"Assuming you don’t like the world the way it is, would you change it? Would you be the one to make the changes that are needed—that you believe are needed?"

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 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. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled 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. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

Luke 5:1-11


Let Down Your Nets

There’s not going to be much mystery in this message.  A lot of truth, I think, and some questions and a great big challenge, or two, perhaps.

Would you change the world?  Do you like it just the way it is?  That’s only part of the question.  When I ask you whether you would change the world, it’s a two-part question.  The first part is whether you like it the way it is—just the way the world is today—or would prefer it be different.  That’s the first part.  The second is less question and more challenge.  Assuming you don’t like the world the way it is, would you change it?  Would you be the one to make the changes that are needed—that you believe are needed?

Now, why am I asking you that question—“Would you change the world?”  Two reasons.  First, over the past several weeks, I’ve asked you to repeat something twice each day, to tape it to your mirror and to say it right out loud, two times a day: “I am God’s child, deserving of love and respect, and God will use me to change the world.”  Remember.  So, how about that last part—God will use me to change the world?  Would you change the world, as God sees fit?  Would you do it?  And we have this mission, here at Union Chapel; it’s the mission of the United Methodist Church, but it’s ours, too.  To make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world.  Disciples of Jesus, so that the world will be transformed—changed, as God sees fit.  Would you make disciples?  Would you change the world?

Here’s the thing, right up front, okay?  Simon—Peter, as we know him—Simon Peter didn’t fall to his knees because there were too many fish in his boat.  That isn’t why he fell before Jesus and said, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  Simon Peter had caught fish before; maybe not that many, but he knew about fish.  What scared Peter, in that moment, was people.  Not fish.  People.

Would you change the world?  You gotta understand what Jesus said to them—I mean, what He really said.  It’ll blow you away.  Just like it blew Peter away.  And the others.  The words have been softened over the years, generation to generation.  The translations have taken out a lot of the punch, a lot of the sting, a lot of the demands of Jesus’ words.   In Greek, the words have punch.  The truth might stun a man, scare him, make him look for a way out.  The word translated, for us, to mean “deep waters,” means, in Greek, the chaos; it refers to the chaos that existed as Creation occurred   Now, just think about that; according to Luke, when Jesus said, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch,” He was really saying let down your nets—reach deep into the chaos and let’s see what you catch there…  And, then, there’s that other word.  The word that’s translated, “…from now on, you will be catching people.”  Nice.  Nice.  Too nice.  Not scary, but nice.  Not a good translation.  It doesn’t have the depth of the original Greek.  Oh, it’s swell to think that Simon Peter could do something that would let him catch people.  Catch a few, just like fishing, pick out the ones you like and throw the others back.  And that’s the job.  Catch fish, catch people.  It’s all in a day’s work.  No fisherman ever, as far as I know, had a relationship with a fish.

The Gospels—Matthew Mark, Luke, and John—were written, originally, in Greek.  Luke wrote this in Greek, meaning that he probably had also read the Old Testament—the Hebrew Bible—after it was translated into Greek.  That was his language.  In the Greek of that time—the time when Luke wrote his account—his Gospel--the word that’s been translated “deep waters” meant the chaos of creation and the word translated “catching people” really meant “saving people, alive.”  Saving people, alive.  Here’s what blew Peter away, drove him to his knees, frightened him like he probably had never been frightened before.  Reach deep into the chaos of this world and you will be saving people, alive.  Reach deep into the chaos of this world, and you will save people, alive.

Would you change the world?

Can you imagine how that must have frightened Peter?  You’re a fisherman now, but I’m going to make you reach deep into the chaos of this world and you’ll save people alive.  And so he fell on his knees in a boat full of fish, begging Jesus just to leave him alone, because, in his mind, it was impossible.

And Jesus told Peter, “Do not be afraid.”

Why did they leave everything and follow Him?  Why were they not afraid or, if they were afraid, what compelled them to follow despite that fear?   Because they realized, in an instant, that they had nothing better to do, nothing more important, nothing as critical than to follow Him, nothing more impactful than to reach deep into the chaos of the world of their time and to save people, alive.  How about you?

