Summary: A Sermon for the 5th Sunday after Epiphany, Series C.
5th Sunday after Epiphany, February 4, 2007 “Series C”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, during this season of Epiphany, we seek to understand how your word and grace are manifest to be present in Jesus the Christ. Yet to behold the manifestation of your glory can be a frightening and awesome experience, that can change our lives. Yet through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts to your presence, assure us of your love and forgiveness, and give us the courage to follow you as our Lord’s disciples. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
I really like Luke’s version of our Lord’s call of Simon Peter, James and John to be his disciples, much better than the way Matthew and Mark describe it. In Matthew and Mark, we are told that right at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus is walking by the shore of Lake Galilee, spots these fishermen cleaning or mending their nets. Jesus simply says to them “Follow me,” and they immediately drop everything and fall in line behind Jesus as he continues to stroll down the beach. It just doesn’t seem plausible.
But according to Luke, Jesus has already been about his ministry for some time, and has developed quite a reputation. He has been preaching in the synagogues around the area, and has performed many miracles of healing, so that a large crowd has begun to follow him. So as Jesus was walking beside the lake of Gennesaret, he spotted two boats, got into one asked Simon Peter if he would put out a short distance from the shore, where Jesus sat and taught the crowd. Of course, the implication is that Simon Peter would also have heard Jesus’ message.
When Jesus had finished, he suggested to Simon that he put out into the deep, and let down his nets for a catch. Of course, Simon was quick to point out that he and his partners had fished all night, and had not caught a single fish. Yet, he agreed. And so Simon and Jesus, who was still in the boat, went out to deeper water and let down the nets. And they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.
In desperation, Simon called out to James and John, his partners, who came in their boat to help haul in the catch. And they filled both boats, to the point that they were beginning to sink. These three fishermen were simply amazed at the amount of fish that they had caught. It was surely an epiphany, a manifestation that Jesus more than simply a great teacher and preacher.
Listen to the way John S. McClure explains this event in his commentary on our text. “It is easy to miss the frightful excess and chaos of catching so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. According to the narrative, the catch was so large that both of their boats began to sink. Something strange and mysterious was happening, and Simon Peter was observant enough not to miss it. Like Isaiah who calls out ‘Woe is me!’ he falls down at Jesus’ knees saying, ‘Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!’
Jesus then acknowledges that this is fearful for Peter, James and John. And so, looking at Peter he attempts to calm his fears: ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ This event was powerful enough for these three men, when they got to shore, to leave everything and follow him. No ordinary event! No ordinary prophet! No ordinary mission – to catch people!” End Quote. [New Proclamation, Year C, 2003-2994, Fortress Press]
This leads me to believe that the real Epiphany in this text is not just the authority and ability of Jesus to teach and preach with conviction. Nor is it his success as a fisherman, to know where the fish are at a particular time of day. The real epiphany is that through these two events, Peter, James and John came to realize that in Jesus, the presence of God was at work to bring God’s kingdom into their lives.
And this can be an extremely humbling, even frightening experience. Any time that God’s Spirit leads us to see God’s glory, to come to realize that we owe our very existence to God, leads to humility. I remember a class on experiential theology that I took at seminary, in which a guest teacher led us through an exercise in which we were challenged to explore some of the oldest Biblical concepts of creation.
We were asked to meditate on the account in Genesis two, in which God is described as forming human life from clay, like an artist. We were split into pairs, and while soft classical music was played, our partner acted as a sculptor, who molded and shaped our body. It really sounded kinky to me.