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February 8, 2004

Put Out Into Deep Waters

(Luke 5:1-11)

Today’s great story about how Jesus calls the fishermen to follow him on the path to discipleship has three great lines which we can reflect about.

First, we hear how they’ve been out fishing all night on the Sea of Galilee and they’ve caught nothing, how Jesus borrows Simon’s boat and teaches the crowd on the shore and when he is finished, he turns to them and says, “Put out into deep waters and lower your nets.” That is a fantastic statement, one which we all need to ponder. Of course, Simon Peter balks and tells how he knows all about fishing, and Jesus couldn’t know anything, and there are no fish to be caught, but then he gives in and does what Jesus says. In a poetic way, we probably all feel like we’ve spent our whole lives out on the water all night and haven’t caught anything, and along comes Jesus telling us to put out into deep waters. That’s God, always pushing us out to go farther than we think we can go, into the unknown, into uncharted waters. So the question is: how is Jesus pushing you these days out into deep waters? How are you going to respond to him?

Then, they make a big catch and both boats nearly sink because of the great number of fish, and how does Simon Peter respond? He falls at the knees of Jesus and says, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” There is a great mystery here. I think the Gospel is telling us that whenever we enter into the presence of God, whenever we realize that we are in the presence of Christ, we suddenly recognize not only his light and holiness, but our darkness and sinfulness. So the Gospel calls us to recognize our sinfulness before Christ, to realize that we are sinners. But Jesus does not condemn Simon Peter or us. He loves us, forgives us and calls us. We are sinners but we are also greatly loved by God, and we need Christ to help us and save us. I want to change Simon Peter’s plea to say, “Never depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man and I need you.”

Finally, Jesus says this great line to Peter, “Do not be afraid. From now on, you will be catching men and women.” With that, they leave their nets, their boats, the fish, and their parents and follow him. Jesus says the same thing to us today. He does not want us to live in fear. Instead he invites us to live in relationship with him, to follow him and to join his campaign to change the world by leading one another and all people to God and God’s reign of love and peace. So we can ask ourselves: How are we dropping our nets and following Jesus? How do we practice discipleship to Christ today? How are we trying to catch people for Christ and the reign of God?

I think Jesus is the greatest person who ever lived, and he really is worth following, that it’s worth it to drop our nets, change our lives, and try to follow in his footsteps. It’s also critically important that each one of us join his project of calling people to discipleship, of catching people for Christ, of being fishers of men and women. There are a lot of campaigns these days, from George W. Bush to John Kerry, but the Gospel campaign of Jesus is the only one worth joining, the one worth giving our lives for. What does it means to join the Gospel campaign of Jesus?

I think that in this world of hate, indifference and fear, our job is to catch people for Christ’s love.

In this world of gossip, pettiness, hypocrisy and lies, our job is to catch people for Christ’s truth.

In this world of enmity, resentment, grudges, revenge and the death penalty, our job is to catch people for Christ’s compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation.

In this world of injustice and oppression, our job is to catch people for Christ’s justice.

In this world of selfishness and greed, our job is to catch people for Christ’s way of selfless service.

In this world of violence and bombing raids and colonial occupation, our job is to catch people for Christ’s nonviolence.

In this world of war, nuclear weapons, imperialism, and global Pentagon militarism, our job is to catch people for Christ’s peace.

In this world of despair and death, our job is to catch people for Christ’s hope, for the new life of God’s reign of resurrection. From now on, we are catching men and women for the nonviolent Christ.

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