By The Rev. Leah Schade
Sept. 8, 2013; RALLY SUNDAY
Texts: Luke 5:1-11
Sardines! Carp! Comb-fish! Biny-fish! Every kind of fish! Just look at at ‘em all! Wriggling and slappin’ their tails, flippin’ and floppin’, a mass of glassy eyes and shiny scales! Can you just imagine how much money we’ve just hauled in?? We hit the Sea-of-Galilee jack-pot!
The net is starting to tear! My hands – burning, the net’s cuttin’ through my skin. It’s so heavy! I can’t haul this in by myself. I need help! Okay, here they come. Now, grab the other end! I know, I can’t believe it either! Hurry, the net’s about to break!
Look at all these fish! Oh my God! I’ve never seen a catch like this! Oh my G- . . .
Oh my God . . . I don’t know who you are. But if you knew who I was . . . Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man. You just don’t know. Well . . . actually, you probably do know. Just . . . I don’t deserve this. This is too much. I mean, thank you, of course, but . . .
People? You’re going to teach me how to catch people? Like this? You’re either crazy or you’re the Messiah. Either way, you got my attention. I’m following you.
My sisters and brothers, we worship a crazy Messiah! Because only a crazy Messiah would be crazy enough to climb into this boat on in out-of-the-way Kelly Township of Union County set back among the cornfields. Only a crazy Messiah would be crazy enough to tell us to throw our net into the water. Because, let’s face it, this boat’s been out for a long time and the net has come back pretty much empty. You’ve probably felt like Peter on that boat by the Gennesaret Sea (another name for the Sea of Galilee) feeling just as frustrated as he did that early morning.
Let me give you a little background on what it was like to fish with these nets. Our text from the Gospel of Luke tells us that the fishermen worked at night, and they used something called a trammel net, which was actually composed of three nets.
A trammel net had two large mesh walls about five feet high with a finer net in between. The boat went out at night into deep waters where there are no rocks so that the nets would not be torn. One end of the net was let down into the sea, then the boat made a circle creating a sort of tub in the water. The net gathered in every kind of fish, as they were unable to escape through the three layers of netting. Sometimes the boats worked in pairs so that the teams could drag in the net filled with fish, back to the shore. This would go on several times during the night until exhaustion set in or the sun came up, whichever came first.
But when Jesus came to this spot along the shore on this particular morning, he found two boats – not out at sea, but sitting there empty of men and fish.
Why are the boats empty? Because, the text tells us, the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Here it was, the middle of the morning. They should have been out hauling in their fifth or sixth catch of fish. But no. The fishermen in these boats have been out all night long and caught nothing but nothing. They’d given up. Nothing left to do but wash the nets and let them out to dry in the sun. Simon Peter, the owner of this particular boat, is tired, grumpy, and in no mood for this preacher who suddenly gets a notion to climb into his boat and use it as a pulpit. All Peter wants to do is go home, grumble to his wife over breakfast about how God has cursed him once again with no fish, and then collapse in bed until the sun starts to set. Peter, you see, worked the night shift. But instead, here he is with his sore muscles and his aching back, rowing this preacher out so he can teach the people on the shore.
Dang crazy fool preacher, makin’ me row out here in the hot morning sun. Won’t be makin’ any overtime for this, will I? He’s just gonna talk and talk. I’m just gonna catch me a nap.
Wait, what did he say? Why is he telling me, now, to throw my net into the water? Lots of these rabbis have healing powers. But, what – he thinks he has control over the fish in the sea? He must be crazy. Or the Messiah. Either way, he’s got my attention. What do I have to lose? I’ll just throw my net in and see what happens . . . .
People of United in Christ, are you ready to throw your net into the water today? You’re going to need a trammel net, understand. It’s going to have to be wide, you understand? You’re going to have to cast it all around this neighborhood in a great big circle and let it sink deep. You’re going to need three layers of net so that you can catch the fish.
One layer of that net is service to this community. Draw them to you, work with them, listen to them, get to know who they are. We’re opening up our new senior center this week. Get to know the friends and neighbors, go deep with them so that you can draw them in. Today we’re painting pavilions at the park, serving the community. In a couple months we’re going to start helping to serve meals at St. Andrews, getting out into the community to serve those in need. It’s all about spreading that net.
Another layer of the net is sound biblical teaching. This is the fine mesh in between. We need to help people learn about this God and this crazy Messiah and the Spirit that sustains and enlivens us through this sacred text. Every Sunday morning, 9 a.m., is a chance to sit down with the Good Book and learn what it means for our lives today.
The third layer is love – agape love. Embrace people with the nets of your arms. Reach out with the love of Jesus to touch them. Doesn’t matter how broke, or broken, how sick or disgusting they are – touch them, and let Christ’s love heal them through you. Fellowship with them, break communion bread with them, baptize them, laugh with them, cry with them, love God with them. And teach them to fish with you.
Already we are to finding our nets bursting with the haul God is sending, swimming, our way! Have you looked at the bulletin board across from the bathrooms where we have pictures of the visitors we’ve had just in the last 3 months? We’ve doubled our goal for how many visitors come to this church just in one year.
Have you heard how God blessed our Can the Gap Campaign? I’ll never forget times that Elwood and Carol and other counters had bags full – nets, if you will – of money that people brought it. We hauled in more than $8000 – more than we had ever expected or hoped for. God’s abundance is just overflowing in this church.
This means we’ve all got to help with the catch! If just a few of us do the work of hauling, our hands are gonna get net-burns with the weight of the fish. But I know there’s a whole fleet of boats out there ready to help haul in our catch. Just look out at all you fishermen and women! You know something – you’re crazy too! We were crazy to think that this church could turn things around, that if we put in a prayer room, open up our fellowship hall for seniors, paint and refurbish our youth room, that anybody would notice, let alone come into our nets! But you see we worship a crazy Messiah. A Messiah who is crazy in love with you! And you and you and me and you.
And that Messiah is telling us – just throw your net into the water. Trust me. What have you got to lose?
And here we are tossing the net around us, a net of service and scripture and agape love, inviting our friends, our co-workers, our family members. Just look at them all! Wriggling and slappin’ their tails, flippin’ and floppin’, a mass of shining eyes and burning hearts! Look at all these people! I know, I can’t believe it either! I’ve never seen a catch like this before! Oh my God! Oh my crazy, crucified and resurrected Lord! Send the fish, Lord! Our nets are cast! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!