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Jesus Sought Me

Wandering Heart, Week One

Luke 5:1-11

Feb. 18, 2024

David Collins



This past week, we had our Ash Wednesday Drive Thru service. It was a really great time. Beautiful weather. Megan and Vanessa even took ashes down to the Maitland train station to see if there might be anyone interested in being told they would die one day and getting their foreheads dirty to prove it, and There. Were. Not.


Turns out that participating in a religious ritual involves some trust and hopefully a pre-existing relationship! Megan said they were there on the train platform with a cute little sign, and a little thing of ashes, and that people were walking really close to the oncoming trains to get around them. People would rather actually die than be reminded of it!


Gives you a little sympathy for the Jehovah’s Witnesses that come to our door. Or at least they used to. The last time they came to ours, the dogs were going crazy barking and so I opened up the door just a crack, and asked, “Are you Jehovah’s Witnesses?” And they said, “yes” and I said, “We’ve been disfellowshipped” which is something I read on the internet you could say to get them to leave you alone for ever. I think it’s their version of ex-communication. The faces they made told me I guessed correctly.


Well, anyway, next year Megan and Vanessa said they would bring coffee and donuts down to the train station, which I think is a good idea. If those folks had brought me coffee and donuts, I might well have heard them out.


Although aren’t coffee and donuts two of the things people often give up for Lent?


Lent

Lent is this season of preparation we observe in the church to prepare for Holy Week and Easter. Not preparing physically, though we do that too. But preparing spiritually. To take the time at least every year to remember what we should recall every day: that God took on our flesh, and died on a cross and rose from the grave, all for us. And that he calls us to pick up our own crosses and follow him. This Lent we’re going to be focusing on one of the first people Jesus called to follow him: Peter, and through his eyes, we’ll get a better look at Jesus. Where we meet him today, he’s not even Peter yet, He still goes by his given name: Simon.


Simon Peter

Simon Peter was brash and brave. He plunged ahead when others might have retreated. But he was also sometimes scared and regretful. He was too sure of himself, and so when he was wrong, he was really wrong. He was an inconsistent disciple. Kind of like us. He had a wandering heart. So do we. That’s what this series is about.


Each week this Lent, we’re in our new series Wandering Heart, and we are going to dig into a Peter story as well as a verse from the old hymn “Come Thou Fount.” This week it’s “Jesus sought me when a stranger.” We’re going to look at how Jesus called Simon Peter to follow him.


Faith's Starting Line

Looking at the beginning of Peter’s faith story makes me think about the beginning of my own. Sometimes it’s really hard to place where my faith story began, since I grew up in the church in a Christian family. It’s like trying to remember the first time I laughed. Was it when I was baptized as an infant? Or when I prayed the sinner’s prayer for the first time? Or was it the time I prayed that prayer at Young Life camp when I really meant it? For the longest time, I equated faith with the feeling of certainty, so I was always trying to figure out WHEN I was the most certain, and try to recreate the feeling in order to know that I was really a believer.


We all have our own starting line for our faith journeys, don't we? For some of us, it’s one particular moment. Maybe it was something you heard, or read, that just clicked and you’ve never been the same since. Maybe it was a prayer you really felt, or a time when everything just clicked into place. For others, it's more like realizing you've been on the path without really knowing when you stepped onto it. It's like looking back and seeing the trail behind you and and thinking, 'Oh, I've been walking this way for quite some time.' And then, there are those of us who've had a bit of a zigzag route—moments of doubt, of questioning, of stepping off the path, only to find our way back. Or maybe you’re still considering whether this is something you believe in at all?


No matter where we began, I think we’ll see ourselves somewhere in Simon Peter’s story, in our scripture today found in Luke 5:1-11.


This is the story of how Simon ended up following Jesus. But it’s not the story of the first time they met. That happened earlier. Jesus healed Simon’s mother in law and may have even been staying with him as a guest for a while. Simon might have been a fan, or even a friend, but he wasn’t a follower yet. Our scripture today is the story of how Simon left the world he knew behind and started following Jesus.

Let’s get into it.


Luke 5:1-11

1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.

3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.


Can you picture the scene? The crowd is mobbing Jesus, trying to get close enough to see, and hear and touch him. They’re basically pushing him into the water, so he says, “Great idea!” And asks his new friends Simon to row out a few feet so he can do his thing. He teaches. Takes questions. Debates the interpretation of scripture. All while bobbing up and down while they float on the water. Could have been an hour, maybe two. And then…


4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’


I wonder why Jesus said this to Simon Peter. Maybe he was just trying to do something nice for him since he had been keeping the boat steady for him for an hour or two after working all night. But I think it’s probably deeper than that.


Deep Water

Deep water in the Bible is always, well, deep. Deep water is the image of the world when God began to make it and tame it. Deep watery chaos. Jesus is telling him to go where it isn’t safe, and it isn’t easy, and try.


Jesus says the same to us, doesn’t he? We all have some deep water that Jesus is probably pointing us towards, don’t we?


Maybe it’s taking a leap of faith, and stepping into the unknown, changing careers to pursue a job that feels more in line with your values or passions, even if it means making less money.


Or maybe there’s a conversation you know you need to have, but you’ve been avoiding it because it won’t be easy.


Maybe it’s investing in people? Deepening your connection with others, sharing your true self, your doubts, and your fears, and creating space for others to do the same, which can lead to richer, more meaningful, and scarier, relationships.

Sometimes, "letting down the nets" means giving more…of our time, and money, and talent in ways that stretch us. It could be committing to volunteer regularly, despite a busy schedule, or donating to causes that rely on generosity to make a difference in the world. Like here! But not just here.


