The Civic and Parish Church of Bournemouth

10th February 2019 – Sermon on Luke 5:1-11 – Fishing with Jesus

Michel Kripalani is CEO of Oceanhouse Media, a premier publisher of award-winning children’s books and personal development apps that inspire, uplift and educate. Last year, Michel set himself a huge goal which he failed to achieve. Here’s what he shared about the unexpectedly good events that resulted. He wrote:   “Have you ever set a big, hairy, audacious goal―and failed to achieve it? I have, but the outcome of that “failure” set me on a path to an unexpected new level of success.

Just after my 49th birthday, I committed to writing a book … before I turned 50. I was simultaneously excited and completely overwhelmed. I’ve wanted to write a book for decades. And yet, I never seemed to find the time, the focus or even the topic. This time, I told myself, would be different. But it wasn’t.  As often happens, the project floundered  – really felt like a failure – and then changed. I dug deeper when I ran out of energy and motivation, realizing that my root desire was to author “something of significance.” A book had seemed like the obvious plan. As I re-framed my goal, without allowing myself off the hook of doing the hard work, I stumbled upon what would become one of the most important projects of my life.

I am an app developer by trade. I live in the world of interactive media and creativity. It dawned on me that anyone can write a book, but not everyone can write an app. So, why not focus my talents on a truly unique project?  So, I sketched out an app that would guide people towards the right mindset for success at the start of each day.  The most challenging piece was that, in order for the app to be truly authentic, it required that I expose my own thoughts and beliefs to the world. To do so, I needed to become vulnerable. At numerous points along the way, I became scared. Yet, I persisted.  The week of my 50th birthday, “Mindset for Success” was complete. I had failed in my original intention; but, by not just giving-up, I had achieved something unexpectedly good.  Maybe – just maybe – this learning curve could work for others as well?

And why not?  Because you have to look at today’s Gospel reading to see that Jesus challenges us to be audacious in our aims.  He challenges us in the same way that he challenges all who try to follow him, saying, “Think big! Don’t under-sell or under estimate me!”  He challenges us, at St Augustin’s Church, particularly at this time.  We could be tempted to sink back exhausted – but Jesus challenges us to take audacious risks for him, believing that the outcome will be better than we dared to dream.

Today’s Gospel reading speaks directly to us: Luke gives us five characteristics of followers of Jesus:   

1.  Luke 5:1. “The multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God”. The crowd pressed in so close that Jesus found Himself getting pushed closer and closer to the water’s edge. Jesus sees the two empty boats, and the fishermen cleaning their nets, and the crowd pressing close and closer, so He decides to teach them from one of the boats.  Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

Do you see?  Followers of Jesus love to hear the Word of God taught, as we do in our Sunday services. That’s the central point of any Church – worship of God.

2.  Followers of Jesus listen to him, and then try to do what they believe he wants, even when it doesn’t seem to make immediate and obvious sense.  

Luke 5:4. ‘When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”’

This request of Jesus to put down the nets doesn’t make much sense (they’d been fishing all night, with no success), and it will only cause more unnecessary work for Simon. Yet Simon answered and said to Jesus, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”

Simon tells Jesus that this request doesn’t make much sense, but he will obey Jesus anyway. And he let down the net. 

Luke 5:6-7. And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.  Their nets were about to break, and they had to call their friends over to help them. But even then, the two boats were not large enough to hold all the fish. They filled both the boats to overflowing, and then the boats began to sink!

The clear message is, “When you believe God tells you to do something, – do it, even if it doesn’t make sense.” God told Noah to build an ark because a flood was coming when nobody had ever even heard of so much rain. And Noah did it. God called Abraham to pack up his possessions and start walking. And Abraham did it, even thought he didn’t know where he was going. God told the people of Israel to march around Jericho for seven days if they wanted the walls to fall down, and they did it. God wants to work through us, and needs us to trust that He ‘knows what he’s talking about’! This is, after all, as Paul reminded the Corinthians, the God who ‘does a new and unexpected thing’ called Resurrection – giving eye-witness proof to vast numbers. 

Therefore, when we say, with Isaiah, ‘Yes – I’m up for it!  Here am I, send me!’, we can expect an interesting journey! 

The journey with God which is, for each of us, the way forward, is usually different to the way we’ve trodden in the past.  To be sure, there is a central core of continuity, and so the way forward has worship and listening to God in prayer at its centre, and that flows out to serve others; but exactly how it will pan out we aren’t in a position yet to know.  Yes – the Gospels assure us, that level of risk-taking and trust is absolutely normal for those who seriously want to be followers of Jesus.  But, in honesty, it leaves us feeling a bit scared, inadequate, and all too painfully aware of our failings, weaknesses and of our lack of faith.  And all that is normal.  Our passage from Luke’s Gospel shows us, (3),  that followers of Jesus are aware of their own inadequacies and sinfulness.  Luke 5:8-10a. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

Why does he do this?

For the answer, remember what has happened to Simon Peter and the recent decisions he has made. A year prior to this event, Jesus had called Simon Peter to follow him and be his disciple. He had committed himself to following Jesus. But following Jesus probably didn’t make him a whole lot of money. So now, he had gone back to fishing. 

This implied that he had more important things to do. In Luke 5:8, Simon Peter recognizes his mistake. 

And, to be sure, being aware of where we fall short is not a nicely distanced bit of box-ticking – no, it really is painful to feel inadequate and sinful.  However, that is only one side of reality; we are inadequate, yes, but (4) we, along with all  followers of Jesus, are also passionate about sharing God’s love with the wider community where we are.  Our inadequacies and our passion to serve God are not as incompatible as we might have thought.  Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”

Proverbs 11:30 says that he who wins souls is wise. The value of any single human soul is greater than a boatload of fish.  Jesus is recorded in John 10: 10 as saying that he had come so that each person might not only have life, but fullness of life.  – And he invites his followers to be his eyes, his hands, his feet in helping him lead others to fullness of life.

I wonder if you are aware that Jesus has offered that same invitation to you? How do you become a fisher of men? – By following Jesus; just that – that’s enough.  So we’ve seen that true disciples love to hear God’s Word taught, they obey Jesus even when it doesn’t make sense, they are aware of their own sinfulness, and they become fishers of men who will take seemingly audacious risks for God.  The call is the same to us as it was in Luke’s time.  Would those first followers of Jesus respond to His call?  How would they respond? And  – What about you?  What about us as a church community?  

Jesus says to us, today, “Put out into deep waters, and prepare for a catch.”