You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection, When You Go Fishing with Jesus, HERE.
This Sunday the assigned Bible reading gives us Jesus. Jesus on the shore telling a group of people to go out beyond their comfort zone and to try again. Of course, the fishermen know what to do, right? They are people who do a really hard job. They are knowledgeable and skilled in their profession. These are people who KNOW how to fish. They know the lake of Gennesaret, or what we often call the Sea of Galilee, inside and out—up and down. They know the shore. The sky. The deeps. The shallows. The movement of the fish. The change of the weather.
And here they are. After a long night of working third shift (after all Simon Peter does say, “we have worked all night,” Luke 5:5a), the fishermen are tired. Have any of you ever worked an overnight shift? I have. As Jesus and the crowd shows up, the fishermen probably only wanted to avoid the chaos. To go home. Wash up. Get something to eat. See their families. And go to sleep.
Simon Peter, James, John, and the others had plenty of reasons to respond to Jesus with, “No, we’re not going back on the lake.” They could have just told him to come another day, at the beginning of a work shift. Then they could take him out fishing. Now, when they are sore and tired, isn’t a good time.
However, Luke tells us that the men didn’t let all those very good reasons to say “no” and go home get in the way of responding to Jesus’ request. The urgency of NOW.
Why was that?
Maybe it’s because in the days before we get to the lakefront, Jesus had healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. Peter had at least a little familiarity with Jesus. Or, maybe it was because this morning Peter, James, and John have been listening to Jesus as they washed their nets. Jesus’s words caught their attention. Whatever their motivation, the fishermen make a deep sigh (“if you say so…” Luke 5:5) and push out into deep waters. All along they may thinking to themselves, “this isn’t going to work.”
Yet… there were the words Jesus spoke that morning. And the rumors about what he had been teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. On top of that there was his healthcare opportunities for all—from those with fevers to those with inner demons, and various other diseases. All were healed. (Luke 4: 38-41).
Now Jesus offers an upside-down economic idea, that there is enough for everyone. Empty nets and hungry bodies are challenged to look at God’s abundance through a different lens. What IF Jesus’s words are true? What if God’s abundance lies out beyond our place of comfort, in the deep waters of hope and possibility?
Peter and the other fishers respond to the lure of something else. Something God. This illogical possibility of things turning out differently, of getting a different result if we just listen to Jesus and follow him into familiar places… began to stir something altogether different in their souls.
Let’s cast off…!
Yet in reality the human condition makes leaving behind what we know and trusting anew scary. We want to be in control of the “nets” God gives us. We want to hold on. Hold on to solid ground and not venture out into deep waters. Because the risks of nets breaking… even with God’s abundance… and boats sinking because they are filled with God’s grace… is unsettling.
Unsettling enough, and love-filled enough, the fishermen leave what they know behind to follow Jesus. They leave behind their economic security, and the windfall huge catch of fish they have just landed. They leave behind family, routines, whatever small comforts they had in their lives. Encountering Jesus—EVERYTHING for them changed.
Fishing with Jesus is like that, in ways small and large.
There is another story of letting go from early Christianity. Marcarius of Egypt was a monk in the 4th century. He was one of the early desert fathers and mothers who sought to live their lives in great austerity. One day, Marcarius returned to his simple small room to find a thief taking all of his possessions. Marcarius is reported to have responded by helping the man load up a donkey with all that he had, and then sent the man on his way. Marcarius then repeated these words from scripture, “we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; 8but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these (1 Timothy 6:7-8, NRSV). Blessed be God in all things.”
I don’t know about you, but when I leave the house I lock up. If someone was breaking and entering, I’d call 911. However, I also believe Jesus shows up and tells us God’s abundance lies far beyond what we know and understand. Jesus calls us to step into deep waters of hope and possibility.
And when we do, we end up with another big fish story. In fact, we have a story to share together today. The Holy Spirit has shown up, spoken, and cast us—Memorial UCC—out into something new.
Later in the service we will be hearing from Alia Stevenson and Lisa Peyton-Caire from The Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness. Lisa shared with me videos about their work. In one, she noted the “average age of death” for women who are Black in Dane County is 60 years of age, “compared to 85 years old for (their) counterparts.” She went on to say that the mission of the Foundation is to empower Black women to live their healthiest and most well lives.” Lisa and Alia have been invited to join us in worship, as Memorial’s Social Justice Task Force has challenged us during the month of January… Epiphany… this year and over the next 5 years… to raise $10,000 each year, for a total of $50,000 to support the efforts of the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness.
As a historically white church, we have been called by Jesus out into deep waters. We have talked about white privilege, the ongoing challenges of white supremacy in our country and now respond as Jesus says, “cast out your nets again Memorial UCC. Leave what you have known behind and follow me here…”
I will let Lisa and Alia tell you more about their work in a few minutes. I will also provide an update on the financial response to the call the Social Justice Task Force put out. Let’s just say—the Spirit is moving.
Come. Let’s Be the Church. See what we catch.
For God is challenging us to write another Big Fish story.
What say you, Memorial UCC? The world around us has provided ample opportunity to launch into deep waters. To get out in our communities and cast nets of love and grace.
This is a ministry of togetherness. Whatever God has given Church within the net YOU carry this day—whether it is woven of music and dancing, or art, writing, photography… whether your net is repairing and maintaining things, coming up with new ideas, gardening, or working with numbers and finances… organizing, teaching, healing, cooking, technology, praying, serving, laughing, playing, or asking questions… you… YOU each… have a net to cast.
For these are the gifts of the Spirit. Together our nets can help draw God’s revelation of heaven on earth closer… and closer…
Reel in that catch.
Bring it ashore.
And follow Christ.
Reflection on Luke 5:1-11 offered January 24, 2021
 “More Spiritual Reading for Lent: Sayings of Abba Macarius the Great,” Diocese of Great Britain and Western Europe (ROCOR) (Russian Orthodox Church, March 19, 2020), https://orthodox-europe.org/content/abba-macarius-readings/.
 Lisa Peyton-Caire, “This Wisconsin Organization Works To Help Black Women With Health Education & Wellness” (Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness, November 18, 2019), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txW4ZdzDF4o.