Isaiah 6:1-8, Luke 5:1-11
January 31, 2010
The story we have for today from Luke’s Gospel is his version of the call of the fishermen. And we find that this story is a little more “fleshed out” by Luke. That often happens in the Gospels. Certain stories are remembered in more detail by certain writers. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus simply walks up to these men and says, “Follow me.” And they do. In those accounts, we get a certain sense of the power of Jesus in his call to “follow,” and the obedient response of these men. But in Luke, we get more of the story. The power of Jesus’ call is no less. The miracle is no less. In fact, I think it’s more!
I love this story for that reason. But I also love it because of what Jesus said to them in the boat. He told them to “put out into the deep.” I think that’s a great analogy for “going deeper” in our relationship with God. It certainly was for these fishermen. At the end of this story, they started down a road of service that they could not begin to imagine at the time. And like them, we are called into service we can’t imagine, either!
That makes this story great. But what also makes it great is that these men were human, too. And we find in Luke’s Gospel a certain resistance when Jesus called them to go deeper! And I wonder how that part of the analogy plays out in us. When Jesus calls us to “put out into the deep,” when he calls us into a deeper relationship with him, do we have a similar resistance?
Some of us feel we don’t have time to “go deeper” in our faith. We feel overwhelmed. We find it difficult to balance the things of faith with the many demands of life. And many of us fail at that! In a way, we “envy” those who are retired. We think they’re better ‘church workers’ because they have the time. Because they have less demands on their lives, they are “more free” to serve God. But is that true?
Life can be overwhelming, can’t it? I’m sure these disciples felt that. Fishing was a hard life in those days! When they weren’t out on the sea, they were tending their nets. And their nets were their livelihood! That’s what they were doing one day when Jesus came along. And as the story goes, he got into Simon’s boat, they pushed out from the shore, and there he spoke to the crowds. Then, after he was finished, he had a real lesson for them. He told them, “Put out into the deep, and let down your nets.”
That’s where they started to resist. That was not a welcome request to these fishermen! And leave it to Simon to say so. “Master, we toiled all night and caught nothing.” “We’re tired.” “And besides, we’re the fishermen here! We know our business. You’re just a carpenter!” He might just as well have said, “We’re overwhelmed!!” And even though his next sentence seems to be more obedient, I wonder if it didn’t say it with just a touch of doubt and cynicism. “Ok Lord, if you say so, we’ll let down the nets.” Maybe his next sentence would have been, “But you’ll see! There’s nothing out there!!”
And I wonder. Do we say the same kinds of things when Jesus calls us to go deeper? And is it because we’re tired and overwhelmed? Or is it excuse to stay where we are? And please know that I’m not talking just about the giving of our time or our talents or our treasure, though there are certainly parallels to that part of our faith. I’m talking about the deeper relationship with God. I’m talking about the deeper commitment to his kingdom. (Although when we are shallow in our relationship with him, it does tend to show in our giving! Doesn’t it?)
As you’ve heard me say before, there are many who are only interested in “doing the minimum of faith.” And they tend to see their faith only as a sort of “fire insurance.” That is, they secure their salvation, and they avoid hell. But don’t ask them to do anything more. They say, “I’m overwhelmed.” And don’t get me wrong! Maybe some of us are overwhelmed! I’m not denying that. But how do we balance our faith with that feeling of overwhelm. Especially when we follow a savior who said “Seek ye first the kingdom of God… and all these other things will be added unto you.”
Sometimes we feel guilty when we have things. We live in a country of great riches compared to the rest of the world. There’s no question about that! But Jesus didn’t say we shouldn’t seek those other things. He didn’t tell everyone to “sell everything and give to the poor.” In fact, one time when that was suggested, he shocked everyone with his answer. It was that time the woman anointed him with expensive perfume. Do you remember that? And it was Judas, of all people, who accused her of wasting it. “That should have been sold to help the poor!” he said. But Jesus shocked them all by saying, “You will always have the poor with you. But that’s not the only concern I want you to have.” That makes sense if you think about it. Because he didn’t say we shouldn’t have things. What he did say was, “Seek ye first the kingdom…” He wants us to put it all in perspective! He wants us to see the big picture. He wants us to know what’s going on in the world, and to have compassion for his people! And he wants us to go deeper in our commitment to him and to his kingdom!
Going deeper can be hard for those of us who have been in the Church for many years. Some of us feel like we’re done with Church work, like we’re “retired” in our faith. Some of us think, “I’m too old. I can’t get involved. I can’t go any deeper any more.” And some say, “I’ll leave the work of the church to the young people.” “After all, I can’t sing in the choir any more, and I can’t be on a board or a committee.” And those things may well be true. And there’s nothing wrong with that! We can’t do everything for ever. But the question is, “what can we do when there are more years behind us than we’re comfortable with?” The call to go deeper doesn’t go away. It isn’t reserved only for those who have the time, the talent, and the energy to take their faith to a deeper level.
Maybe when we get to that point, “going deeper” is more personal. Maybe it means striving to be more diligent in the things of faith. Maybe it means being more intentional about living a Christ-like life! Maybe there’s that bad habit we’ve been meaning to do something about “some day” for years! And now it’s time! Maybe going deeper means spending more personal time with the Lord. Maybe it’s developing a more consistent devotional time. Maybe it’s becoming more regular in Bible reading and prayer.
Maybe for you it means becoming a “prayer warrior.” I’ve always loved that term! That can mean a lot of things. But for you it might mean keeping and maintaining a “prayer journal,” and being specific and intentional in lifting before God the needs of others. Or maybe it means simply being touch with a person who needs daily contact. There are so many ways of “going deeper.” And part of “seeking first the kingdom of God” is simply a matter of trying to be more aware of that kingdom and giving thought as to what we can be doing for it. And I would encourage you to do that, and to have that mindset!
Before we leave this, I’d like to ask what I think is the most important question in all this. Why does Jesus call us to go deeper? Why did he call those fishermen? I believe he calls us to go deeper, first and foremost, because he wants us to know him better, and he wants the very best, deepest, and most meaningful life possible for us through our relationship with him! Lord knows there are so many people in this world who wonder if there is any real purpose or meaning to this life. As God’s people we know there is! God created us! As such, it is he that gives our lives that meaning. We understand this life best when we are in relationship with him. And he wants that relationship to go deeper!
The other reason for us to go deeper is that God wants us to be his body here on earth. We are his most effective means of reaching out to others with his love and grace. There is an old saying that goes, “You may be the only Jesus that someone else may ever knows.” There’s a lot truth in that! We are his ambassadors, and if we don’t know him, how can we represent him? He wants all of us working together as one body, using the very gifts he has given us for the betterment of his kingdom on earth. And every week we ask that his kingdom would come on earth and his well be done! I pray we would take that seriously!
So think of these fishermen. They’d heard Jesus’ teaching. Now he was calling them to go deeper. The same call is for all of us. How about you? Will you make excuses? Or will you let down the nets?
Eternal God, help us to know you better. Help us to go deeper in our faith, and in relationship with you. Show us continually the joy of your kingdom. And help us to promote your kingdom in every way we live our lives. For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.