Preaching Resources

The 5th Sunday after the Epiphany (February 6, 2022)

Assigned Lessons:

  • Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13)
  • I Corinthians 15:1-11
  • Luke 5:1-11

Simon Peter, his brother Andrew and their partners James and John were fishermen from Capernaum on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. They fished almost every day and spent countless hours on shore, mending their nets and repairing their boat. This is how they fed their families. This is how they put a roof over their heads. It was into this routine that Jesus stepped and forever changed their lives.

The passage from Luke tells us of the events of the day that Jesus called these four fishermen to be his disciples. We are not aware of how much contact Jesus had with these men before this day. Capernaum was a relatively small fishing village; we can be somewhat certain that the presence of Jesus in town was noted by most anybody who was paying attention. Anybody doing much more than passing through town would have elicited great curiosity. In Luke’s introduction to this particular fishing story, he hints that Jesus already had a significant following as the crowds were large, necessitating him to get into Simon’s fishing boat and pushing out a bit to give him some room. We can easily assume that Simon had a front-row seat, seeing as his boat served as Jesus’ makeshift pulpit.

We do not know the substance of Jesus’ sermon; we don’t know if it was well-received or if people simply walked away. But at the end of it, Jesus turns to Simon and encourages him to take the boat out a bit farther and cast their nets one more time. Simon is the professional fisherman here; Jesus is a carpenter. What does a carpenter know about the best time to fish? Simon knew that the best fishing was done well before dawn, which was also ideal because the fresh fish could easily make it to market before it spoiled in the day’s heat. Simon shares with the “Carpenter” that the expert has been fishing all night, and to him, Jesus’ request seems futile.

But Simon, tired as he was, goes along with Jesus’ request and puts out his nets one more time. This time however, the nets are full to overflowing, and an additional boat is needed to haul in the catch, and the nets are being stretched to capacity to bring in the haul.

Maybe Jesus saw a shimmer in the water that let him know there was a large school of fish just below the surface. There is no need to feel that Jesus somehow produced the fish to impress Simon, his brother, and partners. Let’s not get too caught up in the details of the miracle; that is not where Jesus wants us to spend our time. Jesus wants us to look beneath the miracle to its meaning.

Simon, his brother Andrew, and their partners James and his brother John were life-long fishermen. They learned the trade from their fathers, who learned it from their fathers. They knew how things worked in the fishing business. They had all the tools of the trade. They had the boats, nets, and materials to keep them in good working order. They knew best times to fish, the best times to take their catch to market, the best times to mend the nets and do upkeep on the boats and sails.

On this day, Jesus was asking them to do something they had done a thousand times before, cast their nets into the water. All they needed to do was follow the command to cast their nets. And they did!

But now Jesus invites them to leave all of this behind and follow him. This is no small task. Their multi-generational families depended on this income for daily food and shelter. This was all they knew to do! But Jesus says: “From now on, you will be fishing for people.” And with that, Luke tells us they left their families, boats, nets, livelihoods and followed Jesus.

I think that Jesus is still calling followers today. Perhaps you are being called to something right now. Are you listening? What can we learn from this text that helps us to say yes?

First of all, Jesus was not asking them to do anything they were not already able to do. They had the skill, the tools, the time, and the place. All they needed to do here was to follow. These fishermen did not produce the fish; they simply caught what was provided for them.

I think the same is true with God’s call today. While we might sometimes doubt our gifts and talents, God will only invite us to do something that we can do. All we need to do is follow where God calls and do the things we are gifted at doing.

But what is it that holds us back? Too often, we feel as if we need to save the world. We need to convert handfuls of people with some winning word or convincing sermon. We feel we need to save a village by ourselves, by paying for a Doctor’s salary. We might feel the need to solve the homeless problem in our community by ourselves. We feel the world’s problems are too significant and so be intimidated into doing nothing.

But the message here is that we don’t need to do it all; our name is not Jesus; it is Chris, Ginny, Andrew, Debby, Tim, Tom, Mally, Carol, IB, Ted, and the list goes on. The message of this miracle is that the fish were simply waiting; all that was needed was somebody to do the fishing.

One of my favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes says: “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

In these Covid times, the needs for small acts of kindness are infinite. At the Board of World Mission office, not long ago, we received from an elderly woman a pack of two dozen well-made face masks, which we promptly delivered to a Children’s after-school program at a local community center. She was using the tools, materials, and experience to meet a need.

Not all of us can sew, but some of us might be able to write a thank you note to a health care worker that we know. We might be able to call someone who has had to isolate more than others because of health concerns. What small act of kindness can you do if you only take the time to do so?

What might Jesus be calling you to do today?