Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Penny Drops - sermon for 22 January

The Penny Drops ~ Extreme Fishing
 Luke 5:1-11

When I was a girl every summer my family went on holiday; and every year we went to the same house, in the same village in North Wales and for the same fortnight; and every year we met up with the same families. There were as far as I can remember 6 families who all went at that same time. Between us we had a selection of dinghies and canoes and we loved to swim in the Irish Sea!!
It was here that I learned to swim, and to handle a canoe, and indeed to fish... I grew up loving the sea, and loving to go fishing, mostly trailing off the back of the boat, but also with a rod off the rocks.

One summer when I was 14 or 15 years old had been particularly hot; for some reason there were very few fish being caught... in fact the dads were a little frustrated – for by the middle weekend they hadn’t actually caught anything at all. My friend Liz and I asked if we could take the big canoe out and do a little fishing ourselves... and so we did.
This was a big wooden Canadian Canoe, wide bodied, very stable and ideal for trailing spinners and feathers. Out we went, into deep water and around the quiet cliffs and bays along the coast – it was truly idyllic... to our surprise after just a few minutes we realised we had caught something... and to our even greater surprise when we pulled the lines in we had each caught a couple of beautiful fat mackerel!!

We put the lines out again and repeated the manoeuvre and once again brought up mackerel... our excitement was tempered by the effort it took to stun them, but we carried on for a little while before turning and making our way back to the beach. The incredulity from our fathers, and indeed all of the men and brothers in our families was joy to see!! And within minutes the beach was void of men as they leapt into their own boats and canoes and headed out – really not wanting to be outdone by two girls!! The men did not catch anything that day – but the mackerel was delicious!!

Fishing is a combination of skill and luck – if the fish are there a good fisherman will make a catch, but if they are away somewhere else it doesn’t matter how skilled you are... Jesus was a craftsman - a carpenter; his undoubted skill was not really transferable to fishing, nevertheless this did not stop him from offering advice to the fishermen out in their boats.
Timing though makes all the difference.

Peter and his brothers and friends had already met Jesus. They had listened to Jesus speaking... listened to Jesus teaching – had witnessed Jesus healing. They knew this man was different. So when he approached their boat they were ready, they were ripe for the catch.
I suspect that a couthy old fisherman like Peter would not have responded so favourably to his suggestion had Jesus not been known; because fishermen know their trade, know how to read the water and know the right and wrong time of day – fish do not bite in the middle of the day – they come up to the shore region at evening when the water insects are at their most active so to put out and lower the nets at this time of day really was ludicrous.

For Peter – still at this point Simon of course – this was a pivotal moment – Jesus had been in the region for some time, teaching and doing amazing things and Simon had most likely been on the periphery for a while;
Then Jesus came to his home;
And Jesus healed his mother-in-law;
Jesus had healed many others too
For this stubborn old man life was about to change forever.

I am sure that it was no accident that it was Simon’s boat Jesus chose

Jesus – God,  knows each of us better than we know ourselves
God puts people, opportunities, events and experiences into our lives and it is up to us whether or not we respond

In God’s terms we are all fishers:
We can go out to life’s big ocean expecting nothing
Or hoping for that elusive catch against all the odds

The catch?
Well the catch could be another person; or an unexpected opportunity
It could be a second chance
Or a conversation that blesses and encourages

Truth is we don’t know until we take up the challenge
Take a risk
Step out in faith – uncertain of what it is we let ourselves in for
And when we do, life can change, realisation dawn – the penny drops.

Simon would become Jesus right hand man
And becoming one of God’s fishermen doesn’t mean you need to suddenly turn into a preacher or teacher – Simon Peter certainly didn’t! it took him years, and years to get to that point.
God’s fishers take up the opportunity to show God’s love
To share Jesus Good News
And make a difference – and we do it all the time without ever realising
We bring our children for baptism
We share our joy and our hope
We tell the stories of our faith
We will not always know the impact we have had – but God will know

The boat is our lives
Jesus asks to use our lives
To teach, to show, to challenge and to accept
To love, to care, to simply be;
Jesus comes in many guises
God sends people into our lives, for a moment, for a short time and for a lifetime
We may lose touch
We may never leave them
We may remember and we may forget
That is life
But when our paths cross things will happen...

It is for us to use those opportunities
To allow God into every conversation
To help others realise
For the penny to drop
Because when Jesus invites us to cast our nets wide
God knows what will happen!

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