February 10, 2019


It had been a head spinning couple of days for Jesus.  Last week’s gospel recounted the story of Jesus preaching in his hometown and facing a, well, hostile response.  It’s not every day that the people who watched you grow up from a little child band together and conspire to throw you off a cliff.  I mean, at least, that was never my experience to the best of my knowledge, I guess I shouldn’t speak for you.  I’ve always been fascinated by that story, but can’t for the life of me shake the image of Jesus donning a pair of Groucho Marx glasses to slip through the mob but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, from there Jesus went on to a couple other places with some mixed responses ranging from, “who do you think you are” to “please don’t ever leave!”  I guess it makes sense that, as the crowd in today’s gospel shows, sometimes you just need to get away. 

Figuring that in the off chance he anger the crowd his safest bet would be to address them from off the shore a ways.  And it would have worked.  More than several years ago when I was a chaplain for a week of camp at St. Crispin’s I also delivered a homily from the lake.  It was actually really cool, paddling 20 or so yards off the shore while the kids sat on the steps.  The water amplified my voice quite well and I didn’t even have to raise my voice to get the message across.  There was something about the water.  We’ll get back to that in a minute or so.

So this boat that Jesus borrowed happens to belong to a local fisherman named Simon.  You can presume that he had heard of Jesus and might have been pretty excited that Jesus chose him of all people to help him out.  I mean, who doesn’t love a front row seat?  But he was also tired.  He and his partners had been out all night, that it was an unsuccessful night made it all the worse.  So imagine for a moment how you would have felt when a stranger, albeit a popular one, encourages you to try one more time to get some fish.  Show of hands, who here likes to be told how to do their job?  That’s what I thought.  Simon’s pessimism and fatigue are just below the surface when he replies to Jesus before ultimately having his life changed forever. 

His reaction, not just to his foundering boat and the miraculous catch, shouldn’t surprise anyone.  In fact, you could argue that all of our readings today have similar response to the revealing of God’s glory.  More often than not you might expect a fearful or embarrassed admission of one’s own unworthiness before the presence of God.  If we’re being honest, it’s probably the right response. Initially.  But Jesus isn’t having any of that.  He turns that moment of awe and fear into a call for discipleship.  Not because of Simon, or Isaiah, or Paul’s, or even David’s worthiness, but because he knew that they would have faith enough to follow.  And that brings us back to the water.

If you look at the life altering power of God’s spoken word, more often than not, it takes us to the water.  Creation.  Deliverance in the Red Sea.  Jesus and his miracles of wine and fish, among others, first needed water.  Last week, after Mary Kate heard the story of salvation through water and was baptized herself, we joined with her and renewed our baptismal vows, proclaiming our faith and celebrating salvation through the waters of baptism that bring us all together.  Promising to continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers.  Promising to persevere in resisting evil while practicing repentance and forgiveness.  Promising to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.  Promising to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as yourself.  Promising to strive for justice and peace and respecting the dignity of every human being.  Promising to, like Simon, James, and John to follow Jesus wherever it may lead.  Not because we are worthy, or special, or better than anyone else, but because we are beloved of God.  Because we are called to follow.

When Jesus paddled out a ways off the shore, the people gathered there were hungry for a good word, they were famished.  That short stretch of water between Jesus and the crowd amplified Jesus word and fed them more than they knew they needed.  So it is for us.  The waters of our baptism, as we were reminded last week, can amplify our faith in action.  Sometimes we may need a little prodding, “try over there, one more time” Jesus said.  And look how that turned out.  So here we are, freshly reminded of our baptism, those waters waiting to carry our voices, our deeds to those on the shore around us, who are hungry for a good word.  So, what say you?  “I will, with God’s help.”


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