“Into the Deep” Luke 5:1-11 February 7, 2010
Leah and Rachel asked me earlier in the week if I had a direction the sermon was going. They wanted to know if I had any themes in mind–and I told them that evangelism and discipleship were probably good themes to think about…even though I had no idea what direction this scripture would take this morning. Well, here it is Sunday morning and I’m still trying to figure it out!
This story has to do with a boat, and with fishing, and no matter if we’ve heard it once or a hundred times, we have to admit that this story is just a little bit strange. It’s hard to know what to do with it. It’s kind of a miracle story, and it’s kind of a call story.
And yet it’s about more than a miracle, and more than a call.
It’s about abundance in the midst of perceived scarcity.
It’s about life—about where we put our trust-(whether the work of our own hands or in obedience to Jesus).
But it’s about more than obedience, too.
It’s about being re-defined as we relate to Jesus.
It’s a story about redemption as Simon, James, and John leave everything behind, repenting of life as they knew it to follow Jesus (even after the catch of a lifetime).
But it’s about more than that, too!
This story is about making a deliberate choice to put our familiar ways and our control behind us as we turn from our past–no matter how fruitful or how barren that past has been.
Let me back up and start where the story starts—on the shore of the land and the sea.
It’s on the boundary between the stable, dry, predictable land and the choppy, wet, unpredictable sea where Jesus taught the crowds.
That’s where he will continue to teach us if we let him.
See, this is a story about the boundary between that which is familiar and that which is beyond our imagination.
Maybe it’s about an uncertain retirement, or the loss of a source of income. Maybe it’s a story about failing health, or about being sandwiched between caring for your children at the same time as caring for your older parents. Maybe it’s about accepting a responsibility you’ve never accepted before, or beginning something you’ve never done before.
It might be about any of those things this morning. They’re all a little bit like fishing. And when you go fishing, sometimes you catch something, and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you’re successful, and sometimes you aren’t.
See, I’m convinced that the most important things in life have very little to do with skill.
So the point of this story can’t be that these guys; these fishermen didn’t know what they were doing, or that they hadn’t been trying.
It’s not that they were lazy or they hadn’t been prepared for a catch.
It’s way too easy to be critical of people who aren’t catching fish…People who aren’t successful at what they do.
It’s easy for us hard-working, industrious, thrifty, Mennonites to criticize those with empty nets while we stand safe on the shore, eager to hear what Jesus has to say.
We call them lazy. Or we think they must be taking the easy way out.
We can’t understand why so and so just won’t get a job or work harder, or take responsibility or whatever.
But you know, sometimes there just aren’t any fish. It’s nobody’s fault and there’s noone to blame.
It just happens.
So that’s the first lesson for those of us on this shore between solid ground and a changing
sea. That sometimes no matter how hard you work or for how long–sometimes at the end of the day there just aren’t any fish in your net.
You come up empty.
And so we spend our time as these fishermen did–cleaning up our nets, organizing our thoughts, preparing ourselves and our equipment for another try tomorrow, after a good, much-needed nap.
I’m sure the last thing they wanted to do was go back out on that boat.
They were tired and weary and discouraged.
At least that’s how I would be after working all night and not getting anywhere.
But as they were cleaning their nets, this crowd started pushing their way to the shore, trying to hear this teacher named Jesus.
And somewhere between the exhaustion of a long, fruitless night and his own reluctant obedience, Simon hears the call to put out into the deep.
And he did.
And the result is overwhelming abundance that re-defines him and his relationship to Jesus. Simon Peter and his friends went into the deep and threw in their nets, and as you know, the catch was too large to be contained in their boat. It started to sink.
This dependable, solid boat that had served them so well for so long…it started to sink.
Those dependable, trustworthy, recently cleaned nets—they started to break.
The second boat, with the second crew that came to help out with this enormous catch—it started to sink too!
Can you see what’s happening in this story? None of the vessels the fishermen owned or maintained could contain the catch that God had prepared!
When God prepares something new—when He has something new in mind, the old containers just won’t cut it! The old way of doing things must pass away, no matter how hard we try to keep them working!
This isn’t the only place in the Bible where we get this message.
Elsewhere we learn not to put new wine in old wineskins, or they’ll burst!
