Meditation on Luke 5:1–11
The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH
Pastor Karen Crawford
Feb. 13, 2022
Link to a recording of the livestreamed service, with the message: https://fb.watch/b90lH9iqM2/
I was sorry that we had to cancel worship last Sunday because of the ice. It was really dangerous! But honestly, wasn’t it a relief that we weren’t canceling because of the pandemic? It feels like we are getting back to ministry as usual—in winter, in Ohio.
Today is the Super Bowl. Got any Super Bowl fans here? Who’s rooting for the Cincinnati Bengals? How about the Los Angeles Rams? Well, I am in Ohio now, so I am rooting for the Bengals. Even people who don’t care about football were talking about their comeback from a 21-3 deficit to unseat the Kansas City Chiefs at the AFC Championship on Jan. 30. That was quite a game!
I read this week about the Bengals quarterback—Joe Burrow and his family’s passion for sports.
Joe was born in Ames, Iowa, when his father, Jim, was on the staff for the Iowa State Cyclones. Jim was a football player and coach, whose career lasted more than 40 years. Joe’s grandmother in the 1940s set a Mississippi state high school record with an 82-point game in basketball.
His paternal grandfather played basketball at Mississippi State; his uncle, John Burrow, played football at Ole Miss; and two older brothers also played football at Nebraska.
Little Joe Burrow attended the 2002 Rose Bowl at age 5, when his father was an assistant coach for Nebraska. Not long after, he began playing in youth football, starting out as a quarterback, because his first youth team had no one else who could play the position. Joe ended up in Athens, Ohio, when his father accepted the defensive coordinator position at Ohio University in Athens. Joe played football at Athens High, leading the school to three straight playoff appearances and the school’s first seven playoff victories in school history. He won awards and the school board decided in 2019 to name the school’s football stadium in his honor.
Joe played college football for Ohio State,
He won the Heisman Trophy and the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship as a senior.
You could say that Joe’s entire life, up to this moment, was taking him on a certain path to become the professional football player he is today.
Today in our worship, we recognize a different kind of greatness—a greatness of service to God. We welcome and pray for our new team of leaders as we ordain and install elders and deacons. As we seek God’s blessing upon everyone who has said yes to the call of Jesus Christ, we honor and give thanks for the Great Cloud of Witnesses, those who have given us the example of faithful service to the Lord and His Church.
We look to the future and keep moving forward, with our eyes fixed on Jesus, praying for healing, peace, and reconciliation after two difficult years of a pandemic. We say yes to serving because we love and trust the Lord and our brothers and sisters in Christ. We believe in this ministry. We are not just a human organization—not some kind of Christian club. We are an Incarnational ministry, serving as Christ’s hands and feet, mind and heart.
We remember the call of the first disciples in our gospel reading today to encourage and enlighten us as we say yes, once again, to our own call to live as Christ’s disciples and make disciples of all the generations. Our reading in Luke marks a significant moment in Christ’s ministry, but it’s NOT the beginning of the story. His disciples aren’t strangers to him when he calls them. An interesting detail in Luke—not found in other gospels—is in 3:23: “Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his work.” The first 30 years of his life was all preparation for what God planned for him to do!
After his birth, baptism, and temptation, Jesus traveled, preached, healed, and cast out demons. Reports of his miracles spread around the region. Then one day, after he preaches in the synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus goes to Simon’s house and heals Simon’s mother-in-law.
As the sun sets, Jesus heals more sick people and casts out demons. The demons proclaim what human beings had not yet said,“You are the Son of God!” At daybreak, Jesus tries to get away from the crowd; he goes to a deserted place. Maybe he went away to pray, or maybe he just needed a rest before the work ahead.
When the crowds cling to him on his return and ask for more miracles, he says: “I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God to the other cities, also; for I was sent for this purpose.” He goes and preaches in synagogues all over Judea.
Then we come to today’s passage, at chapter 5. Jesus is standing on the shore on the Lake of Gennesaret, also known as the Sea of Tiberius or Sea of Galilee. The crowd is pressing in. Jesus needs a pulpit, so he asks Simon to take him out in his boat, a little way from the shore.
When he finishes his sermon, he asks Simon to take the boat out into the deep water—and let down his nets for a catch. Simon’s tired. His body is aching from the physical labor of fishing in the First Century. And he’s even more tired because they were unsuccessful. It was a big waste of time and energy.
I wonder, is he saying yes to Christ’s request more out of obligation—because Jesus healed his mother-in-law?” His address as, “Master,” reveals his respect for him, but then the next part says the opposite—that Jesus doesn’t know a thing about fishing—or else he wouldn’t ask Simon to go back out. “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing,” Simon says. “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Immediately, they catch so many fish, their nets are breaking! Simon signals his partners, James and John, to come and help them!
This is the biggest catch they’ve ever had. But their technology fails them. The boats begin to sink. Simon realizes that Christ has done this miracle to reveal his power—and help with his unbelief. “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man,” cries Simon Peter, convicted and ashamed, falling at Jesus’ knees. “Do not be afraid,” Christ answers, an echo of the Lord reassuring Isaiah at his calling, when he confesses to be “a man of unclean lips.”
The best part of the story for me comes after the miraculous catch. They bring their boats back to shore. And they leave everything behind to follow him! Simon isn’t a youngster at the time he makes this lifechanging decision. He has a wife and extended family living with him—and a house. He has a good, steady job. His own fishing boat! He has a life, a predictable routine—until he meets Jesus.
It’s not really a question, this invitation. It’s not like in Isaiah, when God asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” It’s a statement: “Do not be afraid,” Jesus says to Simon, James and John. “From now on, you will be catching people.”
Friends, those who take Christ’s service seriously, realizing that it is a life-changing thing like it was for Simon Peter, come to this moment with fear and trembling. Our leadership example is Jesus Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.
There’s something important I want you to remember. The leaders we are seeking to bless today with our love and prayerful support aren’t meant to be the Church of Jesus Christ for us! They are meant to help US be the Church God wants us to be. And your call, my friends, is not a one-time thing, although this particular day in the life of Simon Peter will be remembered and retold for centuries after the crucifixion, resurrection, and empty tomb. Recalling this joyful story serves to empower the grieving disciples when they have to figure out how to go on with Christ’s ministry when he is no longer with them in the flesh. This joyful story is necessary for all of us, for everyone who answers the call, but then grows weary—or frightened—when the call gets hard. Because it does. It gets hard sometimes.
Jesus invites us now to trust and obey him, no matter how weary, or how long we worked the day or night before, without seeing the fruits of our labor. Jesus urges us to persevere, with his help, for his sake. “Do not be afraid,” he says to all of us. “Put out into the deep water. Let down your nets for a catch.”
Let us pray. Holy One, thank you for your Word, for the stories of the calls of Simon Peter and Isaiah. Your Word continues to encourage us and illumine our call to be your disciples and to make disciples, right here in our own community of faith and beyond our church walls. Lord, we say yes to your invitation with fear and trembling. We know that serving you will take all of ourselves—who we are now and who we will become as your Spirit works in us and in our midst. We grow weary sometimes, Lord. We feel frustrated or discouraged when we don’t see immediate fruits of our labor. Help us to trust in you and obey, each day, following in Christ, step by step. And bless our congregation, especially our newly ordained and installed, who seek to serve you with their lives. Teach us how to support, encourage, and join with them in loving service to one another and the world. May we become in all that we say and do your hands and feet, heart and mind. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.