This sermon talks about persistence (and when not to be persistent) – what it means to put ourselves out there to help people.
Do we have any fishermen or women in here today?
It’s been a while, but I used to really enjoy it.
I used to fish with my grandfather here in New Mexico, actually.
He grew up in Las Vegas, and we used to go fishing in the mountain rivers for trout.
Sometimes, we caught fish.
Other times we didn’t catch anything.
But we always had a good time.
And I remember that even after hours of nothing, we’d still keep casting those reels out into river, praying and hoping something would bite.
Fishing requires a lot of faith. Some would say a lot of luck.
There’s some skill too, of course.
But if the fish aren’t biting, the fish aren’t biting.
In our story today, the fish were simply not there at all.
And that happens sometimes.
As any of you know who’ve ever been fishing, unless you’re fishing at a fish farm, where the ponds are teeming with fish, there’s no guarantee you’ll catch anything.
You can put your nets down all night long and come up empty-handed.
How frustrating it must have been for those men to meet up with Jesus after just such a night.
They were cleaning their nets of all of the gunk from the lake, and here comes this man who tells them to stop and throw the nets back in again.
Who was Jesus to tell them anything?
Well, it’s not as crazy as it sounds.
If we read chapter 4 of Luke, Jesus was actually staying at Simon-Peter’s house.
They already knew each other.
And in the last chapter, Jesus had healed Simon-Peter’s mother-in-law.
So Simon-Peter knows Jesus is capable of miracles.
He’s beginning to trust Jesus.
And so he takes his boat out again, and this time, their nets are teeming with fish.
At which point, if I were Simon-Peter, I would have considered bringing Jesus on board as another business partner.
Seriously – if he can magically summon fish, Jesus is the guy to have on your team.
But instead, Jesus tells them to drop their nets entirely and join him on his trip up the coast, fishing instead for people.
A lesser-known miracle in this story is that the analogy of fishing for people actually works for Simon-Peter.
The analogy honestly falls flat for me – the idea of ensnaring people is gross.
Bringing people to Christ shouldn’t look like tricking them or catching them in a net.
But it works for Simon-Peter. Miracle #2 of the day.
And miracle #3 – James and John trust their business partner Simon-Peter enough that they also drop their nets and follow Jesus.
And it pays off. Their lives are changed forever.
It doesn’t always pay off, but here it does.
These men show up, they take a risk, and something extraordinary happens. Not only do they catch a ton of fish, but their lives are transformed.
They do what they’ve been doing all along – putting their lives in God’s hands, throwing out their nets not knowing if the place they’re fishing is teeming with fish or empty.
They simply show up, trust the process, and trust God.
Maybe as fishermen, they were uniquely suited to this work of following Jesus.
Because their entire lives were built around chance and uncertainty.
They worked hard every night, they were persistent, and yet sometimes, they came up with nothing.
Working with people is no different.
Sometimes, we show up for people and all we receive is anger and ugliness in return.
Or we get nothing. We show up, and we’re ignored or rejected.
Other times, we show up to try to help people – perhaps people who are in the throws of addiction or another difficult situation – and we do all we can to bring them to a better place, to offer them care and safety and nurture, and despite all of our efforts, they succumb to their disease.
It’s incredibly frustrating sometimes.
Not unlike fishing.
When you fish, you can have just the right bait and the right lures and the right time of day and the right season, and for some reason beyond your control, the fish just don’t bite.
If we give up the first time we try, we’ll certainly never be successful.
The one certain way to never catch any fish is to not try.
The same is true for people.
Now there’s a caveat here, which is that sometimes, we’re not the right person to help.
Or that person is not the right person for us to help.
We think we’re fishing in a fertile river, but in reality, we’re tossing our line into a fountain full of pennies.
There ARE times when moving on is appropriate.
And so if you’ve given up or moved on and decided to let someone go, because they’re not interested in help,
and you’ve tried every lure you have and they haven’t worked.
And for years, you’ve been going back to the same pond and fishing over and over again without catching anything.
At some point, you have to forgive yourself for moving on to another body of water. Or a different type of fish.
We have no control over whether or not the fish bite. Only how often we toss in our line.
And we’re limited by our energy and the number of hours in the day.
If there’s someone in our life who we simply can’t seem to help, it’s okay to keep trying.
But it’s also okay to let go for a while and use our energy to show up for someone else who needs us.
Throw out our line in a different river.
By doing so, we give God and the Spirit and luck a chance to work.
There ARE times, when we show up for people, and because we’re there,
because we put ourselves in their lives to help, something miraculous happens.
It doesn’t happen every time we put ourselves out there.
But it does happen.
I know, because I’ve been one of those people more than once.
People in my life have been persistent with ME. Loving with ME, keeping ME on the line, even when I was fighting them.
The first Disciples were admirably persistent. They listened to Jesus and gave the lake another shot.
And THAT time, whether it was Jesus or luck or the Holy Spirit, their catch was bountiful.
May we aspire to be as persistent and trusting and faithful.