The new wine needs to do something that the old wineskins just can’t do.
It’s not that the old wineskins are bad–but they’ve served their purpose!
I want to suggest that the boat is traditional church–like we’re doing this morning.
The boat consists of this building, these chairs, the bulletins you’re holding and the order of service we’re using to worship God this morning. The boat consists of our small group structures, the sunday school classes we have, the traditional potlucks we have, and the rest of it.
I want to suggest that God is doing something that we can’t contain!
God is sinking our boat!
And I’m not suggesting that this catch is right around the corner, or that we need to be prepared to receive it when it eventually comes.
Instead, I’m telling you that it’s already happening! It’s already here!
We can respond no better than Simon Peter does…to fall on our knees once we see the reality, and to recognize that Jesus is Lord, to repent and follow Him.
God is doing things that seem impossible, and He is smashing our preconceived ideas of how things should be to bits.
But there’s more!!
Until we go to the deep–we’re just standing on the shore.
Jesus is telling us the same thing he told Simon—“go to the deep”.
So what’s that mean? Where is the deep and how do we get there?
I’d like to suggest at least two ways of finding the deep this morning, two ways of understanding that call that we can chew on this week.
The first way of understanding the deep this morning is in reference to a spiritual, or an interior reality. You’ve heard the saying—“Still Waters Run Deep”.
How still can you be?
It’s easy to fill our time with activities to the point that even 10 or 15 minutes of quiet time seems like a stretch.
Jesus didn’t say “Go out there and get it all done”.
Jesus said ‘put into the deep’.
So based on this text, it seems like a good question to ask if we’re living quiet lives?
Are we connecting with a deep place, or are we hurried, frazzled, pressed for time and drowning in a sea of activity?
Don’t get me wrong–it’s just as possible to drown in a sea of tranquility. There’s a time for reflection, for spending time in the deeps of our life—but that time ought to propel us back out, into active engagement with the world, not to burrow deeper into ourselves for protection or safety from the outside.
So that’s the first challenge for this week–to put into the deep and take stock of what’s there. Listen to the rhythm and the rule of your life and pay attention to what it’s telling you. We are called to a single-minded focus—to be like Christ, to imitate Christ, to dwell in Christ. Everything else is a distraction.
The second way of understanding the deep is to describe it as the place where you can’t touch the bottom. I’m not talking about your personal life anymore—I’m talking about a very public way of being in over your head. I’m talking about where you go when you come out of that deep place.
I’m almost done–I’ll close with this one example to try to illustrate where God wants to take us when we repent and follow him on the road of discipleship.
I’ve never been a big fan of the water. I learned how to swim one time, but it was never something I enjoyed or got good at.
But as a kid I always liked the sensation you get when you walk out to the point in the water when it’s just starting to bounce you around—do you know what I’m talking about?
There’s a point when you’re in such deep water that your toes are barely touching the ground…a point where if you take another step deeper you are forced to choose between holding your breath or starting to tread water.
It’s my favorite part of swimming. I’ve always loved that—the feeling you get when you’re losing control, right on the border between steady ground and deep water.
That’s the metaphor I want to leave us with this morning in understanding this second part of putting into the deep.
It’s the metaphor of where Jesus takes us once we visit that deep place, once we recognize that our boats and nets aren’t going to contain the catch, once we repent and begin to follow Him again, as if for the first time.
I really thing that’s where He wants us to be–in that spot where we lose control.
For some of us, maybe it’s a family reunion. For others, maybe it’s Honduras or Haiti.
For some of us maybe it’s moving in with or otherwise supporting a bunch of young adults in a big green house and for still others it might just be church on Sunday morning or Java Joes on a Friday night.
I don’t know the places where you lose control of your situation–but I know if you are compelled there by Jesus after spending time in the deep, then that’s exactly where you need to be.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Dustin talked here about the challenge offered in Luke chapter 4, the challenge to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the captives, to release the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
He shared with us the challenge he’s facing in taking those words seriously enough to try them. And I know Dustin well enough to know two things–that he’s out of control in Cincinnati, and that he’s there because of that deep place where Jesus met him.
And I want to challenge all of us to a similar brand of discipleship, rooted not in the boat, but in the deep.
The result is risky business that leads to great rewards.