How many of you have ever been ice fishing? How about regular fishing?
So… you have something in common with Peter. And you probably know that you fish differently when you are ice fishing and when you are in a boat fishing in the summer. And living in Minnesota, you probably know that you fish differently – you use different lures - if you are trying to catch walleye or trout.
Peter was a fisherman. He grew up fishing. And so had James and John, sons of Zebedee. They knew more than a little bit about how to catch fish in the lake of Gennesaret – which is just another name for the Sea of Galilee. They knew that if you wanted to catch fish, you fished at night. That’s when these fish came up to feed. During the day they hid in the cool dark waters of the bottom of the lake.
Peter and his partners, John and James, had just come back from a very disappointing night of fishing. They caught nothing. They were exhausted. But… being good fishermen, they fixed their nets before they went home to sleep so that they would be ready to go when they went out again that night… just like they did every night.
But today was different. Jesus was teaching some people on the shore. He had already made quite a name for himself teaching and healing. And… in Luke’s Gospel… we learn that, after teaching in the synagogue, Jesus had gone to Peter’s house for lunch… and healed Peter’s mother-in-law.
Clearly, Peter has already seen the power of Jesus’ words… and so when Jesus got in his boat and asked him to push out a little ways from shore… of course he was willing to do so. And no doubt he listened to Jesus as he mended his nets. But… when Jesus told him to go to the deep waters and put their nets on the other side… Peter objected. After all, he was a fisherman. He knew how to fish this lake. It would have been like me telling Don Schmidt – a master painter – how to paint! And so he objects: "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.” But….in the next breath he says, “ Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets."
The catch was not only good…it was miraculous. And because Peter, James and John had fished this lake a million times before, they knew that it wasn’t just luck. It was Jesus. So when Jesus called them to follow... they dropped their nets and followed.
In Jesus’ day, it was common for rabbis to have disciples, young men serving as apprentices. But the rabbis didn’t call their disciples. Instead, only the brightest and best students, those good at memorizing scripture in Sabbath school – their version of Confirmation - were allowed to ask a rabbi if they could follow him. The rest of them - like Peter and James and John - were told to go home to learn the trades from their fathers….like fishing.
But Jesus doesn’t do things the way that they were always done. Instead, Jesus calls fishermen and other ordinary people to follow -people like you and me. Jesus is still calling us to follow. Sometimes he calls people to leave their nets, their jobs, their past lives to follow him. But at other times, Jesus calls ordinary people to tell the story, to be witnesses, right where they are.
In my role on the Synod candidacy committee, I sometimes interview candidates who are wondering how God is calling them. One student, Lauren, told me that when she first became a Christian, she worked as an advertising executive in a big firm. She remembered talking with her pastor about how that environment was so different from her church life that she was having a hard time reconciling the two. Her pastor replied, “You have an opportunity to be a witness in that board room. I would never be allowed in that board room – but you are there already. So think about it this way: You have an opportunity. How can you follow Jesus and show the love of Christ in the board room?”
And so she did. But… after awhile, she felt called to serve God in a different way. She felt called to be a pastor and… a fire fighter. So she came to Luther and while taking classes, she also trained as a fire fighter. She did not get a lot of support from the other fire fighters. Lauren is a thin 5’5” woman – with grown children. But she trained and she worked and she passed her exam – and was hired as a fire fighter in Eden Prairie. So now she is working at showing the love of Christ at the Seminary – and as a fire fighter.
Lauren discovered that whether she was in a board room or a classroom, whether she was working on a computer, preaching or fighting a fire, she could live out her Christian vocation. The positions she has had are really different – yet she realized that, regardless of where she is, she can show compassion, kindness and the love of Christ to the people she meets. In each place she asks herself: How can you follow Jesus and show the love of Christ in this place?”
That question isn’t only for Lauren. It’s a question for all Christians. How can you, how can I, follow Jesus and show the love of Christ right where we are?
Perhaps the way to start is to recognize who is in your circle, in your life. Who do you know? Who is your neighbor? Who is in your family? Your extended family? Your work? Your school? Your postal worker who delivers your mail? Your grocery store clerks? When you start adding up the people that you meet or connect with in some way, the number starts to grow.
But… you may argue, I’m just an ordinary person, “I don’t have that gift. I’m not a pastor or a preacher.” That may be true… but there’s an old Gospel hymn – There is a Balm in Gilead - that says you may not be called to preach like Peter or to pray like Paul – but you can tell of the love of Jesus who died for all through the words you speak – and in your actions. Jesus has a habit of calling ordinary people to share the extraordinary message of God’s love.
This past week at our Wildfire Confirmation, we had presenters from the Teen Annex Clinic. The speaker for the parents and pastors asked us to line up from one wall to the other depending on how many sexual education conversations we had with our parents about their values. As you might expect, the side of the room with “little or none” was packed and the side of the room that had “lots” of conversation was filled with the children of nurses and teachers of sexual education.
I wonder how this room would line up if I asked: who told you about Jesus? Was it your parents? A Sunday School teacher? A pastor? A neighbor?
All the parents left the Wildfire meeting wanting to have honest and good conversations with our kids about our values. How much more do we need to have ongoing conversation with our families about our faith? Growing in faith doesn’t end with confirmation.
How can you share the love of Christ – how can you share your faith – with people in your circle -- right where you are?
It might be by preaching or teaching. But… it might be by being a Confirmation mentor. It might be by sending someone a note or speaking an encouraging word. It might be by driving for Dinner at Your Door. It might be by inviting a friend to church. Or better yet, inviting to pick them up and go out for lunch afterwards. Or it may be in some completely different way.
God has entrusted to ordinary people – like you and me -- the extraordinary message of the love of Christ. The challenge for us is how can we – this day, this week – use the gifts that God has given to us to share the Good News of Christ in the words that we speak, in the stories that we share, and in the work that we do and the actions that we take. We are ordinary people with an extraordinary message of God’s love. This is how we share the love of Christ right where we are – wherever we are. Amen.
Pastor Pam Stalheim Lane
Feb. 10, 2019
1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." 5 Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets." 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.