Scripture: Luke 5:1-11
I have an interest in politics. Friends of mine have gone into politics for various parties doing various government jobs. I know people who have been elected. I pay attention to what happens at various levels of government. I’ve even had people tell me I should run for office. And if I ever do, please promise me one thing. If I ever run for political office, promise me you’ll have my head checked.
I wonder what it is that draws people into the political arena? For many, I suppose it’s because the believe they can help people by taking part in the processes which govern our land, and to make changes which will help their neighbours. This is an incredibly noble effort and I applaud them. But I also wonder how long it is before they realize their out of their depth?
For others, I suspect it’s is a more personal motive. That if they get into office they will be able to make connections and changes which will benefit them and their friends financially and professionally. Oh, if I could ONLY find a couple of recent examples in the United States and Canada of people entering politics for personal gain and fame. My hope is, and I hope I’m right, that these people are in the minority. They are just a small percentage of those in politics.
Politics is a nasty, nasty world. There is no stone unturned, there is no skeleton left in any closets. It’s ruthless! Even municipal politics, small towns and cities are getting ugly at election times.
So who, in their right mind, would leave the relative private life to enter the public world of politics? Clearly there is something at work here I don’t quite fully understand.
On the flip side, there are people who wonder why I left a comfortable career to become a minister. I think we can all agree I didn’t do it for the money.
It can be hard to explain sometimes why I left a promising career behind. Especially for those who don’t have any connection to the church. The simple answer is, “God told me to.” I was sitting in church 14 years and 10 days ago when God told me I was going to be a preacher. So Bev and I left Ottawa and came home so I could start seminary.
I think I have a sense of how the first disciples felt.
Jesus had borrowed one of their boats so he could teach the large crowd that had gathered around him on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. I know the scripture reading said it was the lake of Gennesaret, they are the same body of water, so I’m choosing to use a more familiar term.
These fishermen after a long night on the lake were cleaning their nets and Jesus asks them if he can use one of their boats. And so they put off from shore a little bit and he continued to teach.
I suppose maybe Jesus felt the need to pay for his rental time, so told them to go out and catch some more fish. Peter’s no dummy, he just spent the whole night fishing and didn’t catch a thing, I’m sure he just wants to rest after the frustrating night. But he listens and does as Jesus says. And I’m pretty sure he’s happy he did because their nets were strained to the limit with the huge load of fish they caught.
We have no idea what Jesus had been teaching the crowd. There is no recording of a word he said from the boat. But it must have been something powerful, something that touched the hearts of those who heard it, because Peter, an experienced fisherman was willing to trust the words from a stranger when he said to go out and try again.
And whatever Jesus said clearly touched Peter, because afterwards Peter saw something in himself that he wasn’t pleased with. What does he say when they get back to shore with all those fish?
Verse 8 says, “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’”
Peter saw the sin in his own life and realized he was unworthy to be in the presence of Jesus. As a sinful man, he knew he had no right to be there.
Talk about a humbling moment.
This is a moment where Jesus could have condemned him, he could have scolded him, he could have fed Peter’s sense of guilt, but Jesus chose to do something else.
In fact, Jesus doesn’t even acknowledge his confession. Peter has dropped to his knees and confessed he is unworthy, and what does Jesus do? He says, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
And that’s all it took for Peter and his business partners, James and John, to leave their entire livelihood and follow Jesus.
I was a computer guy… well, in many ways I still am. Ever since I was a young man I was going to work with computers, ever since I got my first one in the 1980s. This is looooong before they became popular. And in 1998 I started the career I had been looking forward to for a long time.
Five years after it started God showed me he had other plans. And I fell down on my knees, like Peter, and confessed I was unworthy. There was no condemnation, there was no judgment, just the words, “With my help you’ll get there.”
Why God chose me, a sinner, an incredibly broken and flawed young man, I have no idea. But here I am 14 years and 10 days later. And believe me, God helped me A LOT along the whole way.
However, I am not going to stand here today and ask you to give up everything in your life to serve God. I’m not going to stand up here and say you all got it wrong because you aren’t ministers of a church.
God chose me (and by extension, my family) for a something. For me it’s to be a preacher and a minister. Just as he chose all the ministers who have served this church over the last 110 years. Just as he chose people among you to become ministers in the church, people like Aaron Billard. God chose us to a certain role in the church. Some were better equipped than others, some, like me, needed a lot of help along the way.
What God chose us and equipped us for is not for everyone. Just as being a politician is not for everyone. So it would not be helpful for me to say to you this morning that you should all start over anew by going to seminary so you can all be ministers. Some of you are not cut out for that kind of work.
Here’s the good news though, you don’t need to give up everything in order to serve God.
Is God asking you to serve Him? You bet He is. If you love Jesus, then He wants you to be His representative in the world.
But you don’t need to give up everything to do it.
You might need to give up something, and that something might be significant, or it could be small, whatever it is, God will let you know. Then you can be freed up to serve Him better in your life.
So, if you aren’t called to be a preacher or a minister, then what is it you are called to be?
I can’t tell you that, because it’s between you and God.
What I think I can tell you is that God wants you to be His child and live the best Christian life you can live. And by living the best Christian life you can live, then you will touch people with God’s love as you live that life.
So, if you are a teacher, God wants you to be the best Christian teacher you can be. If you’re a nurse, be the best Christian nurse you can be. If you’re a miner, be the best Christian miner… Business person, doctor, lawyer, accountant, fisherman, waitress, secretary, student, mechanic, carpenter, salesman, mother, father, brother, sister, grandparent, child, whatever you are, be the best Christian you can be.
