The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
In our American culture, we often take on and proclaim myths. Some myths are based in truth and others are based on our desires and hopes but not necessarily true. I want to talk about a myth. It is deep within our culture. The myth is that willpower brings about abundance.
Willpower is not the way to abundant living! Let me say it again, willpower is not the way to abundant living! In our culture, that statement, is heresy. The dominant thinking is the more you can successfully manage yourself and others - get them to do what you want them to do - the more success you will have and the happier you will be.
The problem with this ideal, beside the fact that it can make you a miserable person, is that often, whatever you set out to control, can and will ultimately control you. And it doesn’t matter what it is; your colleagues at work, the business you run, the food you eat, the teacher you want to please, the congregation you want to satisfy, the spouse you want to keep happy, the teenager that you must develop into maturity, or in case of the gospel for today, the fish you must catch.
Of all the things that I just mentioned, something is missing; because mastery is not enough. It seems that when you are worn down or beaten down sufficiently with self-determination, it is then and only then you are ready to meet Christ.
This is a great gospel. In it Jesus’ popularity is growing. He was teaching and healing. His ministry was growing as people began to share what he was doing, and the crowds began to follow and listen; most hoping to get something from him. He came to the lake and as he taught, people began to press in and he had no place, no way to retreat, until he spotted Simon’s boat. I have often wondered what Simon must have thought. He was washing his nets from a hard night on the water. It had been unsuccessful and Simon was tending to what needed to be tended to. Fishing was not for fun. Fishing was how he provided for his family. Fishing was his business and a night without a catch was difficult. Then comes this preacher. OK, you can get into the boat. OK, you can teach and preach from it. OK….. but what must have been his thought when Jesus said, “Let’s go fishing.” I’m tired? We have already tried this? I know a lot more about fishing than you will ever know. The fish are just not here - because if they were, I would have caught them. But he does it anyway, out of respect for this holy teacher or maybe because he is worn down. They are worn out from a night of fishing. They have done everything that they know how to do - all that their experience and knowledge had given them. They had tolled and struggled, but it was not enough. It was not that they didn’t know how, or they had not learned enough that they came back empty handed. And, on top of that, a nearby carpenter turned preacher was wanting to instruct them on how to fish. Jesus, who doesn’t even know how to make a real living, gets into the boat and preaches, probably not a ten-minute sermon, and then suggested they go fishing. I am sure that Peter was a little put out.
But for whatever reason, Peter says yes. And it is the yes that changed everything and him. He let go. The yes gave him the opportunity to know God’s Epiphany. He let go of the idea that he knew it all. He let go of a need to control and he listened and followed and when he did, the catch was bigger than anything they had seen before. When he let go of thinking that he could control his own fate, then and only then did the miraculous power of Jesus Christ become manifest in his life. When he let go, a miracle happened, and his world changed, and he knew Christ. When he let go, he was transformed from a great fisherman to a great fisher of people.
It is the truth for us as well. Only when we can realize that we can’t control the world around us, then and only then, does the truth of Jesus become real. It doesn’t happen only in the day to day of life, but in faith as well. I have met so many people who, by will or grit or you fill in the blank, think they can control their relationship with God; that they can earn God’s love. If I just do this bible study; or if I can say enough prayers; if we can just do it the “right” way; or if I can do enough good works, if I give enough then I will be a good Christian.
We are in the season after the Epiphany. It is a time when we are called again to know the truth of Jesus Christ. We are called to see the light of Christ and know God’s truth in his son Jesus Christ. It is that truth that Simon Peter knew on the shore of Lake Ganessert. It is what you and I are to know this day. Jesus and the power of his resurrection do not come from our actions. Our actions are a response to the epiphany of Christ’s redemption in our lives.Simon was transformed in this gospel. It happened in a boat, but it happened because the truth of who Jesus was became clear to him. It happened when he was willing to trust in God, not just his own wits. With the words of Jesus, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching people.” Simon became a disciple. God has also called you. He has chosen you to be his church, he has chosen you to be All Saints’, but more importantly, he has chosen you and transformed you into His. So….get out of the boat.