Maybe your deep water is in your own soul? Maybe Jesus is pointing you towards therapy, or to go back to school, to explore parts of yourself that we've kept in the shallow end.


Or maybe your deep water is getting involved in politics, and social justice. Working for change. Raising our voices for those who can't. Advocating for change in areas of inequality, and environmental stewardship, for justice and mercy.


Maybe it’s more than one of those things for you. For us.


But if you’re like Simon, and we’re doing this series because you are, somewhere in the back of your mind, or maybe in the front of it, you’re thinking, “You know what God? We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work.”



5 Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.


And he wasn’t lying. They did try that before. And it didn’t work. In fact they had been at it all night. And they were professional fishermen. They were experts in the field. If anyone could say for certain that there were no more fish in the sea, it was Simon and his fellow fishermen.


But you know, sometimes we shoot God down because we’re just tired. Simon sure was. And we have reason to be tired. We’ve been working an awful lot, and sometimes without much to show for it. Maybe if it was meant to be, it would have happened already.


But that’s not where Simon leaves it. He has too much respect for Jesus to just dismiss his idea. So even though they had worked all night long and caught nothing…


Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’


It wasn't about Peter being fully convinced or having all his doubts erased. He wasn't suddenly filled with belief or in total agreement with what seemed, based on his expert knowledge, like a futile task.


No, it was simpler and yet so much more challenging than that. Peter decided to try, to take that step despite his reservations. This act of willingness to engage, to put effort into the endeavor without seeing the end from the beginning, shows us that faith often begins not with certainty or complete understanding, but with the courage to act.


He didn’t have to believe. He didn’t have to agree. The only thing he had to do was try.


I don’t know where your deep water is, but I do know that if you feel like God might be calling you to let down your nets over there that you don’t have to be 100% sure before you give it a shot.


Taking action doesn't require 100% certainty. Unlike Simon Peter, whose call from Jesus was direct and whose miraculous catch of fish was immediate, your journey might not unfold with such clarity. The signs might be subtler, the outcomes may not materialize overnight, and the path might not be as direct. In fact, discerning you're doing the "right thing" could involve a mix of faith, doubt, trial, and error. And that's okay. The essence of faith often lies in taking steps even when the results aren't guaranteed or immediately visible.


Now since it was Jesus, they were for Simon Peter.


6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.

7 So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.

8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.


‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’

I love Simon Peter’s reaction here. He immediately recognizes that Jesus is much more than he seems to be, (and he already knew that he could miraculously heal people) and his reaction isn’t to say, “Wow! Cool!” But to say, “You need to leave! You have mistaken me for someone who deserves you.” Experiencing God should have that effect on us. It should humble us and leave us in awe and wonder. It should make us incredibly aware of our unworthiness, but not ashamed of it. It’s just the way it works.


Jesus didn’t listen to Simon Peter. In fact, he drew closer.


Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’


And notice that this isn’t an invitation. It’s a declaration.


That became his new vocation. It’s who he was. Maybe it’s who he was all along, but he hadn’t been brave enough to truly be himself until that moment. It was of course his calling and mission as one of Jesus’ first disciples and later, his chief apostle.


It’s our calling too. Not necessarily in the sense that we have to go knock on doors, or make it so people step in front of the SunRail rather than talk to us. Though we may need to do that too!


It’s Jesus declaration about us, that we will be catching people too, because no matter what deep water we’re called to, no matter what problems we’re lead to try and help fix, we have to remember that it’s still all about the people who are affected by that problem.

Catching People

The essence of our calling is relational. Whether we're called to deep waters in professional life, volunteering, social justice, or simply in our day-to-day interactions, the core of our mission remains the same: it's about the people. It's about impacting lives, about being a presence that invites others towards something greater.


This is the heart of "catching people"—seeing beyond the immediate tasks or challenges and remembering that at the center of it all are individuals with hopes, fears, and the need to belong. Just like us. We don’t catch people because we’re good at catching. We catch people because we’ve been caught.


We’ve been caught by love and it compels us to extend it to others. This love doesn't see the crowd; it sees the face in the crowd, recognizes its worth, and learns their name, just like Jesus did with Simon Peter.


Our journey of following Jesus isn't marked by our expertise in theology or our ability to recite scripture but by our capacity to love as we have been loved. This love is the net we cast—it's woven from our stories of being found, of grace that embraced us when we least expected it. And it's this net, this love, that draws others—not to us, but through us to the source of it all. Jesus sought me when a stranger. And so I can’t help but try and love strangers, too.


11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.


We get stuck on the fact that Simon, James and John left the stuff and business behind to go follow Jesus, and when we do that, I think we’re missing the point. It was never about the externals.


It wasn't about leaving their nets or their boats; it was about embracing a new identity and mission. Simon Peter and his fellow fishermen made a choice that day, one that didn't just alter their careers but their entire lives, and ours.  They chose to follow Jesus, and it changed the world.


Their choice to follow Jesus is echoed in our lives today. The unbroken line of Jesus followers that they began took a wandering path, but it lead to us, here and now.


Following Jesus doesn't necessarily mean we have to abandon our professions or our daily responsibilities, as appealing as that sounds sometimes!


It’s more than that, it's about aligning our priorities, actions, and decisions with Jesus’ teachings and example. It’s about loving like Jesus. It’s about seeing our roles—whether as professionals, students, parents, or friends—through the lens of discipleship, understanding that our true calling is to embody and share God's love in every aspect of our lives.


It’s a choice. One that we make every day, and like we’ll see with Simon Peter, one that we sometimes don’t make when it really counts.


But even so, we get the chance to make it again today.


Today is the only chance we ever get.


Amen.


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