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Follow Me to the Lake

“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

Luke 5:1-11

Introduction

How many of you really enjoy fishing?
If so, this story may be your favorite in the whole Bible.
Some will try to make a case that because Jesus was interested in fishing, participating in the sport is a religious experience.
Of course, that all sounds a little fishy to me, as it does to many of those who happen to be married to fishing fanatics.
Someone described fishing as “the art of doing almost nothing.”
But this fish tale from Luke 5 is an intriguing story.
Imagine the scene…Jesus is standing by the lake and crowds of people are gathering around him to hear him teach.
He improvises and gets into one of Simon’s boats, asks him to move the boat out a bit—and it becomes a lectern on the lake.
After he finishes teaching, the story gets more interesting.
Jesus tells Simon to get to the deep water and let out his nets.
Simon is not receptive to getting advice from this rabbi.
He says, “Master, we have worked all night long and caught nothing. We’ve done our best. We’re tired. We’ve had enough.”
Now, this is where the story hooks us—whether we’re fisherfolk or not—because most of us have had similar experiences in our lives.
We’ve tried and tried and tried—and we’ve had enough.
Sometimes just a little success would help to keep us going.
One guy fished all day—and just caught one—but it was a huge!
He met a friend who had a stringer of about a dozen small ones.
He set the huge fish on the dock and waited for a comment.
His friend with the small fish said: “Just caught the one, eh?”
Even a little success can keep us going sometimes.
But Simon and his friends had been shut out.
And remember that they are not fishing for fun.
This is their livelihood—this is the way they make a living.
Do you know what that’s like?
You are in sales and prospect after prospect after prospect says “No!”
You start your own business—but you don’t know if you will be able to keep your head above water and make it.
You are a student who studied the wrong things for a hard test—you had hoped for an A—now you just hope to pass.
You are a church member—but no one accepts your invitations.
You bend over backwards to make a relationship work—but you get no cooperation and things never change or get better.
Like Simon, many of us know what it’s like to invest lots of time, energy and commitment—and have little to show for it.
But in steps Jesus!
Apparently Jesus is well-schooled in the art of fishing.
So just for the halibut (or whatever they were trying to catch) Simon heads out to deeper water and makes an all-star cast!
And he comes up big—his net profits are incredible!
This may be where the phrase “Holy Mackerel” originated!
We could stop right now and have a pretty inspiring lesson!
Look what happens when you listen to Jesus!
Don’t give up—give it one more try and you’ll be surprised!
If you trust and follow Jesus you won’t fail or flounder.
On the surface, that’s a great lesson!
There’s nothing like a successful fish tale to make you feel terrific!

But There Is Much More to the Story

Jesus lures these frustrated fishermen into deeper water—but there is so much more going on here than a simple fishing tale.
For instance, aren’t you puzzled by Simon’s reaction?
You would think he would be delighted!
You would think he would be getting a contract prepared to sign up Jesus as a fishing guide in charge of his net assets?
But what does Simon do?
He tells Jesus to get lost: “Get away from me! I’m a sinful man.”
Wow! Simon, have you been out in the sun too long?
This epiphany—this manifestation of Jesus’ power—causes him to feel unworthy and offer a confession and self-judgment.
Does this reaction surprise you—what’s really going on here?
Is this story much less about fish—and much more about confession and conversion?
Is it a call and response story?
Even so, Simon’s reaction still seems odd and unexpected.
He is a grown man, strong, rugged—falling on his knees.
Something must have been at work within the heart and mind and soul of Simon to make him react the way he did?
Who can say how long his heart had been searching?
What seems like an immediate response from him may actually have been the culmination of years of longing and questioning.
Often, we focus on the One issuing the call—as though he were some kind of magnet with an irresistible pull on people.
Shouldn’t we also consider those who are called?
How important are the situations and circumstances and timing?
For instance, the death of a loved one often motivates us to look at our lives in new ways and reconsider our priorities.
We may experience anxiety that our days hold no purpose, or have a creeping uneasiness about our own mortality.
Or perhaps some story of human need tugs at our hearts, catches our attention, and moves us off the couch and into action.
In the mix with all of these kinds of issues, we hear a Voice that speaks to some deep need within us—and we are receptive.
Whether we knew this need by name or not—in a moment, which is hardly a moment at all, we give ourselves to that Voice.
My call to ministry was like that—it happened 39 years ago.
I was 24, comfortable, teaching, coaching, and enjoying myself.
It was a good life—but I wondered if it was the best life for me.
I visited the seminary at Texas Christian University.
I attended classes, talked with students and professors—and it clicked.
The “Yes” came quickly—but the call was years in the making.
For Simon, one moment changes his life—and then countless other lives.
By the lake Simon discovers who he is and who Jesus is.
The fisherman becomes a fisher of women and men.

Peter’s Story Is Our Story

Jesus beckons us to follow him into deeper waters.
And we don’t have to run off to seminary.
He needs us in classrooms, workroom, and boardrooms.
He calls us out into the depths of fuller meaning and purpose.
And, as we learned from Simon, our sinfulness is no excuse.
I hear people say: “When I get my act together I’ll get around to it.”
“When I stop messing things up, I’ll serve God more faithfully.”
“When I get rid of my bad habits, then I’ll wade in the water.”
“When I’m worthy I’ll follow.”
But, if we wait for perfection we’ll never do it.
And at times we pretend like we’re following him, but I wonder if we’re following closely enough to hear the flap of his sandals?
While he is broken and still messed up, Jesus calls Simon.
While we still fall short, Jesus calls you and me.
He calls us to follow—and invite others to do the same—today…now.
Jesus offers us a life filled with the joys and challenges of discipleship.
He offers a walk-away-from-your boats sense of purpose.
He offers us opportunities every day—wherever we are and whatever we’re doing—to make a difference in this world.
The choices and the challenges—the paths and the propositions that are offered to us—are meant to mold us and shape us.
They can build our character, change our world view, and make us better—and they must—if they are to have any appeal to others at all.
If we are presented with decisions that will help us make a difference, we will be much more eager for the journey.
Again, I am so thankful for so many of you who have made the decision to follow.
Last week I was inspired by the bold words of a young pastor from another country—one who was eventually martyred for his faith.
He said: “I am a disciple, part of a fellowship of the unashamed.
“The die has been cast; I have stepped over the line.
“I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
“I have the power of the Holy Spirit.
“My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure.
“I’m finished with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving and dwarfed goals.
“I no longer need prosperity, promotions, plaudits or popularity.
“I don’t have to be first, praised, recognized, or rewarded.
“I now follow him in faith, lean into God’s presence, walk in patience, am uplifted by prayer, and labor with power of the Living God.”
So friends, be careful around this place…and be careful out there!
Things may seem safe and comfortable and cozy.
But we are here because there is One among us…
There is One who moves us to leave the boats and nets behind…
There is One who catches us…so that we can catch others…
There is One who calls us…to follow him.

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