Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany Grace Episcopal Church of West by wulinqing


									                      Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany
              Grace Episcopal Church of West Feliciana Pari9sh,
                             St. Francisville, LA

                              by Deacon Peggy Scott

        Epiphany is a richly-textured season of the Church Year when celebrate
God’s manifestation of his own being and power in the person of Jesus. We read
the stories of how the glory of God and the power of God are made visible to
people who will bear witness to what they have seen and heard - the Magi who
visit the child Jesus, Simeon and Anna who receive Jesus at his presentation in the
temple, John the Baptist who baptizes Jesus, and an ever growing number of
people who hear Jesus speak and see him perform deeds of power and talk about
what they have seen and heard. The stories of Epiphany consistently sound the
note of astounding awe over new things which are happening at unexpected times
and places and in unexpected ways. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus draws near
to an unimpressive group of people and breaks into their lives in such a profound
and unexpected way that they decide to follow him wherever he goes. It is a fish
story, but it is really not a story about fish. It is a story about a person who knows
how to fish for a purpose greater than any harvest that fishing can produce.

        When Jesus arrives at the seashore, a crowd gathers around him. The
crowd wants to hear the word of God from Jesus. Simon and his business partners
want to clean their fishing nets after a long night of unsuccessful fishing. They are
most likely tired, dirty, smelly, hungry, discouraged or worried about how they are
going to stay in business and feed their families. Jesus wants to proclaim the
coming of the kingdom of God. He begins by getting Simon’s attention. Before
he does anything about the crowd, Jesus calls out to Simon and directs him to
move the boat out a little way from the shore. Amazingly, Peter does what he
says, without question or complaint. Jesus sits in the boat and teaches the crowds.
Presumably Simon listens, because when Jesus speaks to him a second time,
telling him to take the boat out into deeper water, Simon addresses Jesus as
“Master” – a typical title that a student would use when addressing a teacher who
speaks with authority. But this time Simon objects. “Master, we have worked all
night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
(Lk 5:5) Surely Simon would rather have gone home for some rest and food after
working all night long and then listening to a long sermon by Jesus. Surely Simon
thinks that he understands fishing better than this itinerant teacher does. But
Simon is caught in the boat with Jesus, and when he does let down those nets, they
are filled with an amazing quantity of fish, more than what two boats can haul to
shore. The labor of Simon has produced nothing, but the command of Jesus has
produced for Simon more than he could have ever expected or imagined.

        Simon is completely astounded. When Simon sees all of those fish, his
immediate response is “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Simon’s
reaction to Jesus is consistent with how others in his faith tradition had responded
when they have been confronted with the manifestation of God’s glory. His
response is similar to that of Isaiah when he is given a vision of the Lord sitting on
a throne, high and lofty. “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips,
and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the
Lord of hosts!” Simon was no more prepared for his encounter with Jesus that
Isaiah was prepared for his vision of the holy God of Israel. And the result of the
encounter is that Simon sees the extreme difference between who he is and who
Jesus is. Jesus is powerful. Simon is a simple fisherman who cannot catch any
fish. Jesus is holy. Simon is sinful. The difference between Simon and the
person and the power that has been manifested in front of him is profound. Simon
instinctively recognizes this and begs Jesus to go away. But Jesus refuses and he
responds to Simon’s words of despair. “Do not be afraid; from now on you will
be catching people.” And Simon and his fishing partners leave everything behind
and follow Jesus.

        This dramatic encounter between Jesus and Simon reveals a complex
pattern of interrelated and interwoven parts. During this encounter, Jesus calls
Simon by name; Jesus enters into conversation with him and joins him at his daily
occupation. Jesus also proclaims the Word of God. And Jesus performs a deed of
power that is directly related to the need of the person who has drawn near to him.
As a commercial fisherman who has caught no fish, Simon needs fish – not bread
or clothing or medicine. And this simultaneous interaction of ordinary
conversation and activity with the person of Jesus, of proclaiming and hearing the
Word of God and of performing and witnessing unexpected deeds of power – it is
all of this together which manifest the glory and faithfulness and love of a mighty
and high God who cares for the lowly and who makes good his purpose for them.

       Today’s gospel reading is a fish story, but it is not about fishing. It is about
the revelation of God to his people and his drawing them near to him – near
enough to be in the same boat with them. When I was a child I always looked
forward to going fishing with my Dad. Fishing for us was a very simple affair – a
cane pole, a bucket of live bait, a small net in case we caught a really big catfish.
When my awkward attempts to cast the line ended up with the line hopelessly
tangled in the trees around the edge of the lake, my Dad used the strength of his
arm to yank the line free. When I turned up my nose at wiggly bait and smelly
fish, my Dad firmly insisted that I learn to bait the hook and to remove it from the
fish’s mouth by myself. When my hook would break off on some submerged
debris, my Dad would tie another one onto the line. When I would squirm and
talk, my Dad with teasing good humor would tell me that the fish wouldn’t bite
unless I were still and quiet. When I did what my Father told me to do, I would
sometimes catch a fish. When I really listened to the sounds and studied the lake
and the woods around it, I came to see and to appreciate these things in the same
way that my Father did. When I went fishing with my Dad, I learned a lot more
about him and how he saw the world than I did about anything else.

        This is the kind of school that Simon goes to when he decides to leave
everything behind and follow Jesus. He will spend several years learning about
Jesus, following him from place to place, participating in his daily activities,
listening to him speak over and over again, seeing him heal the sick and welcome
the unclean and confront the religious teachers of his day. Jesus and Simon will
argue and disagree. Yet Jesus will establish a relationship with Simon and the
other disciples, a relationship in which they come to know Jesus as their Lord, the
one who has the authority to direct and to order their lives day by day by day.
And when this relationship of lordship has been fully established, when the time is
fulfilled, these same disciples will watch with absolute terror as Jesus gives up all
of the comfort and protection and companionship of his disciples, how Jesus gives
up all of his authority and his power, for a solitary walk to death on a cross on a
hill outside of Jerusalem. Simon is so terrified by these developments that he will
run away and hide and then deny that he ever knew this Jesus with whom he had
lived and worked for so long. Simon will fail at discipleship just as he had at
fishing. But even after Simon’s dismal performance as a disciple, the risen Jesus
will find him and ask, “Simon, do you love me?” And Simon will say “Yes, Lord,
you know that I do.” And it will be love – love given so freely by Jesus to Simon
even though he did not deserve it, love that Simon will receive from Jesus and
return to Jesus, love that Simon learned from Jesus how to give to others – that
will eventually allow Simon to become a person who would draw others to Jesus.

       What Jesus does for Simon Peter and the crowd at the seashore establishes
a pattern for what Jesus will continue to do throughout his ministry and for what
Jesus will command his disciples to do as well. Jesus engages in the ordinary
occupations of human persons. He speaks the word of God to them. He performs
deeds of power that will feed them, clothe them, heal them, and set them free from
the chains which bind them. And he will invite others to do the same - even
though the directions which Jesus gives to them may initially seem to be
inconvenient or untimely or unreasonable.

        God is still a work in the world drawing all people to himself – catching or
capturing people for his kingdom. He uses us to do it. To the extent that we dwell
in his presence in the routines of our daily lives, to the extent that we speak his
words and execute deeds of power that feed the hungry, heal the sick and establish
systems of justice and mercy on earth, we make visible his presence on earth. And
it will be through all of these activities together that God will form us into a people
who can draw near to God and who can invite others to draw near to him as well.

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