Would you change the world?

Do you have anything better to be doing?  It was over by the time Peter hit his knees.  It was over; the change had come.  They were His.  Peter, Andrew, James, and John.  All in.  They left everything behind and they followed Him.  Are you His?  Have you been changed?  Are you all in?  Would you really allow God to use you to change the world?

The words are too soft—too safe.  This effort, this cowardly self-delusion, this dishonest movement to smallen Jesus, to say that Jesus didn’t really mean it, to insist that Jesus doesn’t really expect us to go and to do and to be like Him—it all started a long, long time ago.  How many have gone unsaved?  Reach into the chaos is disguised as simply dropping a net into water.  Saving people, alive—saving people, alive—reduced to “catching people.”  Invitation

Let’s pray together.

God, show us what you want us to do.  If you want us to fish, show us where to let down our nets.  Equip us, embolden us and empower us.  Let us unashamedly live into Your will for us.  Make us invite others to live alongside, walking together the path that leads to life.  And remind us that, no matter how many fish we see, no matter how many fish stories are told, no matter what is said about the ones who got away, no matter if the catch is great or small, the glory of its time and of these words is Yours, alone.  Amen.

I love this.  I love Luke’s explanation of the calling of the first disciples, of Peter, who was called Simon, and of his fishing partners, James and John.  And, because Andrew was Peter’s brother, it seems Jesus got a bonus pick.  The others—Matthew and Mark—tell us simply that Jesus said, “Follow me,” and they followed, knowing nothing more.  But Luke shows us why.  Jesus had come to their town, to Capernaum, a fishing village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, which Luke calls by its other name, Lake Genessaret.  Jesus had been rejected in Nazareth, then had come to Capernaum and called an evil spirit from a man in the synagogue.  Next, Jesus had gone to the house of Peter’s mother-in-law, where he had healed her and, then, many others who were brought to Him.  And, then, He had begun to preach at synagogues throughout Judea.  But, now, He had come to Capernaum and a crowd had gathered and He needed space, so He asked Peter—Simon—for help.  Take me in your boat; let me preach just offshore.  And, then, let’s go fishing.

So they had seen Him; they had heard of Him.  And then, when their nets were bursting with the fish that had eluded them all night long as they raised and lowered and dragged and tended those same nets—when the nets were threatening to give way because there were too many fish—Peter saw and heard and felt the truth of it and, having encountered something far beyond his understanding, had fallen to his knees in awe and wonder.  Go away from me, for I am a sinner.  And Jesus laughed.  Oh, I added that part, but don’t you just see it.  Go away from me—I’m a sinner.  Like He didn’t already know all about this man who would become His “Rock.”  Like Jesus didn’t already know that Peter was human, with all the frailties and weaknesses of humankind.  But Jesus knew that Peter was willing to change the world.

How about you?  Don’t know how, you say?  Willing, but not able.  I can help.  There are books; there are podcasts and articles and videos.  Many of them are quite good.  But here’s how almost all of them go.  First, they tell you, like you didn’t know already, that it doesn’t start by you knocking on some stranger’s door and saying, “Have you heard the word of God today?”  It doesn’t start by you asking a co-worker if they’ve been saved or, my favorite, “If you died today, do you know where you would be tomorrow?”  I don’t think they’d like my smart-aleck answer.

