Pastor Cathy Daharsh
I grew up on Lake Michigan in Sheboygan. I was lucky to see the sunrise on the lake each morning, watch the boats from my window, and enjoy the changing waters daily. I definitely took that for granted growing up and I wish I could still have that view.
Lots of fishing happened on Lake Michigan. Although, I didn’t particularly like fishing. I didn’t have the patience for it, but I did enjoy hearing fish stories.
I would walk with my friend Tandi down the long pier and see people patiently trying to catch fish for fun and sometimes for their family's meal. We would also see boats launch daily to supply fish for local businesses and see charter boats for entertainment.
One summer, when I was about 7 years old, my neighbor, Mr. Ellinger, came over to our house as the sun was starting to go down. He invited my friend, Tandi and I to see what he caught. He was so excited and wanted to share the good news with us. We were excited for him too, which made us all the more interested in hearing the story of how he caught his fish. He caught a fish that was almost as many inches as we were tall. He hung the fish on a piece of wood and had Tandi and I hold the wood over our shoulders as we held up the fish for a picture. I wish I could show the picture, but my parents weren’t able to find it. I remember the fish being heavy and stinky! The fish was caught after a long day of fishing. Mr. Ellinger had basically given up, but to his surprise he caught the biggest fish of this life.
In our Gospel reading this week, we hear a fish story about Peter and the others going fishing with Jesus, and they were not happy about it. They’d been fishing all night and had caught nothing, so they were at the docks cleaning their nets.
Jesus had drawn such a big crowd that he decided to teach from a boat. He asked Peter to help him out. When the teaching was over, Jesus wanted to go fishing. They weren’t interested. It had been a long night of nothing caught. What was the point? Nevertheless, Peter went along with Jesus, and it turned into a great fish story with their boats so full that they almost sank.
It was an incredible story, fish to eat and fish to sell. But Peter had a weird reaction. “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Jesus told him not to be afraid; soon he’d be fishing for people. Going fishing with Jesus can be scary and not exactly what you expect.
Fishing can be so peaceful and relaxing. A day at the beach, quite literally. Maybe hanging out in a little boat, just you and Jesus. Just waiting for a little tug on the line as you visit and talk, take a snooze in the sunshine, and a throw a few fish in a bucket. Then something happens, and your boat is so full it almost sinks, or there is a huge fish the size of young girls like Mr. Ellinger’s fish.
How does that happen? Peter certainly was taken off guard. To be honest, we have reason to fear, too. If we ever thought that having faith would make life easy, it doesn’t take long to get over that idea. God calls us to love, and sometimes love ends badly. God calls us to give, and sometimes our gifts are rejected. God calls us to welcome the stranger, and sometimes the stranger is stranger than we expected.
God shows us how to fish for people, to care for them, to walk with them. Sometimes those people leave, or are taken from us, or they hurt us. Fishing for people is no afternoon of drifting on the lake. It can be serious business, and it can be a boat so full of answered prayers it almost sinks.
This wasn’t at all what Peter and the others had in mind. But when you go fishing with Jesus, you never know what you’ll catch. Amen.