Seward United Methodist Church
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
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Called Up for Service

Isaiah 6:1-8 and Luke 5:1-11

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all include the story of Jesus calling the four fishermen disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, which Luke calls here by its other name, Lake Gennesaret. But only Luke includes the story of the miraculous catch of fish. Some Bible scholars think maybe Luke is putting together two stories that happened on separate occasions. Other Bible scholars think Matthew and Mark just left that part of the story out because it wasn’t important to their message.

Jesus is teaching on the shores of Galilee. He goes out into Peter’s boat to make it easier for him to address the crowd. We know that this happened in the morning, because Peter and his partners were cleaning and mending their nets. On the Sea of Galilee, fishing was done at night, and the nets were cleaned and inspected in the morning. Most fishermen, like Peter and his partners, belonged to small cooperative operations. Fishing provided a good living, compared to most occupations in first century Galilee, but the start up costs were quite high. Namely, you had to buy a boat. And as we all know, by definition, a boat is a hole in the water that you throw your money into.

When Jesus finishes teaching, he instructs Peter to go out into the deep water and let down the nets. Jesus provides a miraculously large catch of fish, but Peter also has a part to play in the miracle. He has to be willing to trust Jesus. It would have been easy for him to say, “It’s the wrong time of day to catch fish.” Or, “I’m too tired to fool around with this now. I’ve worked all night.” Or, “Jesus, you stick to teaching God’s word and I’ll stick to fishing.” But he was willing to obey Jesus.

How often do we miss out on God’s abundant provision because we aren’t willing to try? We feel the urging of the Holy Spirit, but we find reasons to resist. “We’ve never done it that way before.” Or, “I’ve already got too many things to do.” Or, the classic, “It won’t work, so why bother trying.”

But God does provide. They make a great catch of fish, a miracle of abundance. Several of Jesus’ miracles were miracles of abundance: The water into wine, the feeding of the 5000. There is also a multiplication of creatures, which has echoes of Moses and the plagues on Egypt, when God produced vast numbers of flies, gnats, frogs, and locusts. The prophets Elijah and Elisha also did miracles of abundance.

Then Jesus calls Peter into his service. The story teaches us several key principles of God’s calling, which we see echoed in other biblical stories of calling.

First, God calls people out of their ordinary lives into being a part of his extraordinary work. Peter and his coworkers probably had no idea this would be the last day of their regular work as fishermen. Jesus just showed while they were doing their daily routine and called them into the work of the Kingdom of God.

In the Kingdom of God, there is no division between sacred and secular. The Kingdom of God extends into all of life. In our minds, we often create a division between sacred and secular and imagine that our daily work has no part to play in what God is doing. But God is present in all of life. God is no less concerned about what we do Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, than he is with what we do at 11 AM Sunday. God wants us to be disciples of Christ in every arena of life.

Often it seems God calls people with expertise in another area of life to serve his Kingdom. God called Moses and David from being shepherds of sheep to being shepherds of people. They already knew something about leading a flock. Isaiah was a palace scribe before God called him to be a prophet. He already had a way with words, which is evident in his prophecies. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen. Jesus needed their knowledge and experience for his work.

Second, no one is worthy of God’s calling. God doesn’t call us because we deserve it. Peter felt inadequate to serve Jesus, and all of us should feel inadequate to serve God.

This is one of the most common parts of call stories that we find in the Bible. Whenever God shows up to call someone into his service, they always have a reason why they should not be in his service. Isaiah said, “I’m a sinner who lives among a bunch of sinners.” Jeremiah said, “I’m too young.” Moses said, “I don’t talk real good.” Peter said, “I’m too much of a sinner to be with you.”

God’s calling is always unmerited. None of us deserve to be called. And it’s not about our adequacy to be called; it’s always about God’s sufficiency. Unless we know we are inadequate, then we can’t receive God’s power to work through us.

When I was younger and first felt called into pastoral ministry, I felt inadequate. I remember praying and saying something along the lines of, “You don’t want me to do

this. I’m not capable of serving you.” And in one of the only times in my life when I really believe I heard God speaking directly to me, I heard a voice say back, “It’s not about what you can do, but about what I can do through you.”

I still feel inadequate to the calling. I don’t think I’m a good enough Christian, a good enough pastor. I know my life isn’t everything it should be. But in the end, that’s good. If I did feel competent to serve God, then I wouldn’t seek his power and help.

The third principle of God’s calling we see in here is that it requires a reversal of priorities and a reordering of commitments. Peter and his companion left all they had to follow Jesus. They left their homes, their families, their livelihood, and their comfort zones. Their lives were changed forever at that moment.

And this is a challenge for us. Often times, we want to serve God in some way, but we don’t want anything in our lives to change. We don’t want to change careers. We don’t want to move. We don’t want to rearrange our priorities.

But I find God is faithful. I don’t know what my life would have been like if I had not answered God’s calling. But I’m glad I did. Shortly after I accepted God’s calling, I started dating Sharon. Shortly after that, she felt called into the ministry. And she has been a wonderful partner in this life. God brought someone into my life who was just the right person for what he was calling me to do. So even if following God’s call costs us greatly, I think the rewards are more than sufficient.

Finally, God calls us to serve him, to serve others, and to call them into the life of discipleship.

In the Old Testament, God called shepherds on several occasions: Moses, David, and Amos were all shepherds. Shepherds knew how to lead a flock. Here he calls fishermen. Fishermen know how to catch. God needs fishermen and not just shepherds. He needs people to lead his flock, but he also needs people to cast their nets and bring others into his covenant community. All of us, as followers of Christ, are also called to be fishers of people, to bring others into covenant life we share.

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