I am not much of a fisherman. I have tried a few times, and while I enjoy being on the water, in a boat, with someone who is a good fisherman, I have a hard time seeing the joy in it.
I have a couple of friends who really enjoy it. One has taken me out for the day, and I almost caught one fish. I enjoyed the company anyway.
There is a lot of stuff needed to be a successful fisherman. There is the all important rod and reel, the hooks, and of course the bait.
While I was in Malawi, each morning on the beach nearby our lodge on Likoma Island, I saw the fleet of fishermen come to the shore. They fish at night with lights to attract the fish, and they use nets, much like Simon, James, and John. At day break they bring in their catch and sell to the buyers who greet them on the beach. I was told that a lot of money changes hands on the beach every day.
Today we heard about how Jesus encountered these simple fishermen. He got into Simon’s boat and began to teach the crowds. In doing this, he gave Simon a great honor.
The usual place for teaching in that day was the synagogue, which is a Greek word for “Assembly.” The Jews would gather there to hear the Torah, their Bible, read to them from the Moses Seat, so named for the first five books of the Bible.
The Moses Seat was a seat of honor, and only the approved elders were able to sit and read the Bible to those gathered for learning.
Last week, and the week before, we heard about Jesus reading Scripture in the Synagogue from Luke 4. He was very familiar with the protocol since he was raised attending the Synagogue in Nazareth. After reading from Isaiah, chapter 61, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he told them that this prophecy had been fulfilled in their hearing.
In today’s reading, Jesus has gone to Capernaum, where he transforms Simon’s boat into an honorary Seat of Moses, and teaches the crowds that had gathered. Simon then becomes the first of the disciples.
After teaching the crowds, Jesus tells Simon to put out from shore and cast the nets. Simon begins to doubt Jesus about being able to catch any fish, but takes Jesus at his word and lets down the nets. The catch is so great that they need the other boat to help them haul it all in. Simon does something very interesting here. He tells Jesus to depart from him, saying, “I am a sinful man.”
To me, this says that Jesus chose men who did not think much of themselves. I know St. Paul could relate. He wrote to the Corinthians, “I am the least of the Apostles, unfit to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am.”
Paul had persecuted the Church of God. I am sure he was ashamed of what he had done. How could he face the Christians he had persecuted? Some of the other Apostles were skeptical about him, too. It did not stop him from preaching the truth all over the region of Asia Minor, and all the way to Rome.
This is something that I can relate to, as well. I have never felt worthy of the call of Jesus on my life, and I think for a while I did my best to prove it to him. After a long time, and twice at that, I accepted the call to become a fisher of humans, rather than of fish. I pray that I may catch many more humans, then I ever caught fish!
Do you ever feel unworthy of the grace of God? Sure you do. That’s a good thing, too, because if you did feel worthy of God’s favor, then you might be thinking too much of yourself.
Our Savior came to us in great humility. He was born in the barn with the animals, and laid in a fee trough, a manger. He did this to show us that none of us would be of lower estate than him. So even though we do not think ourselves worthy of the Call of Christ, he does. And that is what matters.
At Holy Communion, when I (or the Deacon and I) hold and offer the Body and Blood of Christ, I say, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb”
Then quietly to myself, I say. “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed.” This comes from Matthew 8:8 when the Centurion speaks to Jesus about his servant. This is a good response for all of us as we prepared to receive Jesus in his Sacred Body and Blood into our mouths that he may become more and more a part of our bodies and our blood.
Even though we are unworthy of the grace of God given to us in our Lord Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Father wants to lavish his love on us, even as the father of the prodigal son. No matter how far we have strayed, in heart or by feet, he always celebrates our return to his altar.
The writer of Psalm 85 wrote: You have forgiven the iniquity of your people, and blotted out all their sins.
Thanks be to God, we are righteous in the sight of God because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. His death saved us from eternal death, and have the promise of eternal life in the new Jerusalem. Amen.