Saturday, June 21, 2014

According To Luke: Whatcha Fishin For?

Luke 5:1-11    (NRSV)
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

You have to love fishing stories.

What is great about them is that the more they are told, the large the catch of fish!

There is a great story about a woman who went on a fishing trip with her husband.

She was sharing about the trip with a friend and said:
“I did everything wrong.
I was too noisy
I used the wrong bait
I reeled it in too soon
and I caught more fish than he did!”

As many of you know, we have been busy interviewing candidates for our Education/Youth position.  This is a critical position in the church --- maybe the most important.

So we have been trying to take out time and try to find the right person.  We have received over 20 applications and we have conducted first interviews with about 10.  Yesterday we did a second interview with a candidate and tomorrow we have two more.

I am telling you this for two reasons.

First, I would like you to keep this in your prayers!
Pray that we find the right person who can lead our youth and organize our education program.

The second reason I wanted to tell you about this process is because while working on this sermon, and going through this process of trying to find the right person I have been struck by the reality that how a person looks can influence your perception of them.

I came across an interesting version of our scripture this morning.  I am not sure who the translator is. 

Pay attention to how the story is told, as compared to the New Revised Standard Version that was read earlier.

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear him, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake. Noting that one of the boat owners was a homely, shriveled man, Jesus then looked at the owner of the other boat. This man was Simon, He was a strapping and fine-looking young man. So Jesus got into the boat belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, another boat containing Simon’s fishing partners, James and John, came near, and Jesus said to the men in both boats, “I need someone to put out into the deep water and catch some fish.” Simon immediately put up his hand, waved it eagerly and said, “I’ll do it! Please, pick me!” Whereupon Jesus selected Simon and told him to let down his nets and commence fishing for the Lord.

It sounds like it came from the Revised Fractured Version and it is a fish story in a lot of ways.

I don’t think this is how Jesus selected his disciples!

Listen again to what it says:
{Jesus} saw two boats there at the shore of the lake. Noting that one of the boat owners was a homely, shriveled man, Jesus then looked at the owner of the other boat. This man was Simon, He was a strapping and fine-looking young man. So Jesus got into the boat belonging to Simon

Nowhere do I find in the Gospels that Jesus picks a person because they are better looking or because he is impressed with their stuff.

What struck me, however, is how often we are impressed by people's stuff and how good looking a person is.

Can you think of an unattractive TV evangelist?

What is really scary is if you do a little research on this idea, you find all kind of studies that suggest that good-looking people are more likely to receive preferential treatment and are subconsciously assumed to be smarter than others.

And if you dig some more, you will come across a very provocative study that suggests that these preferences are found even in our parenting.

The study was conducted by Dr. Andrew Harrell, executive director of the Population Research Lab at Canada’s University of Alberta.

His initial research was actually in shopping cart safety

But in the midst of that research, he began to notice that the appearance of the children in the carts seemed to have a correlation to the matter of safety, and so he set up a study involving 14 different supermarkets.

In those stores, he placed teams of researchers to observe parents and their 2- to 5-year-old children for 10 minutes each.
Independently of each other, the observers were first to grade each child’s attractiveness on a scale of one to 10, and then were to note if the child was buckled into the grocery-cart seat and how often the child wandered more than 10 feet away.
In total, his teams observed 426 parent-child pairs.

The study revealed that while 13.3 percent of the most attractive kids were buckled in, only 1.2 percent of the least attractive children were. What’s more, the less attractive children were allowed to wander farther away from their parents and to do so more often.

Harrell speculates that these results are based on a parent’s instinctive Darwinian response.

He suggests that we are more likely to pay closer attention to attractive children because on a subconscious level, we perceive them as our best genetic material.

He goes on to say,
“Most parents will react to these results with shock and dismay. They’ll say, ‘I love all my kids, and I don’t discriminate on the basis of attractiveness.’ The whole point of our research is that people do.”


If the bible suggest anything it is that this is NOT how Jesus chose his disciples.

Think about the 12 men who would come to be called Disciples.
We don’t know what they particularly looked like --- although nicknaming Simon --- “Rocky” probably tells us something about him.


James the less

Thomas --- the Twin --- some believe Twin of Jesus

Matthew (Levi) Tax collector


Jesus didn’t seem too interested in qualifications, or looks, ---- what Jesus was interested in was the heart!

