Here’s some trivia: The Lake of Gennesaret is also known as the Sea of Galilee and the Sea of Tiberias. It is a fresh water lake in Israel. At about 700 feet below sea level, it the world’s lowest fresh water lake. It has a circumference of about 35 miles.
If we read only Matthew and Mark’s version of Jesus calling his disciples, it would look something like this: Jesus is walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He sees some guys fishing. He says, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” They drop everything and follow Jesus.
Luke’s Gospel gives us a different view. Jesus and Simon met before Jesus called Simon to follow him. In the previous chapter, there is a brief story: Jesus goes to Simon’s house. There are other unnamed people there. Simon’s mother-in-law has a high fever. Jesus not only breaks the fever, he also restores her to full health. Then “Immediately she got up and began to serve them.”
Jesus and those present stayed to enjoy some refreshment. We do not know who else was present, but they could have included Simon’s fishing partners, James and John. No doubt they talked with one another. Maybe they shared stories of their lives. Maybe Jesus taught them. Maybe they asked Jesus questions. Whatever happened, Simon made a connection of some kind with Jesus.
The next recorded encounter between Jesus and Simon is the story in today’s Gospel reading. Simon, James and John fished all night and caught nothing. When Jesus arrives, the men are cleaning their nets. Jesus climbs into one of their boat and asks Simon to put him out a little into the lake. After Jesus finishes teaching, he tells Simon to go out into the deep water and fish. I imagine Simon’s first thought is “what does this carpenter’s son from Nazareth know about fishing?!?!”. But Simon tells Jesus is that they fished all night and caught nothing. Does Simon think about his connection with Jesus? Simon, James and John do what Jesus says and, lo and behold, they net so many fish, they need help from their other boat. And then both boats began to sink!
Once ashore, Jesus tells them he wants them to catch people. In Greek, the word for “catch” is not the same word used for “catching fish.” The word translated as “catch” means “to catch alive, to save from danger.” And part of the mission of Jesus was to give new life to people.
Jesus was great at making connections with people. Whenever he connected with a person, it made a difference in that person’s life.
We have connected with many people throughout our lives – we’ve created families, and we’ve made friends at schools, at work, and at church. We have fellow students, colleagues and acquaintances.
How did Simon, James and John handle making new connections when Jesus called a tax collector or allowed women followers?
Opportunities to make new connections can be stressful. We may feel angry or sad or anxious or uncomfortable. How challenging is it to show God’s love when we go to a new school or start a new job or create a new church?
And what about people we meet in passing in our everyday lives - the store clerk, the bus driver, the cleaning staff, visitors at church? It may be hard to show the love of God in these fleeting encounters.
Jesus approached opportunities to make new connections with love and kindness. He found people others were dismissing. Jesus let them know someone cared about them, someone loved them, someone wanted to make a connection with them.
Simon, James and John went into the deep water and put down the net. It was something they know how to do. Jesus did not ask them to do something they did not know how to do.
What do we know how to do? What are our talents and skills? How can we use them to further God’s message of love, justice and hope?
Here are a few opportunities for our time and talents, and an opportunity to make connections with our sisters and brothers at Robbinsdale:
- Attend the Joint Men’s Service next Sunday at Robbinsdale.
- Volunteer during Families Moving Forward week at Robbinsdale, March 10th through the 17th; or at Parkway, March 24th through the 31st.
- Donate blood or volunteer to help during the Blood Drive at Robbinsdale on March 12th.
When Simon, James and John went into that deep water and dropped their net, they did so without knowing the outcome. But very quickly, they saw and felt the weight of the result. On the other hand, when they left their fishing business and followed Jesus, they did not know what would happen. Of course, they got to see healings and miracles, and learn the teachings of Jesus, but did they imagine today’s Christian denominations.
Did the first person to practice a non-violent protest ever imagine some day Rosa Parks would sit and refuse to give up her seat on a bus to protest segregation? Did Dr. Gladys West, one of human calculators at NASA, imagine her career would inspire the movie “Hidden Figures”? Can we imagine what creating a new church will look like 5 or 20 years from now?
Much of life exists between the work and end results. It can be an uncomfortable or difficult place to be. We want to see we are making a difference; we want to see the end product; we want to know our work has not been in vain. But it is in that state of unknown, where we mostly live.
How can we handle it?
Connect with others.
Use our time and talents.
Do our best.
Leave the rest to God.