What’s the Catch?
Epiphany + 5, Common Lectionary Year C
©2019 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth Jones
HOLY ONE, as with anything in this Holy Book you’ve given us,
there’s a catch, a gap, a question, you want us to notice.
Because in that catch and in that gap,
Gospel – Good News is there for our finding.
Open up these sacred mysteries
as we ponder these texts together today,
we pray, God of our Lives, Christ of the Way,
Now, I don’t know much about fishing.
We bought a rod once, and “Fishing for Dummies”
but we were too dumb to catch more than weeds.
So I take seriously the wisdom of those who know what they’re doing
when they trust a few planks of wood bent into a boat,
and head out on open water in the darkness to “catch fish.”
So if we take this story Luke tells us at face value,
there’s something fishy about it! It makes no sense;
why would a boat-owner,
a man who has made a successful living
catching lake fish to feed Rome’s legions,
trust a carpenter moonlighting as an itinerant preacher
to school him in where the fish are ?!
So what have we got here?
Is it a fishing story, or is it something more?
Setting this story alongside the theophanous, mysterious
encounter of Isaiah with the hem of the robe of the Creator of the Universe-
reminds us that it’s not a travelog tale of an incident by the Lake,
it is nothing less than the call of God
to the ordinary, real, people of earth,
to join with God in the remaking
of earth in the shape of God’s Dream.
It’s big, it’s bold, and it’s scary!
Listen to Isaiah’s and Simon Peter’s responses
to their realization that their ordinary world
has just been bouleversé by Creation’s Maker,
and God’s Anointed.
“Woe is me! My end is nigh!”
“Get far away from me!”
And then both of them, with this odd and troubling self-identification, declare
“I am a sinner!”
What does that mean?
Isaiah helpfully tells us what he means;
he talks about being caught up in a world of liars,
so even he can’t keep hold of the truth!
(We know too well what that feels like)
Simon Peter begs Jesus to “leave me” – with the meaning in Greek,
get as far away as possible from me, because
I’m hamartelos – all too human, cracks, warts, and all.
The gap between the holy and the human for both of these mortals
is too big to stomach, too hot to handle, too heavy to stay afloat.
Now, I find this deeply troubling,
that the human response to God’s glory seems it should be
one of fear and trembling.
If I have been wrong in my ministry as preacher, teacher, and pastor over the years, it’s been my own crusade against the horrific legacy of fear-filled, guilt-ridden religiosity that has disempowered, and outright damaged far too many.
Surely that’s not what we’re to glean from these two texts today?
This is where the gaps in the text are telling.
We hear that first response of awe that crosses into the realm of fear,
fear of the God-ness of God!
Let’s go into that gap a moment:
Have you ever felt that?
Watched a sunset or a storm, and felt, so insignificant, impotent, vulnerable?
Refused to climb through the clouds as a 6 year old, because you might just see God?
Felt a sense of unworthiness in the face of sheer beauty or love?
These Scriptures remind us that it is the awesome, majestic,
abundant, depth defying graciousness of a God beyond our imagining
that we are dealing with….
and perhaps a healthy, temporary dose of humbleness is appropriate after all.
But neither story stops there.
In the space of a sentence,
what seems like an impossible chasm between
terror at the sight of God’s God-ness,
and a whole-hearted willingness to answer God’s call
is somehow bridged.
If the stories contain Good News it’s this:
With a word from God.
Two words, actually.
Me phobon, N’inquiète pas
Don’t worry. Fear Not.
Why not fear?
After all, the call from God to Isaiah was to preach truth to liars.
The call from Jesus to Simon, was to ‘catch’ people up
into the Dream of God’s Way of living in a world
too often taken over by fear, graft, lies, and injustice.
I’d be fearful.
Until I see what Simon, Isaiah saw.
God being God.
God being the opposite of Fear.
God whose being is Love.
God whose generosity is two-boats full of fish,
12 baskets-worth of leftovers,
God whose welcome throws a party with 756 bottles of the finest wine,
and at whose looooong table, are set the names of all sorts of prodigals,
alongside those we don’t understand, those we don’t like or who don’t like us…
whose love leaps the barrier of death itself,
and mends the worst brokenness you can imagine.
That God scares me a bit with what God can do,
what God wants to do with us,
but seeing God changes the way we see the world.
And the way we see ourselves,
as People of the Way,
called, and therefore in God’s strength of love,
capable of casting our nets into the depths of the world,
so that we can catch others up in the Dream of this
God of abundant possibility.
Which brings me finally to the third story,
from the Gospel of God at work in the lives of Cedar Park.
There was once a Coordinator for Youth and Family ministries,
who had spent weeks fishing for chefs and table-setters, and movie projectionists
for F4, and had caught nothing.
And if it were not for the Spirit work of Star-Words,
going on in her and her colleague,
calling us to be receptive and open to beauty,
she would not have cast her net into the deep….
resulting in this (forgive the parabolic brevity):
Two 4th graders and one 2nd grader (with a little guiding help)
who cooked, and fed a hall full of 90 people,
with enough leftovers to send home with happy, grateful families,
and they had such a powerfully good time, they are itching to do it all again!
A boat-load of abundance,
a longer table filled with food, feasting, fellowship, on a cold night!
Martha gets the last word today:
“Do we maybe just have to show up when the supposedly random invitation (call) arrives, because we trust the One who sends it.
Then we get to be amazed by what we find ourselves capable of doing?”
In God’s name, may it be so!