, who were definitely not prepared to help haul in the catch if he had one, anyway.
As a child grown up, I never liked Monday evening dinners, because it would be fish. My whole family; excluding me love to eat fish which is part of our staple. My mother always served fresh fish because she knew when the fishermen came in with their catch and how to spot fresh ones. When I was older she would tell me how to buy fish. She said, "look into the eyes; they must be bright and clear". Today, looking into someone's eyes is like looking into their soul.
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus looked into the eyes and hearts of the people in the crowd. Jesus also, looked into Simon's eyes and saw discouragement after an unsuccessful night fishing. He also looked into Simon's heart and saw that he had potential for growth.
Some of us miss an opportunity for growth because we are afraid of the unknown; we hesitate too long; or worse yet we want the assurance of a positive outcome.
The truth is however, that God knows and controls our past, present, and our future. Psalm 138 describes the qualities of God and then verse 9 says; "The Lord will make good his purpose for me [and you]; O Lord, your love endures for ever; do not abandon the works of your hands." God holds us in the palms of his hands, so we are never alone and never abandoned.
Luke's story is deeper than catching lots of fish. I believe it tells of the depth of Jesus' love, and that His works are endless. Jesus taught Simon and continues to teach us the spiritual principles of faith.
When I was training to be a teacher and a counselor; I learned to meet the students or clients where they are. Jesus was known as a preacher not a fisherman. Jesus met Simon in his fishing boat in the shallow waters, and then went with him to where the fish were - in the deep waters.
It was out in the deep, that Simon was going to have a faith experience, take a risk, and see new opportunities that would change his life forever. About a month ago, I received a gift of a beautiful wall hanging that reads - "Let your faith be bigger than your fear." This is a lesson for everyone of us; and one that Simon would learn.
Can you recall a time when you missed an opportunity to grow or help someone because you were afraid? We should never allow the fear in our minds to extinguish the fire in our hearts.
Moving out into the deep is where God will meet and guide us, so we can develop our faith, if we choose to do so.
We heard how Jesus engaged with Simon. First, he asked - not forced or commanded! (PAUSE) Jesus asked Simon to push off from the shore so he could take care of the crowd. (PAUSE) Then, he tells Simon to move out into the deep waters and throw out his net - for a catch. Jesus' directions to Simon and to us are always simple and clear with miraculous returns.
Naturally, Simon thinks about the night before. His eyes were dulled by the past. He might have thought to himself ------
I know how this trade works, I have done this forever!
What would a preacher like you know about fishing?
I can't believe he's going to ask me to do this again.....I am tired!!
I will go back out tonight because that's when the fish comes up to feed and the algae and planktons are abundant! His fear was real!
Despite it all, Simon says....Yet! This, this was the opening Jesus used to show the power of God at work. Yet - is where Simon acknowledges his powerlessness, his professional limitations and his humanity. God is the master of creation, he keeps the stars in place, he uses an irritating grain of sand in an oyster to make beautiful pearl.
Simon would learn that (Matthew 19:26), "For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible."
One of my favorite songs by the contemporary gospel singer Alvin Slaughter is "Launch out into the deep" and the chorus says -
Launch out into the deep
Let your faith take you somewhere
That you've never been before
Simon had an experience he had never had before. Simon was overwhelmed by the catch that he asked Jesus to leave because he did not feel he deserved the blessing. Jesus loved and understood Simon's fears, like he loves and understands our fears today. Simon was offered a new position working with people and bringing them into God's kingdom. He will no longer be looking into fish eyes. Jesus will teach him how to lead human heart into God.
So, when we find ourselves drowning in fear; we can be comforted that every part of creation reflects Gods' glory and power. God is always working out the details, even when we cannot see it and don't understand it.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, like Simon help us to consider the 'yet' and step out of our own way, and into faith and trust in You to guide our paths into new possibilities, even when we think we have done all we can. Amen.
A sermon preached by Julett N. Butler, Diaconal Postulant, on the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, February 10, 2019, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Poughkeepsie, NY