Theme If God says so, will we let down the nets? / Change is possible when Jesus speaks
before whose judgment seat we shall appear;
enable us to see ourselves as you see us,
to repent and to change,
and to be found worthy to bear your name.
Note: Ian Paul has another excellent blog on Luke 5:1-11, here.
If we begin with our gospel reading, Luke 5:1-11, then we have a story of call, commissioning and change, each of which theme is illuminated by the other readings.
Luke, noticeably offering a variant to the calling of the (fishermen) disciples in Matthew's and Mark's gospels, tells us that when Simon Peter, James and John were called to be disciples of Jesus, they had an unusual encounter with Jesus. Plying their trade as fishermen, they found Jesus in one of their boats. After teaching the crowds, he suggested to the fishermen that they catch some fish. The fishermen, to say the least, were not impressed. They had just finished a forlorn night catching nothing. Nevertheless they honoured (or even humoured) Jesus by following his suggestion. We can only imagine their surprise at the haul they brought up, and their consternation that it threatened to capsize their boats.
The shock of this unexpected and surprising outcome (a miraculous event) drives Peter to his knees to express his confession: Jesus should leave him, for he was a sinful man.
We do not now what sin Peter had in mind, or the extent of his awareness of his sinfulness, but at the least we can imagine Peter confessing his failure to honour Jesus by implicitly trusting him instead of querulously saying that they had fished all night without success.
The catch of fish leads neatly into Jesus' commissioning the disciples: their call is to follow him, their commission is to from now on catch people. This call and commission is decisive for their lives and livelihoods: 'they left everything and followed him' (v. 11).
Psalm 138 illuminates the occasion: the God of Jesus Christ is a God who has regard for the lowly (in this world's eyes).
1 Corinthians 15:1-11, about change from death to life, underlines the dramatic change in the fishing story. In that story, a night without fish becomes a day with a super-abundant catch. Put another way, in the gospel reading we meet humanity in despair: great effort has met with no success. Surely all is lost and only despair is possible. But Jesus comes and turns the situation upside down: many fish are caught and hope for a flourishing life is restored.
Resurrection, the change from death to life, is a parallel change from despair to hope. Wherever Jesus, the One Raised By God, is, there is hope. What situations are we encountering in which all seems lost and continuing seems pointless? Is Jesus telling us to let down our nets one further time?
Finally, one of the most famous call and commissioning stories in the Old Testament, that of Isaiah's, is recounted in Isaiah 6. In its own way it is as dramatic as our gospel story. Essentially the commission of Isaiah and of the disciples is the same: to speak out God's word is to catch people. People are 'caught' into God's kingdom through responding to the proclamation of the Word of God.