Dear Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
A heavily inebriated gentleman was going ice fishing. He started to drill a hole with his auger when a loud booming voice said, “THERE’S NO FISH DOWN THERE!” So he stopped drilling and moved a little ways and started to drill again. Moments later, the same voice boomed, “THERE’S NO FISH DOWN THERE EITHER!” So he moved further away and was about to drill again, when he heard the voice, “THERE’S NO FISH THERE ANYWHERE!” The drunk looked around and questioned, “Who are you anyways? God?” The voice echoed in response, “NO , I’M THE RINK MANAGER !”
Every fisherman, even an ice fisherman seems to have a great fish story to tell- often of the fish that got away. The Bible this morning, however, tells of a different sort of fishing story. St. Luke writes about some fishermen who came back empty. After fishing all night, they were met by a carpenter who commandeered their boat, preached a sermon, and then dared to tell the fishermen where they should let down their nets. Moments later, these professional fisherman caught the greatest catch of their lives, and then just as quickly decided to leave it all behind and follow him. Most of us could never imagine such a dramatic and life changing decision, but maybe we should.
This morning, I would like share with you three lessons drawn from that odd fishing story. These are lessons for men and women who are searching for a change in their life, and perhaps, even for congregations who are looking for a renewed sense of mission and purpose. Consider these lessons: First, Head out into the deep water, Second, Expect Change, and Third, Trust that God knows you better than you know yourself.
The story begins with a simple directive. If you want to see a change in your life, you need to head out into deep water. Observe Jesus’ movement. He commandeered Simon Peter’s boat and moved him away from shore. And then Jesus told him, “Let’s leave the shallows and go to the deep.” Some people don’t catch fish because they refuse to go into deep water. Every fisherman knows the schools of big fish are in the deeper water. And the first rule of fishing is you’ve got to go where the fish are. But Jesus’ instruction wasn’t for fishermen only. Jesus was teaching a fundamental spiritual principal. Many people don’t catch the things they are searching for simply because they refuse to go deep.
Deep water is where God’s abundance is to be found, but to move about in deep water also takes faith. Deep water is risky. It’s easier and safer to stay along the shore. You can put a toe into the water, or maybe a foot, but this is not like wading in and getting in over your head. Shallow water is pleasant and comfortable. It tickles your ankles when you walk in it. The minnows and the half-grown fish gather there. You can see all the way to the bottom in shallow water, and so staying in shallow water is a great temptation. Yes, it’s a temptation because it’s the easy way. Frankly, it’s a temptation for churches, for groups, and even individuals. Shallow water doesn’t cost much; nor does it take a whole lot of courage. The visibility in deep black water, the murkiness on the other hand, can be next to nothing. And the waters can be cold just beneath the surface. In the deep water, you have to trust the words and directions of those who have passed through the deep water before you. But it is worth the treasure to be found there.
Second, the story teaches us that if you want to experience change in your life, you have to expect change. Just as some fishermen don’t catch fish because they don’t expect to catch fish. Some people don’t experience change, because they don’t expect change. Simon Peter was skeptical. When Jesus told him, “Let’s go to the deep water,” he didn’t stop there. Jesus added, “And prepare for a catch. Let down the nets.” And Simon took a chance.
It’s a challenge for each one of us. There are many experiences in life that move us out into deep waters- and often we are unaware. There are professional, personal and emotional deep waters that we glide over every day, but we don’t have any expectation that something could happen or change us. It is even true for Sunday worship. Week after week we head out into the deep waters of worship, but do you go preparing for a catch? Do you go believing and trusting that God’s blessing and word of encouragement is waiting for you if you would just let down your net- and perhaps if your let down your guard? More often than not our voices echo the thoughts of Simon Peter. “Lord, I’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. Thanks for the boat ride to the deep water, but I’ll keep my nets in the boat this time.”
It is true for so many people’s lives. They want a change, but every experience has taught them more about failure than success. You count yourself in this number. You have learned most of life’s lessons in the school of hard knocks… a failed marriage, a frustrating work environment, a misunderstanding with friends and family which has left you empty, health concerns that have left you on edge, a loss of excitement in your life. Thanks for the ride Jesus, but this time, I’m keeping my nets to myself.
My friends, some people don’t change because they don’t go to the deep water, and some people don’t change because they don’t expect to. So they don’t take a chance. Yes, some people don’t change because they believe they know more about life, and the possibilities of life than anyone else does. Like, Simon Peter, they think know more about fish than God.
And so we turn to my final conviction. If you want to change, you must trust that God knows more about you, and what you can be and do, than you can ever imagine. Simon Peter almost made that mistake in the boat with Jesus. Sitting in the deep water, with the net at his feet, he said to Jesus in an exasperated tone, “Jesus, we’ve been fishing all night. We know fish and fish don’t run in the day. Aren’t you just a carpenter from Nazareth moonlighting as a preacher anyway? You should stick to your day job.” Some people think they know more about life than God. Sometimes, it’s not that we actually think we know more than God; it’s just that we act that way. We hear God’s instructions for our lives: Forgive and forget. Bless those who hurt you. Give generously. Welcome the stranger. And so we ignore God’s invitation to abundance and putting out our nets. For a split- second Simon Peter hesitated, he looked at Jesus again and said, “But because you say so, and I have seen what you have done I will let down the nets.” And what happened then? Simon Peter’s life would never be the same.
Most people believe that the net full of fish was the miracle in this story, but I think the real miracle is that Simon Peter, a professional fisherman, decided that God was God, and he changed the direction of his life, and followed Jesus immediately. Everything else, his career, his good fortune and the abundant catch, he would leave behind.
My friends, that’s when all miracles begin. When you leave all of life’s burdens and prejudices behind and let God who knows, and loves you, more than you know and love yourself, have his way with your life. What possibilities are waiting for you and your life when you follow him out in the deep waters? You will never know until you allow God to be God in your life. And when you do, you will be surprised at that catch that is waiting for you in the deep waters. God’s abundance is never far away. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.