Fourth Sunday before Lent
Introduction and Call to Worship
The Lord calls us to know love and holiness, to turn from selfishness and to serve God. Let us prepare ourselves to joyfully worship the one who calls us with a holy and heavenly calling.
First Reading Isaiah 6:1-8 [9-end]
Isaiah sees a vision of the holy, almighty Lord and becomes aware of his own sinfulness. Forgiveness follows confession of sins. Calling follows forgiveness. In the longer reading, the prophet receives his commission to declare God’s word until just a holy remnant of Israel remains.
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Paul reminds the believers of the essentials: that Christ died for our sins, was buried and raised on the third day. He gives a thorough list of those to whom Christ appeared, finally including himself as “the least of the apostles”.
Gospel Luke 5:1-11
Jesus teaches the crowd from a boat at the lakeside, then he tells Peter to put out to the deep and throw in his net. The miraculous catch triggers Peter’s repentance, calling and discipleship.
HOMILY “They caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break." (Luke 5:6)
Our names are very important to our identity. We value them, our marker of who we are. Unlike in 1st century Palestine, where Jesus was known as the ‘carpenter’s son’, our names are not usually directly linked to a trade or the place of our birth. You may have thought that, having grown up in the fishing town of Hastings, where many people make their living out on the seas, that I would enjoy catching fish. But you would be wrong, because frankly I find fishing dull and tedious. I do enjoy my fish pond at the Vicarage but that is as far as I can go – everyone to their own! Now don’t misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with fishing as a profession, an important part of our cultural identity. Having fish to eat is an important part of our diet and fishing is a popular competitive sport too. And the principle behind this activity is not lost on Jesus, himself a carpenter by family trade and yet eager to utilise the diverse skills of his disciples to bring people to faith.
One of the joys of diversity is the way in which our various gifts, talents and abilities are used by God for the building up of his kingdom. We don’t need to like the same things or all do the same to be saved; we simply need to recognise our fragility and our sins as we turn to God who loves us and be willing to claim Jesus as our Saviour. Baptism is an obvious marker of this turning point in our lives, but we have an opportunity to confess our failures and seek the Lord’s reconciliation again and again each time we come to the Eucharist. Then, when we come forward to receive Holy Communion, Christ is present among us as he promised he would be, drawing each of us into the heart of God’s love and pouring the Trinity of love into our lives.
Therefore, the Eucharist, the liturgy reconciles. It points us beyond ourselves and where we are in our uniqueness to where God is in his graciousness. The Eucharist teaches, filled with Gospel inspiration and challenges, for teaching people was right at the heart of our Lord’s ministry, not least among his fishermen disciples. Jesus has patience as he instructs those around him; he demonstrates persistence. In today’s Gospel this leads to an instruction and practical example as Jesus asks Peter to take his fishing boat out and cast his net. Now, like the fishermen at Hastings who are out at night, Peter had laboured for hours already but this time he has caught nothing. He must have felt some frustration at being asked to perform this task once again, but nonetheless he does as our Lord asks and this time there is a massive haul, so much the nets nearly break. And I can tell you, the fishermen at Hastings take great care of their nets; they are their pride and joy, their very livelihoods. Damaging the net is as bad as not catching fish in the first place. Add in European fishing quotas, and catching too many fish today can lead to large fines! For Peter, such joy and amazement at the catch of fish soon turns to challenge. How will he deal with this situation before the nets tear? We are told the disciples signal to their partners in another boat to come and help them, which they do, but soon fill both boats, so that they begin to sink.
This for Peter is his moment of revelation as he sees God is at work in his life and that Jesus is more than just his friend or master, or even teacher, but his Lord! His response is dramatic as he recognises his unworthiness and asks Jesus to leave – it is all too much! Instead, Jesus reaches out to Peter with these beautiful words: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” (Luke 5:11)
Through this miracle, Jesus demonstrates who he really is, and we are reminded today that God is active and present in our world and our lives, even the dull or uninspiring parts of who we are and what we are about. Jesus has work for all people; fishermen included. In this moment Peter’s life is completely transformed as he is forgiven and called to service. Like our first bible reading from the prophet Isaiah, God is active in the world and our lives, eager to forgive us our failings and call us to serve Him and His Church: “Your guilt has departed, and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” (Isaiah 6: 7,8) Peter’s response is to leave everything and follow Jesus, and he is not alone, as many then and today still do.
The presence of Jesus changes everything and we need Jesus in the boat with us to forgive our failures and renew our hope. Remember how Peter does exactly what Jesus asks, even though he must have been somewhat sceptical. You see obedience to God always makes a difference, even if we have our doubts along the way. God calls us to service: in our places of work or study, in our homes and family life, in our moments of aloneness or despair, in our laughing and singing, crying and mourning. For God, who created the heavens, the earth and all things, who called the prophet by name and fishermen to be his disciples, is not confined by buildings or canon law or politics, or borders or Brexit for that matter! Jesus, God’s very presence in human form calls and sends us to be his people in the world today, and how very exciting that is. God chooses us – God has chosen you to be his disciple today! Therefore, our various gifts and talents, whatever they may be – fishermen or anything else – are needed by God for the building up of his Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven.
All three of our bible readings today follow a pattern: revelation, repentance and calling. Jesus is calling you to be his disciple today. Are you listening? Are you ready? Are you obedient to his call? Amen.
Our names are important as they are our vocations and skills. We are unique and called by God to use our gifts in our work and leisure.
We can and should bring our home and work problems to Jesus in prayer just as we should feel confident to share our faith outside the walls of the church in our daily living.
God speaks to us at work, at home, indeed anywhere. Are we, like Peter, willing to listen?
We should seek to listen to the Lord’s call and serve him in his Church and the world.