Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, February 6, 2022

YEAR C 2022 epiphany 5

Epiphany 5, 2022
Isaiah 6:1-8
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 5:1-11
Psalm 138

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

I love this gospel reading we just heard.  Because it makes no sense!  Everything about it is just plain wacky, like nothing goes like you’d expect it to, and no one one knows what’s going on.  I guess some part of me is just partial to chaos and post-modern drama.

But let’s start with Simon—the guy who will one day be called Peter.  Simon is a fisherman, and likely the son of a fisherman, and the grandson of a fisherman.  All his friends are fishermen, and they spend every day of their lives doing what fishermen do: fishing.  If there were a fishermen’s union, they’d belong to it.  Simon probably comes from a long line of highly trained fisherman.  He knows what he’s doing.  He knows how to fish. 

Simon and his fellow fishermen have been fishing all night long but have caught nothing.  The professionals who have spent their lives fishing know what’s up, and there are no fish to be caught.  And along comes this Jesus fellow, the son of a a carpenter, who wants to say some things to a crowd that has gathered.  He just climbs into Simon’s boat (weird) and asks him to push out from shore so he can address the crowd.  Much to my surprise, Simon goes along with it.  And Jesus teaches the crowd.  Then we get to the really weird part.

Jesus tells Simon to go out into deep water and let down his nets.  Jesus is the son of a carpenter.  He might know how to build boats, but that is not the same as fishing in them.  We can’t tell the tone of Simon’s voice when he answers Jesus, but my money is on a sort of passive-aggressive sarcasm.  He says, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”  At best, I think he is just humoring Jesus.  Like when the technician tells you to reboot your computer.

So, the fishermen lower their nets on the advice of a carpenter, going against everything they know about fishing, expecting nothing just like last night, and . . . they catch so many fish that their nets are beginning to break.  They fill both boats to the point that they are beginning to sink.  Which obviously gets us to wondering, how much is two boatloads of fish worth, right?

Well, after reading a very long and very boring academic paper called “Papyrology and the Construction of the Ancient Economy of Roman Palestine,” I can now tell you that 500 fish would “net you” (sorry, but Dads gotta Dad Joke) . . . 500 fish would bring you about 150 drachmae, which is about two months pay.  Simon and his partners are not going to eat two boatloads of fish, but, financially this is a significant haul.  

So, let’s review: the professional fishermen have worked all night and caught nothing.  Jesus tells them to try one more time, and they bring in enough fish to take the rest of the month off.  Celebrations all around, right?  High fives and champagne right?  Well actually . . . Simon Peter fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”  What’s going on here?

Let’s try this.  Have you ever stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon or some natural wonder and just been overwhelmed by the immense beauty of it?  Or, have you ever walked into a stunning cathedral and just been overwhelmed by how small you feel?  Ever read about someone like Mother Theresa and realized how incredibly selfish you really are?  I think that’s what is going on with Simon here.  Being in the presence of the holy abundance that Jesus brings makes Simon see himself as he truly is.  Sitting in a boatload of fish next to God in the flesh, the Word who was there at the beginning of creation . . . Simon Peter fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”  In the presence of Jesus, Simon sees himself for what he truly is: a sinful man.

And, I don’t know about you, but if I were in Simon’s shoes, I would expect Jesus to say, “You know what?  You’re right, Simon.  You are a sinful man.  I think I will go away from you.”  Or, I would expect Jesus to say, “Go and sin no more.”  Or, “Now sell everything and give it to the poor.”  But what does Jesus actually do?  He says, “Do not be afraid,” and then prepares Simon and his partners for ministry.  Do not be afraid, because despite your sinfulness, I am going to do great things through you.  You do not have to become perfect, or even slightly better for God to use you.

But here’s something else about this story.  What about the crowd?  Remember how at the beginning there was a big crowd?  And that’s why Jesus went out in the boat?  We don’t know what happened to them, since we don’t hear anything more about them.  And you know what else we don’t hear anything more about?  Two giant boatloads of fish.  At the end of the reading, Simon and his companions just walk away with Jesus.  If you put those two things together—a crowd of people and two boats full of fish—we have a sort of accidental feeding miracle on top of everything else!

And it gets even better.  Because in order to accomplish this feeding miracle, Jesus doesn’t take a group of fishermen and turn them into farmers.  Jesus doesn’t have a bunch of carpenters suddenly learn how to fish.  No he starts with people right where he meets them, exactly as they are, and just by being with them, Jesus turns their ordinary gifts into an extraordinary event!

Jesus doesn’t lead everybody to stop what they’re doing and go to seminary.  Because how boring would that world be?  No, instead, Jesus meets all of us exactly where we are, and uses our unique gifts and abilities and life experience to spread the good news and make this world a better place.  

In the presence of Jesus, we see that we are broken and sinful people.  And Jesus says to us: Do not be afraid.  Because—just like those fishermen in those boats—God is doing amazing things through us, exactly as we are.  And when we are exhausted, and worn out, and feeling like everything we do is just not working, like there are no more fish in that lake, along comes Jesus, who tells us to let down our nets.  And we find that when we do as he says, we too will see miracles, and the world is changed.  Do not be afraid, people of St. Timothy’s, because Jesus is still doing amazing things through us, right where he meets us, exactly as we are.  May the Spirit continue to inspire us to let down our nets, again and again.


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