The present view of evangelism—yeah, might as well use the word, as long as we’re willing to understand that it really isn’t a big word, after all—the present view is that it’s all about relationships.  More than ever before, a relationship is the key to helping them to know the love of Jesus.  And, so, Bill Hybels wrote a book titled, “Just Walk Across the Room,” encouraging us to meet the people we haven’t yet said “Hello” to; Bob Farr and Kay Kotan wrote one called, “Get Their Name,” along the same line, reminding us that someone’s name is very important to them and, thus, very helpful in letting them know we are interested in them.  Please understand that, if I forget your name sometime, it isn’t for lack of interest, but lack of something else.  Anyway, the trick is to be human and to be a little bit social; relate to others and let them know you; get to know them and, while you’re at it, don’t look at them as a target rich environment but as a friend.  It won’t take long for most people to see the difference if you’re living a life of loving gratitude.  If your love shows, it won’t take long for them to notice, and then it won’t take long for them to ask you why: why are you different.  And then you smile and say, “Come and see.”  Because, today, most of the introduction to the love of Jesus, and most of the path to following, occurs here.  Not here—not in the sanctuary, necessarily.  Want to know why I have harped on this new building for three years?  Because that’s where it happens.

Anyway, you build a relationship, you show your love and you have your elevator speech all ready—the one you give between floor ten and floor one when they ask, letting them know, in sixty words or less why Jesus’ love makes a difference in your life.  And then you invite them: come and see.  You’ll be amazed how many—many more than half—will say yes, if only you’ll ask.

But there’s more good news.  Two parts, in fact.  The first is that you already have relationships.  You don’t have to start from scratch, although you should actively pursue new people even as you keep the friends and acquaintances you already have.  But there is someone, right now, today, if you are living with love showing, just dying to be asked.  Just dying.  Swimming in the deep.  Perhaps drowning in the chaos.  Maybe about to go down for the last time.  You know them; it’s an easy reach.

But—speaking of easy.  Oh, have we made it easy for you today?  Would you change the world, or do you like it just the way it is?

Do you see this bread?  Baked just for you.  To use, not to eat.  Last time—when Donna made the bread, I said give it or else eat it, but don’t let it go to waste.  Not this time.  This time, I want you to try it.  Invitation.  Invitation, the easiest way I know.  Who doesn’t like home-baked bread?  Yeast bread and banana bread and lemon bread and rutabaga bread.  Okay, who would waste good rutabaga on bread?  Wrapped, labeled, ready to give, an invitation already in place.  You could just walk up to someone and hand it to them and then run away.  Don’t, but you could.

Listen, I gotta tell you that we, as a group, haven’t been doing that well on our homework this winter.  It’s like you don’t think it matters.  It matters.  So let’s go back.  Say it every day, twice a day: I am God’s child, deserving of love and respect, and God will use met to change the world.  Take the spiritual gifts inventory, and bring the printed results in so we can talk about them, or at least so I can see.  And take a loaf of bread and give it to somebody.  Would you change the world?

Let me share a short story—something that happened yesterday—and then explain why I told it.  We were at the hockey rink, watching our grandson, Noah, play.  Actually, it was after, and we were in the lobby waiting for him to get changed out of his gear.  Liam was on my shoulders and a young man walked up to me and asked, “Aren’t you Mr. Chamberlain?”  “Um, no.”  “Are you Will’s dad?”  “Oh, yeah, Will Charnstrom.”  “Charnstrom, that’s it.  Sorry.  I’m Kevin Albrecht.”  It was so nice to see Kevin, now thirty or so, just to see that he has turned out well.  His family went to church with us in New Palestine; Katie was standing right by me and she reminded Kevin that she had been his baby sitter.  Kevin pointed out his wife and two of his children—the third was out on one of the rinks, warming up.  But then Kevin called to his wife and asked her to come over and she did, the two little ones in tow, and he introduced me: “This is Mr. Charnstrom.  He coached me in baseball when I was a kid—was it major-minor league, about ten?”  I had forgotten, to be honest.  But, yes, on a team where I was just one of the coaches and Will was a player, Kevin also played, and he had been ten years old.  Now he’s thirty—maybe thirty-one--and he brought his wife and his little children over to meet me. Imagine that.

Well, here’s the thing.  If a kid—a nice kid, but just a kid on a team I helped coach—if he remembers me for that little thing, just imagine the relationship you could have with someone whom you have with someone that you reach into the chaos of this world and save, alive.  Reach into the deep—let down your net; just be sure there’s a loaf of bread in it when you do.