Grace and peace to you from God our Creator, and from Jesus, our Savior, who calls us into deep waters. Amen.
Our Gospel story from the book of Luke is the calling of the first disciples. These are fisherman. These are just ordinary guys who are going about their work, minding their own business, cleaning, and repairing their nets after a long night of fishing.
Then, this wandering rabbi shows up and asks to borrow their boat. He has a crowd of people following him, who all want to hear what he has to say. And maybe, if he’s in the boat, just a few yards out into the water, people could perhaps see and hear Jesus better.
“Sure,” they said. They’d heard of this Jesus, and they too were kind of curious.
They put out into the water, so Jesus can teach from the boat. After Jesus is done, and the crowd disperses, Jesus tells these fishermen that he’d like them to take him out fishing…out into the deep water.
Now Simon, who is kind of leading this motley crew, resists. “Rabbi, we’ve been out all night…we had a terrible night of fishing…we just cleaned our nets…we just did this other favor for you…we’d just like to go to bed.”
“No,” says Jesus. “Let’s go out to deep water and drop your nets.” These fishermen were probably too tired to argue. So they just give in. They climb into their boat, and they head out to deep water, and they drop their nets.
What happens next, is incredible. These fishermen had never seen anything like it. It’s like the fish were lining up to climb into their net. The nets fill. Completely full. So full, in fact, that as the fishermen try to pull the nets back into the boat, they begin to tear. So full, in fact, that they need a second boat, just to bring the big catch in to shore.
And I imagine in my mind’s eye that the disciples just look up at Jesus, astonished, like “How did you do that?” And Jesus just smiles at them.
And suddenly, Simon realizes just who he’s dealing with here. And they take the boat back to shore, they beach it, and they just walk away from it…still full of this massive catch of fish…They leave. The other fishermen on shore ask them “where are you going? Are you leaving all your fish?” Simon looks at them and says “The fish? You can have them. We’re following this guy.”
And they just walk away from their jobs, their families, their security. They follow Jesus and head out…into a very different kind of deep water.
This was a moment. A “call” moment. A very dramatic call moment. A moment when for these fishermen, everything changed.
Moments like this one…these transformational moments…they happen. Sometimes they are dramatic, like this story, and sometimes they are subtle. But transformational moments, moments of “call,” they happen.
Drew Dudley is a leadership coach who speaks about these moments of transformation. He tells a story about his very last day of college. He would graduate tomorrow and would head out for whatever would come next.
On this last day, Drew was walking across campus when another student approached him. This woman said, “Drew, you don’t remember me. My name is Sarah. I know you’re graduating, but before you do, I wanted to tell you that I remember the day we met, because meeting you changed my life.”
She went on to tell him they met on her first day of college. She was a new freshman. Drew was a sophomore. The night before, in a hotel room with her parents, Sarah had broken down in tears, scared and convinced she wasn’t ready. To go to school…to be on her own.
But her parents told her, “Let’s just go tomorrow for the first day, and if at any point you feel you really can’t do it, that’s fine, we’ll take you home. We love you, no matter what.”
The next day, the young woman was standing in line with her parents, waiting to register for classes. She looked around at the other students, who all seemed so excited, so confident, so eager…and this feeling came over her, she just knew she couldn’t do it, she wasn’t ready.
She turned to tell her parents this, when out of the corner of her eye, she saw this guy…Drew Dudley, walking out of the student union, wearing the stupidest hat she’d ever seen.
He was carrying a sign promoting a student-run charity, he was wearing a bright Hawaiian shirt and mismatched shorts, and he was holding a bucket of lollipops. He walked right up to where she stood and stopped. Then he turned to the student next to her in line, gave him a lollipop and said, “You need to give a lollipop to this beautiful woman standing next to you.”
This guy, this student, was so embarrassed that he turned bright red, he couldn’t even look at Sarah, but he held out the lollipop to her and she took it, at which point Drew looked at Sarah’s Mom and Dad and said (loudly) “Look at that. It’s only her first day away from home and already she’s taking candy from a stranger.”
