Epiphany 5C. call of Peter
February 6, 2019 12 step St. Mark’s Episcopal church
“Yes, Mrs. Simon Peter speaking. What! Zebedee, slow down, I can’t understand you. You are alone on the shore with two boat loads of fish that are about to sink, and Simon Peter and James and John are off talking to a new rabbi! Give me a few minutes to find someone to care for my mother who is in bed with a fever, and I and everyone else I can find will be right there!”
“Can you believe this is happening? Right when we are in the middle of building a new home in Capernaum.”///
Don’t you just love Luke’s action-packed, somewhat humorous story of the call of Peter, James, and John! Jesus calls a frustrated and tired Peter to go out deeper where he catches so many fish that his nets are about to break. James and John’s boat comes to help him and their boat as well become so filled with fish that they are about to sink. Jesus tells them, “Don’t worry, you will become fishermen of men.” When they come to shore, Peter and his partners have changed their priorities, their old way of life, and leave everything including John and James’ father and their boats filled with fish and follow Jesus.
We are here in this place because we too desperately want to know what it is like to be called by and hear the voice of God like Peter. Today Luke clearly tells us what that call looks/ and sounds /and smells like.
Consider where Peter is, and what he is doing when he is called? Peter is not doing anything particularly religious, but is busy at his workplace trying to make a living. We may hear God call us in this church, but we are very likely to hear that voice in our everyday life, at home, school, at work.
This call often also comes in an interruption in our daily routine. Pay very close attention to the interruptions that present when we are much too busy for them: people and places whose names do not appear on our agendas./
God consistently comes to us where WE are. Luke tells us that Jesus begins his ministry in synagogues, but he doesn’t call his disciples by putting an ad in the Galilee Democrat Gazette saying, “Local teacher needs staff. No experience necessary. Apply to Box 534.” Instead, Jesus makes a personal appearance to our homes and workplaces when he calls.
Notice that Jesus tells Peter to go out into deeper water to fish. Those in 12 step Recovery know exactly what motivates Peter to go in another direction. We most often make these life-changing decisions when we like Peter, are exhausted, “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” We hit a bottom and have no more answers. One of our children gets into trouble and we can’t fix it; our spouse is sick and is not getting better; we lose our job and have difficulty finding another one. Our addiction is ruling our lives. Suddenly we are open to a memory from childhood, a conversation with a stranger or an old friend. We read again a scripture passage, or see an old movie that motivates us. We make a call or are given the courage to speak to someone we know who is in recovery. And God comes to us and transforms us in ordinary relationships with people who understand where we have been,/ and our nets become filled to overflowing.
Notice how Peter’s confession of his humanity, his shortcomings, his 5th step is so important to his call. Part of Peter’s greatness is this ability to see his own powerlessness. But that same power which causes him to fall on his knees also lifts him up. Jesus says to him, “Fine, now we are ready to get going. If you hadn’t had any awareness about yourself, this wasn’t going to work.”
Let’s return to the two boat loads of fish left by the Sea of Galilee. Is Jesus telling Peter now to give up fishing? Is that what catching people instead of fish means?/ My experience is that God uses the talents we have perfected in our worldly vocations for God’s purposes. The skills that Peter learned in fishing will be used now for the kingdom. Nothing is ever wasted. Fishing may now be the best way Peter will meet others who are seeking the Christ as well as others seeking recovery. As a fisherman Peter learned patience; working in community; putting out a net, a feeler, a fishing line to find something completely unknown beneath the surface ; seeing God’s presence in nature, feeling God’s pleasure in the sun and wind on his face and the salt in his hair, being constantly surrounded by images in a natural world greater than himself.
So, this is the call. Do you hear it? God is calling each of us, most a bunch of rank amateurs who can’t distinguish port from starboard. We are not called because WE are able, but because God is able, because God is constantly getting into the boat with us, into the messiness of our lives, usually at odd and inconvenient times, and leading us and going with us to deeper waters, a new life, where our nets will repeatedly be filled.