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February 13, 2019, 11:30 AM

Epiphany 5 Year C


Epiphany 5 – February 10 – Year C

First Impressions

 

Come January 18, I was all set to meet folks here at Saint Paul’s.  I had my outfit picked out.  I had a hair cut.  I had a sermon ready to go.  I was ready to make a good first impression to the faithful folks of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church.  But Mother Nature had other plans apparently. 

 

When Governor Murphy declared a weather state of emergency for Sunday, I called Carol, our senior warden, and decided the cancel both Eucharists for January 20.  Better to be safe than sorry, I figured.  As we all know, however, the predicted weather emergency had another plan.  Snow had turned to rain by Sunday morning.  By Sunday afternoon, the sun had come out! 

 

Over time, I realized that canceling both Eucharists for January 20 seemed like a pretty rotten idea.  I beat myself up for days for wasting a perfectly good opportunity to make a good first impression on you, the faithful folks of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church.  Yes, I made the best decision I could based on the available information, but it clearly turned out to be a bad decision.  What a wasted opportunity to make a good first impression!

 

If only I could know all things like Jesus!  He would have known that the weather would have ended up cooperating!  If only I could have access to secret knowledge like Jesus!  He would have known that the predicted snow would turn to rain!  If only I could be the Son of God like Jesus!  After all, being God in human has some definite advantages for Jesus.  But, alas, I am just human.

 

Jesus, on the other hand, makes a fantastic first impression on the people who would become his first followers in today’s reading from Luke.  Right before today’s lesson starts, Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law from a high fever.  I don’t think it’s an accident that Jesus ends up in Simon’s fishing boat out on the lake of Gennesaret. 

 

Jesus has already made a good first impression on Simon by healing Simon’s mother-in-law.  The good first impression continues when Jesus uses Simon’s boat to preach to the crowd.  Even this early in the story of Christ’s life, Jesus has a large group of people eager and anxious to hear his words.  Luke records that “the crowd (is) pressing in on (Jesus) to hear the word of God.”  Jesus doesn’t exactly try to escape the crowd.  Instead, he seeks a better way to share the word of God with them.  Jesus finds a boat, the one belonging to Simon, and goes a little offshore to proclaim the loving and liberating word of God to the people.

 

Maybe with a sigh of relief, maybe with a hint of exhaustion, I imagine Jesus sinking down further into his seat as he finishes speaking to the crowd and says to Simon, “put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  It’s not clear at first why Jesus tells Simon to go fishing.  It’s possible that Jesus just needs a break from speaking to the crowd that has been pressing in on him.  It’s just as possible that Jesus is just hungry and craving a nice fish breakfast.

 

Whatever the reason, Jesus tells Simon to go fishing.  Simon seems doubtful, to say the least, that he is going to catch anything.  Simon answers, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.”  I like to imagine a bit of sarcasm in Simon’s voice.  “What is this Jesus guy talking about?  He’s just a carpenter’s son.  He doesn’t know anything about fishing.  Sure, he’s a good preacher and he healed my mother-in-law, but he is no fisherman.”

 

Maybe it’s out of exhaustion or sarcasm or maybe it’s out of the beginning of a deep sense of respect for Jesus, Simon continues his conversation with Jesus.  Jesus makes a good first impression on Simon, so Simon is at least a little willing to go along with Jesus’ crazy plan.  Simon is at least a little willing to ignore the fact that he has been out on the lake fishing all night and has caught nothing.

 

Now, it’s at this point that the story changes.  The whole story hinges on one word: yet.  “Yet, if you say so, I will let down the nets.”  Because Jesus makes a good first impression and because Simon sees at least the beginning of something wonderful in Jesus, Simon is willing to let down his net.  “Yet,” Simon says.  “Yet because you are a miracle worker, I will let down my net again – against my better judgment.”  “Yet,” Simon says.  “Yet because I have heard you preach the word of God, I will let down my net again – even though I have tried fishing all night and haven’t caught a single fish.”

 

Simon thinks he has a handle on this fishing business.  He thinks he knows what he is doing.  He thinks he is the expert on bringing fish in to shore.  Yet, there is something about this Jesus that makes Simon bring his boat to the deep water again.

 

And Simon is certainly rewarded for his willingness to trust Jesus’ word.  The Gospel says that “they (catch) so many fish that their nets (are) beginning to break.”  Simon experiences more success than he could have ever imagined as a reward for listening to Jesus’ word.  Simon experiences more success than he could have ever imagined as a reward for trusting Jesus’ word.  Simon experiences more success than he could have ever imagined by moving past what he thinks he knows about fishing.

 

Nets filled with fish are not the only rewards that Simon receives.  By beginning a relationship with Jesus, Simon also receives a new call.  By believing and trusting Jesus’ words, Simon also receives a new direction for his life.  By looking past what he thinks he knows, Simon’s life changes.  Jesus challenges what Simon thinks he knows and, for his willingness to trust Jesus, Simon is rewarded.

 

What a powerful lesson this can be for us to learn as a congregation!  We might think we have a handle on this church growth business.  We might think we know what we are doing.  We might think we are experts on bringing people to faith in Jesus.  But, if we’re honest, we can see that maybe we need a little bit more help.

 

Just as Simon says “Yet” and begins to trust Jesus, we, too, need to do the same thing.  Just as Simon realizes that he is not the best at bringing in fish, we, too, need to do the same thing when it comes to bringing people to Jesus. 

 

Simon has been trying to fish on his own but does not experience great success – to say the least.  Yet, when Simon accepts Jesus’ help, Simon is rewarded and his life changes.  Yet, when Simon listens to Jesus’ words, Simon is rewarded and his life changes.

 

When we invite Jesus into our hearts and into our lives and into our church, our hearts and our lives and our world changes.  We might express Simon’s resistance at first.  After all, we might think we have a handle on things here.  Yet, when we realize that we needs Jesus’ help, our lives change and our church changes and our world changes. 

 

Let us commit ourselves anew to inviting Jesus into our lives and our church and our world – and watch how things change.  Amen. 


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