Once upon a time, a guy named Henry lived a very regular life. He had a wife and two kids, an eight to five job that paid the bills, and a small, but comfortable place to live. He attended church in the place he’d known all his life with people who’d seen him grow from a small child to a young man.
One day while Henry was living his regular life, a man named John appeared with a message tailor-made for Henry. Back in the day, John had known Henry’s grandfather, a Methodist preacher. Henry began to see and hear the world differently then. Nothing was the same after that, and Henry decided that God had called him to do the work of ministry.
So, he took his wife, his two kids, left his eight to five job that paid the bills and the small, but comfortable place to live, and he went to learn about working for God.
regular folks, called by God
You know, my story is not so different from most folks who’ve been called by God into ministry. We live regular lives, with regular jobs and regular homes. Then, someone or something happens across our path, and we bring the boats of our regular lives to the shore so we can follow Jesus.
In these stories we read in the texts for today from Luke, we can see these men responding to the call of Jesus. What’s important in this narrative is the work and place of the disciples when Jesus arrives, the operation of the miracle, and the power of Jesus’ word. In the end, the disciples respond to God in Jesus by leaving everything (cf. Fred Craddock, Luke, pp. 69-70).
The way Luke tells the story, we find a context and a motivation for Peter and the others responding to Jesus. The context is their regular lives connecting with Jesus’ teaching; and the motivation is the power and presence of God in Jesus Christ (cf. Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, pp. 89-90).
just doing their jobs
So, once upon a time, the disciples were fishing – just doing their regular thing of working. They, and the focus is really on Peter, are finishing a long night of catch-less fishing. They are tired and discouraged, but nevertheless working. It’s just an everyday sort of normal routine. Sure, they’d like to catch some fish, but they’ve known other catch-less nights and the discouraging day that follows.
What makes this day different, what interrupts their normal routine is the appearance of Jesus. Knowing what Jesus could do, the crowd was pressing in on Jesus as he began to teach. So, he requests a boat for some teaching. That fruitless vessel from last night, in a turn of biblical irony, will become a fruitful vessel because of Jesus.
Now remember, the people were pressing to hear the word of God. At this point in Luke, we need to remember a few things: Jesus has preached at his hometown synagogue, he has healed a man with an unclean spirit, he has healed Simon’s mother-in-law, and he has taught in other synagogues.
It is worth remembering, too, that Jesus was born of the Spirit, and he was filled with the Spirit. We have five references to this activity of the Spirit in Luke, so we must recognize the power of the Holy Spirit as we hear Jesus teach (Luke 1.35, 3.21-2, 4.1, 4.14, 4.18-19).
Even though we don’t know what Jesus said, he preaches the word of God powerfully, and then he challenges Simon to “put out into deep water” in order to fish again. Simon reminds Jesus of the catch-less night, but, nevertheless, at the word of Jesus, returns to open water.
Join me next week for part 2 as we finish “Bringing Our Boats to the Shore.”
A text for the table: Luke 5.1-11, 27-32.