Luke 5: 1-11 ~ Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook ~ Feb 10, 2019
I don’t know about you, but I love watching a great magician perform their craft. A GOOD magician is a true show-person to behold. Truly graceful, elegant, amazing. And what they are good at is the mastery of deception. They have become incredibly effective in their craft of distracting their audience…getting them to pay attention to one thing…while they are actually doing another. They then waive their magic wand, yet another part of the distraction, and ‘viola’ they pull a rabbit out of a hat, or they saw the lady in half, or a person vanishes from the cube. And we behold…magic…a miracle is performed right in front of our eyes.
In the text we consider, it is listed among several genres of scripture. One category is that this text is listed among the many miracle stories in scripture. And this text truly is one of miraculous proportions, but I would like to suggest this morning that the miracle we customarily focus on is only a part of a collection of miracles before us in this story. In fact, I would like to suggest that our traditional focus on the miracle of the overwhelming catch of fish is actually distracting us from the other miracles that are occurring. It is natural, just like in the case with the magician, we are paying so much attention to one thing we lose sight of the others. In the text, the two boats are overflowing with fish and we miss the other miracles that are simultaneously occurring. There is a lot going on in this text. It contains a tapestry of miracles for us to uncover. So, let’s (to go with the story) let’s go fishing…fishing for miracles.
What I am going to suggest that we need to take for our fishing trip, however, is something that most of us tend to have lost or forgotten a long time ago. What I am speaking about just left a few moments ago along with our young people when they headed off to Children’s Church. What we need to reclaim is the ‘child-like wonder’ that they still have. That is one of the true gifts of an intergenerational community like a church. It is a gift because, as you know, they teach us as much about faith as anyone else. The Zen Buddhist tradition call this the “beginner’s mind” or ‘shoshin’ and it invites us to experience life in a way that is unburdened by the past and by previous knowledge. When we cultivate it, we free ourselves from expectation. We experience greater anticipation. We become more alert and constantly taking in new information and experiences. We are renewed moment by moment. I think this is what Jesus was speaking about when he said: “whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will not enter it” (see Mt.18, Mk.10, Lk.18).
In this morning’s text, Luke clearly wants to present Jesus as a miracle worker. Versions of this story are also in the two other synoptic gospels ~ Matthew and Mark, yet they are presented quite early in the story and the emphasis is not on this aspect of Jesus. Luke, on the other hand, presents this miracle story following miracle after miracle after miracle: Jesus offers ministry in his hometown of Nazareth, exorcism in a Capernaum synagogue, healing Simon’s mother-in-law, further healings and exorcisms, preaching tours that are causing a miraculous growth in his following. Here at the end of only the fourth chapter, the crowds have grown and they are now pressing in on him to the point that he has to get into a boat to speak. And we see this amazing miracle of the great catch. There are, however, other miracles that were occurring as well.
Did you see the other miracles too? Some miracles are not as easy to see; but, they are equally important to pay attention to as well. Did you see the miracles…the miracle of a breath of fresh air being taken into one’s lungs; of a glass of clean water poured out to drink; of a warm, safe place to rest our weary head. Did you see…the miracle of a flower blossoming; of a bird flying; of a squirrel scurrying. Did you see…the miracle of friendship, of care for another, the miracle of love. Did you see…the miracle of family helping; of community growing; of church welcoming. I was sitting on this chancel last weekend as one of the World Interfaith Harmony Week speakers and I was thinking of the miracle of this beautiful interfaith unity that was present. Nine different world religions gathered listening to one another, in harmony, it was truly a miracle.
And what about the text, did you see the other miracles there too? The great catch of fish was one, but what about the others? What about the miracle of these young fishers who were deeply committed to their families? The miracle that they didn’t give up, but stayed at sea, kept fishing and fishing so they could bring home food to provide for their family. Arriving home, they were tired and frustrated, yet they arrived home with enough determination to clean their nets and prepare for a better day that would come. Did you see the miracle of Simon, James and John? Their committed love for their families? Have you met people like this before? People so committed to their families…what a beautiful miracle to behold.
Or what about the miracle of Simon’s faithful commitment to Jesus. To Jesus’ request to take him out from shore, Simon had every right to say ‘no way Jesus…I’ve fished all night…I’m going to bed’. Yet Simon followed Jesus’ challenging call. He took Jesus out so that he could speak to the masses. The next miracle is Simon’s response to return back and go for another fishing trip ~ “put your nets out into the deep water”. Once again, Simon had every right to decline Jesus’ request. Jesus didn’t have sufficient nautical knowledge to guide the boat out from shore is now telling Simon how to fish! The miracle is that Simon follows Jesus’ guidance. Have you met people of faith like this before? People so committed to their faith in Christ that their lives are living witness to Christ, their lives so connected to Christ’s living body, that Christ is truly present in them and through them…what a beautiful miracle to behold.
Or what about the miracle of Simon, James and John leaving two boatloads of fish behind and following Jesus. To those fishers, this catch represented wealth, security and comfort. Yet, in the presence of Jesus, they realized that the true wealth, the true security, the true comfort was found ~ not in clinging to the boatloads of fish, but rather leaving the ways of the world behind and being embraced the Way of Christ ~ the unfolding Kin-dom of God. Jesus will later teach that it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God”. The miracle in this story is found in how these three realize this gift of life that Jesus offers before he has even taught it.
We are surrounded…surrounded by God’s miracles. Real-life miracles reminding us how truly good God is. Sometimes we are so distracted looking for the big ones that we lose sight of the miracle which is you…your life…this very moment. The blessed child of God who you are. May we open our eyes to this miraculous life that God blesses us with. And may we share in furthering this miracle of God’s Kin-dom that is unfolding around us and within us.