Epiphany 5C - Luke 5:1-11

Luke 5:1–11 (NIV)

5 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around Him and listening to the Word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then He sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.

          Some people really like fishing.  The first time I went fishing I caught a dozen good sized fish.  The chap who invited me to go fishing with him caught 48 in the same time. 

I’ve hardly caught a fish since. Not all of us are good fishermen.  But all have some gift God can use to help bring salvation others.

          Jesus went fishing.  Both for fish, and for people.  Jesus sent others fishing too, both for fish and for people to serve His and our Father, God.  He started with Simon Peter.  Today’s text told the story of Jesus’ fishing. 

     When Jesus calls, He also teaches as He did when He told Simon to …. “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Our Lord Jesus continues to teach each of us today through His Word.  When we listen, we learn about the Kingdom of God and how His wonderful news applies to us personally and to others through our relationships with them. 

          We receive Jesus’ teaching in our private devotion, family devotion, Bible Study, pastor’s classes, fellowship meetings, and most importantly, in the Divine Service of worship. 

          Jesus sits in our midst and teaches us as though we were on the bank of the lake of Gennesaret - just as the fishermen mending their nets were. 

          As Jesus asked Simon, He also asks something of us.  In 2019 we are asked to continue serving God in our families, community and church.  Jesus invites, even commands, us to go into the world here in Hamilton and make disciples for Him. 

          It often seems like an impossible task because the world is so busy and we don’t really want to impose ourselves on anyone, nor do we want to be seen as “preachy”. 

          Some of us may have all kinds of fears and doubts about sharing Jesus with others and inviting them to enter into a personal relationship with Him and His Church.  But Jesus still calls us to do what seems impossible.

          Jesus has asked us to get in the boat with Him, put into deep water and work to establish something new and special in people’s lives.  We’ve already had a bit of a go.  A miracle has happened and God has freely supplied our need for His Holy Spirit to help us. 

          Though we may have doubted our effectiveness, it’s Jesus place to count the results of our fishing.  It’s our place to go and fish for people – we know that when fishing we don’t always come home with a catch.  Jesus makes the catch – we merely put out the net. 

          The Lord has worked it all out for us.  He’s filled us with good fellowship, given us a budget we can work with and He’s helping us sort out how we work together in ministry. 

          When God is at work, we need to be cautious of trusting our own wisdom.  Our doubts and fears don’t cause people to come together.  Our doubts and fears don’t make the budget sheets balance for the Annual General Meeting.

          Where human effort achieves nothing, Jesus provides in abundance. 

We’ve been called to go into deep water in recent years with ministry in Whitiora School.  We questioned God’s agenda and some of us mumbled about the call God gave us.  We probably came up with all kinds of excuses as to why we shouldn’t follow God’s call.

          Simon Peter mumbled too!   "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! Yet Simon Peter went ahead because Jesus wanted him too: But at Your word I will let down the nets."  - said Simon. 

          Our net, has been filled to overflowing with people to share Jesus with. There’s our families, our neighbours and Whitiora School community along with the guests who’ve come, and will come, through the doors of St Matthew this year.

To sustain us God has blessed us greatly with His Word and Sacraments, fellowship and friendship.  God has also provided the financial resources, through your offerings and a Gateway grant, we’ve needed to support what He’s instructed us to do.

What, then, is our response to such a gracious God.  He’s blessed us even though we didn’t deserve to be blessed.  We doubted Him, His Word and His promises, yet He continues to bless us. 

          As God said though His prophet Malachi, Malachi 3:10 ESV Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put Me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

          God wants us to trust Him implicitly and completely.  Jesus calls us to follow the example of Simon Peter and acknowledge that we don’t measure up by confessing our doubt and sin: for I am a sinful man, O Lord." - said SimonWe joined him in our confession as we said this morning:

“We admit that we have often spoken evil rather than good, that we have not always sought the peace and well-being of others and that we have disobeyed the loving voice of God.”           

          Confession of sin is an acknowledgement of unworthiness to receive God’s forgiveness and blessing.  Simon repeated the sentiment of Isaiah as we heard in the first Bible reading today: Isaiah 6:5 (NIV)

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

          We have, in both Isaiah and Simon’s confession, the humble attitude expressed of people who, having received Christ’s abundant grace, recognise both their sinful condition and the totally un-merited nature of God’s gift – forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. 

          Simon’s falling down before Jesus was a sign of repentance.  It is the change of his life’s direction which marks the beginning of active faith expressed in service to God and others.

          Can we also make that change of direction to fully believe Jesus’ words of comfort and reassurance when Jesus says "Do not be afraid;. 

          These simple words of Jesus tell us that our sin is forgiven.  Jesus has conquered human weakness, fear and doubt on the cross when He died and when He was raised to live again.  He has shared His victory with us when He accepted us even before we knew we ourselves had been saved by Him.

          In all this Jesus calls us to now act in faith.  As Jesus made Simon a new man, He makes us new people - forgiven sinners.   ... from now on you will be catching men." -  says Jesus.  This is what forgiven sinners do. Instead of casting a net to fish, Simon was called to cast the Word of God - to catch people for the Kingdom of God.

          This call to follow and to cast the Word of God is a faith ministry.  Simon, you and I, we’re all to go about the faith ministry of casting God’s Word, of setting the net of truth, not trusting in our own efforts but relying on Jesus powerful Word.  To faithfully speak and let Jesus work the miracles! 

Often times we will feel unworthy for the task but we are reassured by Jesus words, "Do not be afraid;.    

          Our calling may not be exactly that of Simon, but each of us has been called by God to fulfil some aspect of the ministry of God’s Word where we are, with the people God puts before us each day.

          I have been called as pastor to you. What is your calling?

          Prayerfully seek God’s guidance as you may be called or re-called to a position of responsibility in the Lord’s Church here at St Matthew as we soon call for nominations for the AGM to be held on the third of March.”

          Simon, James and John pulled up their boats, left everything and followed Jesus.  As a congregation we may be asked to put out into deep water to catch the blessings God has in store for us – to leave something behind so we can do a new thing and challenging thing. 

You may also be asked by Jesus to pull up your boats of tradition and do something completely different, leaving those things you find comforting as Jesus leads you in His mission.

You may be call on to serve on Ministry Council, to fill a gap on the Church cleaning roster, to attend Lenten Bible Studies and/or to help out at a Sausage Sizzle at the Rugby.

          Following often requires a change of values and attitudes.  Any one who believes and follows Jesus, like Peter, throws out the net in response to God’s Word and sees its fulfilment in following Jesus Christ to the cross where we have life.

          Amen.