Summary: This is a sermon that teaches how our strength is in the Lord. When we can’t do anything... the Lord’s strength gets us through.
While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennes’aret. And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the bots, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zeb’edee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching people.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
“The Big Catch”
Sometimes… not matter how hard we try… we just can’t do what we want to do. Sometimes there just isn’t enough elbow grease to get the job done. No matter how much we would like to… we simply can not jut pull ourselves up by our bootstraps… and what then?
The fishermen in the boat that day had toiled the entire night and the entire morning, only to have empty nets and empty boats by the end of it all. Nothing at all worked. As mid-day approached, they had drawn there boats to shore and were probably packing and repairing their nets for the next nights attempt.
They had come up entirely empty.
A little over six years ago, I had a moment like that… where I too had come up entirely empty. To give you a little bit of history. I was a smart enough kid who was able to breeze through High School with good grades, never having to really do homework. Things got a little more difficult in college, but even then no matter how much I had slacked off or how much I had neglected my school work, I could still pull that all nighter to finish out with a strong B average. I really thought that any problem I came up against could be solved with just a little bit of work on my part.
But then something happened. Something came up that I wasn’t prepared for, and it was something that I could do nothing about. You see, after graduation from college, the next step in the grand scheme was to apply to Seminary so that is what I did. Much like high school and college, I was winging it… absolutely positive that I could just work my way into Seminary, just like I’d worked my way through everything else to that point. I sent off my application, simply positive that I was going to be moving early that next fall.
Early that summer, I got a letter back from Seminary, “Mr. Homan, we regret to inform you…” I was shocked… I was absolutely devastated. All of my plans hinged upon getting accepted to Seminary. So naturally, I went to the phone lines, applying that elbow grease… resolving this problem. But, to my astonishment… what I got back was not a “We’re sorry Mr. Homan, of course we have a spot for you.” What I heard was, “It is the recommendation of the committee that you wait three years before re-applying.”
Three years… I was getting married in the next few weeks… we had already given notice to our jobs and even given notice to our landlord that we would be leaving in the fall. Three years wait… and there was nothing I could do… absolutely nothing I could do. God and I had a very interesting discussion that night where I did an awful lot of talking. But I don’t think God minded, he knew he would have the next three years for me to listen.
Over those years, as I looked back and asked the great “why,” the answer that kept coming up is the same lesson that comes to us today from our scripture. The disciples had had a wretched night, and the very first step they took is the exact same step we need to take if we ever want to succeed. Now I firmly believe that this not only applies to vocation, or to applying for seminary, but for everything we do… in our lives… in our jobs… even here at church. The first step the disciples took that fateful day… was they invited Jesus into their boat.