Year C, Epiphany 5: February 6, 2022
The Fifth Sunday After Epiphany
Year C: Isaiah 6:1-8, [9-13]; Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11
The gospel for today is the story of Jesus taking some of his disciples on a fishing expedition on Lake Gennesaret. We hear that Jesus was standing by the lake and saw the crowds fast approaching him. He saw Simon, the fisherman, and asked to be taken out onto the lake in one of the boats. Jesus then taught the people from the boat, and when he was finished, he asked to go out further from the lakeshore.
There are many moving parts to today’s gospels, layers as it were. Some people hear and see today’s gospel passage as a reasonably straightforward miracle story with a relatively concise message. Others see it more metaphorically – trust in God, who provides everything we need, and we will find the power and the strength to go and catch people, to make disciples of all nations, and to build up the church through our efforts.
Fishing, especially the kind of commercial fishing that the disciples were engaged in, is rarely easy. There are tremendous risks and great danger. Despite the high-powered boats, radar, detailed and accurate charts of the sea, and GPS units, fishing is still about setting out on the water, about leaving the safety of the dry land, and trusting the laws of physics and the goodness of God. It’s still all about hoping and praying for a good, bountiful catch – but not being able to do a whole lot to make that happen. Fishing is still pretty much about putting trust and hope in finding a good catch.
I have to agree that I think the boatload of fish isn’t the story’s main point. There’s a great abundance (I’m assuming that folks are fed with that great abundance).
But I keep being reminded of a beautiful hymn sung at my ordination to the priesthood.
You have come down to the lakeshore
seeking neither the wise nor the wealthy,
but only asking me to follow.
Sweet Lord: you have looked into my eyes;
kindly smiling, you’ve called out my name.
On the sand I have abandoned my small boat;
now with you, I will seek other seas.
You know full well what I have, Lord;
neither treasure nor weapons for conquest,
just these my fish nets and will for working. (Refrain)
You need my hands, my exhaustion,
working love for the rest of the weary ‘
a love that’s willing to go on loving. (Refrain)
You who have fished other waters;
you, the longing of souls that are yearning:
O loving Friend, you have come to call me. (Refrain)
“O Loving Friend, you have come to call me.”
This hymn, our gospel this morning – they remind us that we are called to build the body of Christ, the church. Like the call that Paul hears, our call is to remind people that it is by the grace of God that we are called to fish, to spread the good news of Christ. That is what the fisherman are being called to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, so they lay down their nets and follow Christ. Isaiah’s response to a call is, “Here I am, send me.”
Responding to God’s request of us is often scary. We don’t know what our nets will pull in. We could stay the same, but to live out our baptism, we must be willing to believe in the transforming power of faith in Jesus Christ. In Christ, we have an opportunity to experience God’s grace. We do not have to be perfect for this to happen – but we must be willing to follow like Peter, James, and John did when they brought their boats, overflowing with fish to shore. We can bring others with us – be fishers of people – even when it means going out again and again, unsure of what today’s catch might be. Remember, Jesus told them not to be afraid and that they would be catching people from now on. The boat was returned to shore, and the fishermen left everything they had and followed Jesus.
We, too, are called to be people who have experienced transforming generosity and love and offering it to others.
Though Luke writes about a lake, boats, nets, and fishermen, this story is about more than fishing. It is a story of life and transformation. Jesus calls Simon to a new life, a new way of being. This transformation happens in the context of fishing because that is what Simon knows best. Jesus comes to us in the ordinary everyday circumstances of our lives. Whether fishermen or landlubbers, we are asked to put out into the deep water and let down our nets for a catch.
And that power comes from God – by our very life, through our baptism, and again and again in the simple meal of the Eucharist.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John were called to follow Jesus as he traveled around Galilee, healing, preaching, and teaching. This story reveals the miraculous power of Jesus Christ.
God’s call is not limited to those disciples alone or prophets like Isaiah. We are each called out of our particular limitations: our fear and our poverty, anger, and disappointment, but we are called to live lives worthy of the Gospel—to be Jesus’ witnesses and hands right here.
This power of that calls comes to us every day, in ways we have not yet begun to understand or imagine.
This power comes to us in our joy and pain; when we struggle and succeed. This power allows us to become more and more what God created us to be.
This power is love.
We can endure great trials, face new challenges, and even overcome death with love.
We can help heal the world that suffers and hurts greatly with love.
With love, we can trust that God will provide all we truly need.
With love, we can invite people to join us in revealing more and more of the miraculous power that is God.
Before the Covid-19 caused us to cancel services inside our churches, the sermons were usually recorded at St. Andrew’s and uploaded by Kemp Miller, for whose ministry we are all grateful. To access the entire library of audio files for past sermons, CLICK HERE.