Twenty feet in every direction, everyone in line burst out laughing. And in that moment, surrounded by strangers laughing together, Sarah realized, “I can do this.” And she did.
She registered for her classes, she stayed in school, and she ended up dating and eventually marrying the young man whom Drew convinced to give her a lollipop.
And on his last day, she sought out Drew Dudley to tell him. “Even though you may not have known it,” she said,
“You’ve been an incredibly important person in my life. Thank you.”
The truth is, you never know what a call moment…what a moment of transformation is going to look like. Right?
Jesus told these guys who were just finishing up a day’s fishing…just trying to eke out a living, to drop their nets in the deep water.
I wish that I could demonstrate…I wish that I had a net that I could show you with…Hmmm….<step out>. I’m just curious…does anyone happen to have a commercial fishing net with them that I could borrow? Anyone?
You do? That’s great. May I borrow it for a moment? <get net> And if maybe Deacon Kris could help me for just a moment…
You see, during Jesus’ day, there were two ways to fish with a net. You could stay near shore, and you could toss your net out like this, and you could drag it.
That was pretty effective. Because fish would often be near the shore, in the shallow water, feeding. And so they would drag the nets to catch them. The problem was, because it was shallow, the nets would get full of dirt and weeds. And, the nets could catch on the rocks, or the plants, and they could tear. And that was bad because the fishermen were totally dependent on their nets to fish. They ruin their net…and they’re done. No more fishing.
Simon, and the other fishermen that Jesus encountered that day, when he found them, they were cleaning and repairing their nets, which means they had been fishing the shallows.
The other way to fish was to fish the deep water. They would take the boat out. And would lower the nets deep. They’d drop, wait, hope the net filled with fish and then pull it up. This was easier on the nets. Of course, you were then risking the waves and the wind too. And if you did happen on a big school of fish, then you could catch a lot. But it was much less certain. <Thanks Deacon Kris. And thanks for the loan of the net. I’ll clean it and get it back to you after worship.>
On that day, Jesus told those fisherman, “put your nets in the deep water.”
Here’s the truth: Like it or not, God never calls God’s people to stay in the shallow water.
“Put your nets into the deep water,” Jesus says. The Greek word that Jesus uses here, that’s translated as “deep water,” is a word that means swirling water…chaotic water…chaos and uncertainty. Put your nets into the deep water.
Pastor Amy Starr Redwine said about this Gospel story that “God never calls God’s people from chaos to stability, or from uncertainty to comfort. God calls us to the deep water, to enter the chaos, to confront the fear, and most importantly, to encounter God’s people along the way. As Jesus’ disciples we are called to participate in the messiness of life with God in it, a life of unconditional love, unilateral forgiveness and radical hospitality.”
God calls us to move away from the ease and comfort of the shallow waters, and to move into the deep water, where life is confusing, and people are hurting, and injustice is real, and where mistakes are made, and where conversations are messy and solutions are complicated.
Jesus calls us into the deep water because that is where the fish are…the big catches…the catches that are so abundant, that they might just tear our nets.
This is where we will encounter God’s people who are fragile and vulnerable and longing to be loved and changed.
The Bible is filled with call stories like this. And every single one of them have two things in common:
First, God chooses ordinary people to do God’s extraordinary work. Go down the list: Abram and Sarah, Eli and Esther, David and Solomon, Ruth and Naomi, Amos and Jonah, Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, Peter and James and John and Mary and Martha. And you. And me.
Ordinary people. Called to do the extraordinary.
The second thing these stories have in common is that God always calls us to wade into the deep water. God asks us to answer the call, to step into the hard, complicated, chaotic, deep waters of life, and to share the good news of God’s love and forgiveness.
Today…remember. As individuals, and as a church, God is calling us into the deep water.
God is calling us out of the shallows. God is calling us into the deep waters. There, confident in our identity as children of God, loved beyond measure, we can go out…out to drop our nets, and to love and to serve in Jesus’ name.
Out. Out, where the water is deep. Follow Jesus and trust.
Thanks be to God.