I’m not saying that you are going to be preaching and praying all day long. I’m not saying you are going to be pulling out your Bible in the middle of your job and start quoting verses to your co-workers or your clients.
I’m saying, let God speak into your heart as to how you can best show the love He gives to you with others in your day.
Maybe it does mean you need to pray with someone, or quote them some scripture. Or maybe it means buying them a coffee when they need it. Or a listening ear when they need someone to talk to. Or a hug if they are having a rough day. Maybe it means saying, “Great job there” when they aren’t sure.
Being a Christian means living out the life of Jesus Christ in the world today.
How did Jesus live out his life? He was kind. He was loving. He reached out to those who needed love and kindness. He didn’t look down on Peter when he confessed his unworthiness, He didn’t say, “Yeah, look at you and all that ugly sin.” He said, “Follow me.”
This is the invitation Jesus gives to all of us. “Follow me.”
Look, there’s someone who’s struggling right now who needs a friend.
There’s someone who’s hungry and can’t get groceries.
There’s someone who feels rejected, alone, lost.
We’ve been learning in our Hearing God workshops that God’s Word is more than the words we use on a daily basis. When God speaks, things happen.
In Genesis chapter 1, the very start of the Bible, God says, “Let there be light.” And there was light.
God’s words are infinitely more powerful than our words. We use words to communicate, to share information, to express our wishes and our concerns.
God’s words move mountains. God’s words create life. God’s words cause us to stop and rethink how we live our lives.
God’s words create and activate.
Jesus Christ was brought into the world by a word. The angel brought a message from God to Mary that she would have a son. God’s word came to Mary, and she became pregnant with a son.
In case you don’t know, this isn’t the natural way to become pregnant. God’s word did something outside of the natural way of doing things. His word brought life.
Remember at the start of the Gospel of John, what does it say,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth… From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” (John 1:1-5,14,16-18)
Jesus Christ is the Word of God. Therefore Jesus Christ, his actions and his words, also bring life and action. His words also create and activate. His words, as we’re told, are grace upon grace, and they are full of truth.
What did Jesus express to Peter when he ignored the confession of sin. He showed Peter grace, God’s grace. Peter knew what was wrong in his life, he didn’t need Jesus to tell him about it. What he needed was grace and love.
That’s what Jesus gave him.
This morning we read together Psalm 90. The Psalm ends with a beautiful request of God by the people.
“Turn, O Lord! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,
and as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be manifest to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and prosper for us the work of our hands—
O prosper the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90:14-17)
You are here for a reason. You exist on this earth for a reason. And the reason you exist is different than the reason why I exist.
Some of us are called to be preachers. Some of us are called to be musicians. Some of us are called to be prayers. Some of us are called to be teachers, nurses, garbagemen, businessmen, carpenters or plumbers, lawyers or doctors, whatever we are, we are called by God to follow in the way of Jesus Christ.
When we follow Jesus Christ in our lives, when we let this physical word of God come into our lives, then we can see more clearly how we are to live out this call wherever we may be.
If we are willing to live out this call in our lives, then when we call on God, as we did in Psalm 90, asking him to prosper the work of our hands, then God will prosper the work of our hands. We open ourselves to receiving God’s grace, truth and love in our own lives and in return we will serve Him better in the world around us through the work that we do.
But we need to be able to know God in Jesus Christ before this can happen.
Peter was quite happy to keep being a fisherman. Sure it’s hard work, long nights, not sure if you’re going to actually catch any fish. But it’s also everything he ever knew.
Peter is the son of a fisherman. He was raised to be a fisherman. He grew up on the Sea of Galilee. He was trained to take on the family business when his father was ready to retire. When he had sons of his own, they too would be fishermen. That’s the way things worked back then.
But God had other plans for him. And also for James and John.
Jesus tells them they will still be fishermen, but their catch will be something very different. They will fish for people.
Now to take that out of context, it would sound very strange wouldn’t it?
“You’re a fisherman? What kind of fish do you catch?”
I think a few phone calls to the authorities would happen after that conversation.
But think about fishing with nets for a moment. Nets are used to gather fish together so they can be harvested. At this time and age we know of many different kinds of nets used to catch fish.
But, in the end, they all do basically the same thing. They direct fish in a desired direction so they can be caught and harvested.
As fishers of people, Peter, James and John would be working towards that same goal. They would be looking to direct people to God who has come in Jesus Christ.
From there, God brings in the harvest as we all come into His presence.
We all serve God in our own ways. In our relationship with God, He will reveal to us how it is we should live as His children, as representatives of Jesus Christ in the world. He will tell us how to be good fishers of people, that is to help others be drawn to Him.
How are you drawn to Him?
How do you live your life, doing whatever it is you do… how do you live your life for Jesus, following in his way?
This is where it starts. It starts with hearing the invitation from Jesus himself,
From there, we are taught, we are led, we are transformed by his words, God’s words, as to what following him looks like in our own lives.
From there we help others discover that same invitation in their own lives.
Two simple words, very simple words.
But words that change lives. Our lives. Our church. Our town. The whole world.
Are you ready?
Let us pray,
Lord Jesus, In two simple words you have extended an invitation which change everything. In two simple words you took 3 young men and made them leaders of your church.
In two simple words, you invite us on a journey which will transform how we see ourselves and the world around us.
Help us see what you have in store for us. Help us see how accepting this invitation can share the grace upon grace and the fullness of your truth to change not only our own lives, but the lives of those around us.
Jesus, you have such great love for your people, and we thank you that we can receive such a wonderful love right here in our own lives.
And so we humble ourselves to your service, and we ask you to bless the work of our hands for the work of our Father in heaven.
We pray this in your most Holy name. Amen and amen.