The Fifth Sunday after The Epiphany
The Very Reverend Nicolette Papanek, Interim Dean
Luke 5:1-11

What are you good at doing? I mean really good. And, if just for a moment you forgot Episcopalians are supposed to be modest and self-effacing, you might even brag about it a little. You’d brag about it because you know you’re really good at it.

Maybe you bake brownies that make people’s eyes roll back in their heads. Maybe you play an instrument so well that if you could play it on the street people would stop in their tracks to hear the music. Maybe you listen well and closely when people talk and they feel affirmed and comforted. Maybe you read a lot of books and have a great memory and can quote the perfect phrase when someone needs a word of wisdom in a crisis.

What are you good at doing? What would it be like to be invited to do something you’re good at doing? This is what Jesus invites the disciples to do in this morning’s Gospel.

The disciples were fishing. Fishing was how they made a living. It’s clear they were good at fishing because they owned the boat they used. They took care of their equipment, another sign you’re good at what you do. They probably had bad days. Fishing was hard physical work. But, they knew their business. They knew even if they didn’t catch anything, they still had to clean their nets. The text doesn’t say anything about what they talked about while they cleaned their nets, but cleaning them was preparation for more fish catching. More fish catching meant more money and a better livelihood. It also meant being proud of one’s skills, and knowing what to do in a tight situation in a boat.

It seems to me though that this story has something really important to say to us about what we do for Jesus and what Jesus does with us.

Jesus wants us to use the gifts we’ve been given. Jesus wants us to share our gifts with others, and invite other people to share their gifts.

What changed in this story wasn’t the fishing. Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to stop what they were doing. He didn’t say, okay you were fishermen, but now you’re somebody else doing something else. What Jesus did instead was change the catch.

We know what happens to fish. They get killed and eaten. Maybe you’ve heard of a “live catch” though. That’s what deep-sea fishers do for aquariums. What Simon and the others went on to do for Jesus was “live catching” people.

Being called by Jesus has nothing to do with capability, or intelligence, or even character. These men were fishermen. Normal guys who worked hard and I’ll bet they partied hard too. In fact, Simon himself says to Jesus, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” The translation we get doesn’t really catch the full meaning. Simon really wants Jesus to leave the neighborhood, to get as far away from him as possible.

Jesus met the fishermen where they were. They were doing what they were good at doing: catching fish. Ordinary people doing ordinary things and doing them well. Jesus reaches into our ordinary human lives to call us.

Finally, Jesus transforms their work. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching people.” Jesus uses the work these men already do and what they already know, to transform them into disciples. We can let God transform our work and use what we already know to make us disciples.

Have you ever had that joyful feeling that comes from landing a live catch? Have you ever had someone say to you, “I’ve always stayed away from church, but something you said made me think I might try it?” Have you ever experienced the joy of watching someone live caught by Jesus? Have you ever watched the face of a child light up when the child understood Jesus live caught them and loves them? Have you ever sponsored an adult candidate for Baptism and held their trembling hand as the blessing over the water was spoken? Then Jesus Christ has shown you the joy of a “live catch.” AMEN.

The Very Rev Nicolette Papanek
©2019

1. Luke 5:8b (NRSV)
2. Luke 5:10b (NRSV)