The other startling problem with our Fractured Version of this story is it seems to imply that Jesus was looking for volunteers.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus doesn’t say, “Um, [cough] who’d be interested in following me?”


“You, maybe?”

Jesus uses the imperative, and it’s directed at people who aren’t expecting it,

and often, they seem to be extremely unlikely candidates
tax collectors,
political zealots
not the first people to come to mind if you were to choose disciples for Jesus.

And the people Jesus calls are usually in the midst of doing something else, totally unrelated
like making a living as professional fishermen.
They generally aren’t the ones wildly waving their hands saying,
“Pick me, Jesus!”

Those few places in the Bible where it appears that somebody might be volunteering to join up with Jesus --- while Jesus doesn’t turn them away ---- he usually lays out rather succinctly what it means to follow and most seem to fade away.

In Johns’ Gospel Jesus tells us:
          “You did not choose me but I chose you” (John 15:16).

There is one other thing that is missing in our Fractured Version.

All Jesus asks of Simon and his fishing buddies James and John is simply to continue doing what they were already doing.

Now it is true that in the story according to Luke ---- Jesus does tell them to cast their nets into the sea, and when they do, they haul in a huge catch, which was remarkable since they had just fished all night and caught absolutely nothing.

But the point of that exercise seems to be to prepare the three men to hear the call Jesus was about to issue to them.

The catch opened these fishermen’s hearts to respond when Jesus asked them to do something they had never done:
“From now on you will be catching people.”

I believe Jesus still calls people to follow him today
So maybe what we need to do is look carefully at what Luke tells us

It seems that Jesus call comes to the most unlikely people who were busy in the midst of other things (LIFE) and seemed to have no particular thought of volunteering.

And then, when Jesus makes his wishes known, it is for real work in new fields that furthered God’s kingdom.

It’s important to understand all of this because it helps us to recognize what is going on when Jesus calls us.

The story reminds us that Jesus is not impressed by our natural abilities, appearance,
          or what we’ve made of ourselves.

His call does not await the completion of our education or the completion of our work time and the advent of retirement, or the size of the nest egg we’ve put away.

Jesus' call comes on his time schedule, not ours.

We might actually be the ugly kid in the grocery cart but Jesus sees beyond all of that.

What Jesus asks us to do may or may not be in line with some skill we’re already comfortable with.

It may be an extension of some talent we’ve already developed, but it may just as likely be a use of a talent we didn’t know we had.

According to Luke this story also reminds us that Jesus may use significant force to overcome our reluctance.

Apparently the only reason for the huge catch of fish was to open the hearts of these men who had not previously considered themselves disciple material.

And it worked, too, because as soon as Peter saw the size of the catch, it knocked him off his feet.

He prostrated himself before Jesus and said:
“Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

Sheila Cassidy is a British doctor who went to Chile during the rule of Augusto Pinochet to use her medical skills to minister in the name of Jesus.

Because she treated any who requested her help, including one who was an opponent of the dictator, she was arrested and spent several weeks in detention, where she was tortured.

Eventually she was expelled from the country.

Today she ministers to the terminally ill in England.

In her autobiography, Audacity to Believe, she tells of the time when she accepted the call of God. She writes:
“How can one convey the agony and the ecstasy of being called by God? At one moment one is overawed by the immensity of the honor ... and in the same breath one screams, ‘No! No! Please, not me, I can’t take it!’ That which seconds ago was a privilege becomes an outrageously unfair demand ....”

But then she adds,
“I thought about it, and I knew that I did not want to say no and that, however much it hurt, I could only humbly accept.”

Cassidy’s experience may not be our own.

I have to admit --- my call was nothing like hers.
Yours may not be either.

My call came in a very gradual way ---- others knew it before I did.

But there came to be a moment when I realized that God had been calling to me.

And when Jesus called me --- all I had to do was look around and I knew I wasn’t the best for the task.

Jesus didn’t call me because I had some talent that I had honed to perfection.

The challenge for each of us in our story this morning is to be like the fisherman that Jesus called that day.
Responding with trust to leave what we were in the middle of and to go and fish where Jesus tells us to.

To do so is not easy.

We are all busy with LIFE

But Jesus calls to each of us


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