Fishers of Men
Luke 5: 1-11.
I must tell you about a musical instrument which was made by some of our children at school this week, for an important Science competition, at the Curtis lectures in Newcastle. It's called a quiet interlude. It's brilliant, it doesn't make any sound at all, and the silence passes right through this tube, and back into the container. This instrument is just a pause, a full stop. Even in music the silences are as important as the notes, and the judge was fascinated by it, and held it up above all the others.
We have such a quiet interlude in today's gospel.
Our reading begins on Lake Gennesaret, which is just another name for the Sea of Galilee.
It was here that Jesus withdrew from the crowd, and got into one of the two fishing boats at the water's edge, so that he could continue preaching to those who were pressing in on him.
When he had finished he invited the fishermen, to pull out into deep water in order to put out the nets and go fishing.
Peter was the first to reply. The Greek word he used for Master 'estata' loosely translated means "Boss", rather than 'Teacher' or 'Rabbi'. It was a term used by workers to their supervisors. And rather than obey immediately, Peter informed Jesus that they has worked hard all night, and not caught anything.
It's almost as though he was really saying,
"Look pal (or boss), we're the fisherman, you're just a preacher, what do you know about catching fish? Anyway we're shattered. You must be joking if you think we're going out again. It would just be a waste of time and energy!"
Then there's a full stop, a pause in the proceedings.
And he changes his mind.
"But because you say so, I will let down the nets?"
How long do you think that pause lasted, between his No way, and his O.K.?
What made him change his mind. Was it Jesus silence? His look? His expression. His steadfast gaze? His air of authority?
Peter soon changes his tune when they catch enough fish to almost sink the boats, in fact they pull in so many fish, that he falls at Jesus' knees and asks Jesus to go away from him, for he is a sinful man.
You'll notice he no longer addresses Jesus as 'boss' but as Lord (kyrios).
It is a term full of respect and awe.
Being a simple fisherman, with his years of experience on the lake, Peter knew full well that he had witnessed nothing short of a miracle. And rather than keep this sinner at arms length, Jesus draws Peter in closer, and tells him that from now on, he would be catching men rather than fish.
A lovely story.
How often when we feel some gentle urging of God, to visit someone, to speak to someone, to forgive someone, or to go somewhere or accept his call upon our lives…… do we too pause.
How often do we treat the One calling us to serve, to a barrage of objections.
"We've done it all before, we've tried it already; we're exhausted; it can't be done, you can't be asking this of me? What do you know? I know better. I have something else more pressing to do……
And how long must that pause last, before we realize that this is actually the 'Lord' speaking to us, calling us out into deep water, where the only option is to trust in Him, for our well being, for our mission to be fulfilled, for His work to be done?
How many times like Peter do we say to God, "Go away from me, I'm too sinful, for you to use me. Choose someone more holy"
How wonderful to see in this story that Jesus was not one to withdraw from the sinners and the unclean, not like the law abiding, yet arrogant Jewish leaders in the south of Judea.
He is all embracing. Jesus is never shocked by what we have been, or
what we are, but sees what we could be in him.
How long will our pause last before we make our response?
How big is the full stop, between what we know God wants us to do, and actually doing it?
Has our answer somehow got lost somewhere in the tube?
We have people to catch for God. The time is now.
Are we ready for the deep water?
Are we ready to take risks?
Are we ready to respond or object?
How long will our pause be?
One thing is sure, we can't keep God 'on hold' for ever. One day it might be too late, and we'll have missed the boat!