Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling picture
February 6, 2022

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling

Luke 5:1-11

Last Sunday, we were in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It was 75 degrees that day  I found an English-speaking service and was looking forward just to sitting in the pew, taking in the readings, the sermon, the prayers. At 10:30 when the procession entered with priest and two altar girls, and the choir started singing in Spanish, I realized we were in the wrong place. I did a quick check of the website and realized that we were in St. Francis not St. John’s. I was disappointed because I really wanted to understand what was going on—to hear a word–but it was too late to walk to the other church.

We decided to settle in.  Being out of my depth with the language, I started paying attention to other things.  The little girl three pews ahead of us pulled on the caution tape that separated the pews for COVID safety.  It wiggled up and down the seven pews that were connected.  The girl in front of us started grabbing the tape to stop it from wiggling.  The two went back and forth through, a little war of catch and release during the entire second reading. The deacon that led the prayers forgot to turn the mic on until the third petition.  The woman in front of us had the whole mass memorized and sang with gusto.  People came and went.  Some paid attention; some didn’t. The offering didn’t get finished in the allotted time but kept going as the priest started blessing the elements.  The priest seemed genuine as he spoke.

At one point, I got tears in my eyes because I had this joyful realization that the people of God, gathering on the day of resurrection are, indeed, bound together, caught up in a net of grace that we never quite understand, as we come and go, or fight over the COVID boundaries, or forget the details that we promised we would remember.  Everybody who shows up is fishing for something, casting a net for meaning or connection, forgiveness or justice.  And mostly we show up at the wrong time and place or misunderstand the simple directions that were left 2000 years at the lakeshore.

“Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”

They respond just like we do when faced with waters too deep to face: “We’ve been trying so hard doing the things we know, and we haven’t caught anything.  How do you think even deeper water is going to help?”

Yet on that deep water, they haul in an abundance.

Maybe that’s all the gospel promise we need to hear right now:  From the deep water, we will haul in an abundance.

Jesus is about to call them into ministry—a ministry of healing and reconciliation, of feeding and making community, of dying to self and rising to something new.  Calling them to live their lives like he did.  Calling us from the deep waters of baptism to be Jesus-people in world that steadfastly refuses to be caught by grace, love, vulnerability, or non-violence.  Called to be Jesus-people in a world that trusts power and weapons, manipulation and lies, early morning pounding on the door with guns drawn.  Called to be Jesus-people in communities that are unjust and put the needs of the strongest first.  Called to be Jesus-people in deep water.

Note: Jesus does not call them without first giving them a glimpse of abundance, filling their boats with this surprising catch.

My husband tells a story of going fishing with his grandpa.  One morning, after they had breakfast in town, he took Darin to a special place on the trout stream.  Under the summer sun of Southeast Minnesota, Darin cast his rod and pulled in fish after fish, one right after another.  They had to start throwing them back because it was too many.  It was amazing.  His grandpa laughed in delight the whole time.

Only years later did he learn that grandpa knew the day and time when the fish hatchery was going to restock the trout stream.

It is no accident that God has called us to be Jesus-people in this moment; that God has brought us to this time of deep water, when we’re tired and unsure having worked long hours to survive, telling us, despite it all, to cast our nets deeper.  There is an abundance that is even now swimming under the surface.  There is a catch that can fill the creation with sustenance.  There are people who yearn to be caught.

As it turns out, that the church is grandpa, who knows where to go, that trusts that God has just filled the whole stream with abundance, that deep water is the place of biggest catch ever, where even death is turned into life, and every one of us is caught and held and loved.

And the whole time, God is laughing with delight.