Sermon for Sunday 6 February 2022
Luke 5. 1-11
Jesus heals the wounds in our hearts. Jesus liberates our souls. Jesus dismantles the defences we have put up around our lives to keep ourselves safe. And He replaces these false temples with His life, and this gift of life comes in the form of a call, which we heard this morning in the call of Isaiah: I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send, Who will go for us? Here I am, I said, send me.
We don’t sort God out, he comes to sort us out; this is always unexpected, and it’s not always a gentle affair, sometimes it’s more like a storm at sea. God brings into our lives a peace and a joy we don’t think we deserve; a new experience, resurrection, communion, eternal life, those are the words we use. That’s what today’s Gospel is about, the wideness of God’s mercy, the impossibility of it all, symbolised by the unexpected catch of fish in deep water. Don’t be afraid of this, says Jesus to Peter, this is a sign of what God can do with you. This assurance comes in a language Peter can understand, that of fishing the sea. And so God’s sign of his infinite mercy always comes to you and me in language we can understand, in our lives as we are leading them, which is so often the time when we are not aware of God at all.
Depart from me, says Simon Peter, for I am a sinful man. The age old excuse, the one we use all the time: I’m not up to this, I don’t fully understand, I’m not sure I believe enough. In other words, we don’t trust ourselves to follow a vocation, which we know we’ve heard.
And what is God’s answer to that excuse? Jesus said to Simon, Put out into the deep. Do what is impossible. Trust what I say.
So wide is God’s mercy, so all embracing, so forgiving, that He calls us to proclaim in our lives the coming of the Kingdom of God. Today’s Gospel, the Miraculous Draught of Fishes as it is called, is a muddle of a story, but it calls you and me to apostolic service. And God will never give us anything we are unable to do. His promise is that you and I can do much more than we ever expected to do, when we put out into deep waters, when we dare to step beyond the boundaries we’ve set ourselves, beyond what we know.
Christianity is not about believing impossible things, but about living in a way we thought was impossible for us. Christianity is about flesh and blood, the beauty of this life, about joy and bitterness, about you and me today. One reason the Church doesn’t appeal to people today is our narrowness of vision, our false limits both of fundamentalism and of a secular liberalism, limiting what God can do, restricting where He goes, dividing when God unites, arguing what Jesus thinks about other people’s behaviour. Better to trust the God who calls you, the God who knows the secrets of your heart.
The clear example today of quiet and trusting obedience to God’s call is the Queen. Her 70 year rule must have seemed as unlikely in prospect as Peter setting out into deep water where nothing had been caught all night. The lifetime achievement of 70 years on the throne has depended on the humility of trusting in the wideness of God’s mercy, not his narrowness; uniting where others might divide; showing by her example that we can all respond in faith to God’s call. Whom shall I send, Who will go for us? Here I am, I said, send me. A chosen servant, says the Prayer Book, our Queen and Governor, and today in every pulpit in the Church of England, the nation’s gratitude to the Queen should be expressed. We shall do this at the end of the service when we repeat the Prayers for the Day of Accession.
The Lake of Gennesaret in our Gospel is the Sea of Galilee. It’s where Peter and his friends worked. It was there that Peter had his moment of divine disclosure, a sudden understanding as to who this Jesus is. He sees that God is present in Jesus, and that means that God walks among us. That’s the marvel, that’s the miracle, like finding our nets so full that we can not draw them up on our own.
We are all promised Galilee moments, whether we deserve it or not, times when God discloses his glory in our lives, transcending those boundaries, those false limits of our own. When that does happen, Jesus says, Don’t be afraid. Then bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.
Fr. Julian Browning