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It’s important to remember that most of the disciples were simple fisherman. In the Gospel this morning, Simon and his partners, James and John, had spent a whole night fishing. But they had caught nothing and now they’re washing their nets by the shore.

It was then that our Lord stepped into Simon’s boat. Stepped into that pulpit surrounded by water and preached a sermon on the grace of God and His glorious kingdom that was to be extended throughout the whole world. 

After that sermon, Jesus asked Simon to do something that would have looked foolish to the crowds and all there. Asked him to paddle out to the middle of the lake and drop his nets right in the middle of the day. Imagine Simon’s surprise, maybe even annoyed expression; he’d already fished through the night and caught nothing. And you don’t have to be a fishing expert to know that you fish early morning and evening – and that you don’t fish in the middle of the lake but along the shore.

But Simon already had seen a few things from our Lord. Jesus had miraculously healed his mother-in-law, after all, and comforted his family in their time of need. So at the same time, somewhat reluctant and yet faithful, Simon has that great phrase in response to Jesus: “But at your word, I will let down the nets.”

You know the rest of the miracle. When those nets were lowered, they filled to the breaking point with silverly flopping fish – schools and schools of them. Two boats so filled with fish that they began to sink.

Simon’s joy at this miraculous catch changes quickly to fear as he realizes who it is exactly standing in the boat with him. He realizes it’s the Lord. The very one who created the heavens and the earth and all within it – including the scaly treasures filling up Simon’s boat.

When Simon understands it’s the Lord, he hits the deck. Falls to his knees. And confesses his sins to the God of heaven. And that kind and gracious Lord showed him mercy. Forgave him all his sins right then and there in that little fishing boat. And comforted him with those blessed words of the Gospel, “Don’t be afraid.” Don’t be afraid, Simon, because I’m going from the wood of this boat to the wood of the cross to be the world’s redeemer. You’ll have nothing to fear when I slay death by dying. You’ll have nothing to fear when the vault of heaven opens by My empty tomb. And what’s more, you’re not going to be some casual observer in all this. You’ll be at the front lines, first among the apostles, and from now on you’ll be catching men. Preaching this Gospel, making disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And I’ll be with you through it all.

So what can we learn today? First is this. Jesus meets us in ordinary circumstances. He encountered Peter in the act of fishing. Elisha, in our first reading this morning, was summoned when he was plowing his field. The Lord encountered Matthew at the tax collector’s post, and Paul on the Damascus road. And our Lord encounters you too – right where you are in your day-to-day ordinary life. And let none of us miss Him where He comes under the appearance of such ordinary things as the waters of Baptism, and the bread and wine of the Holy Supper. Considering all this should give us some real hope, because we too are ordinary and weak, and yet Jesus calls us by name to extraordinary holiness, and He is the source of our strength, our hope, and our joy.

Second lesson we might glean today is this: We trust in the Word of Jesus, even when it conflicts with our experience, our wisdom, or own common sense. Simon Peter and company had been fishing through the whole night. They had been doing it right. Simon was asked to do something foolish in the eyes of the world. Go out to the middle of the lake in the middle of the day and go fishing. Simon’s response, translated here, may sound a little ho-hum. “At your word, Jesus, I will let down the nets.” But it’s really a thing of beauty, because it’s obedience to the Word of Christ. It’s submission to the authority of the words of Jesus. And that’s a beautiful thing. “Jesus, because you said it, I will do it.” That’s powerful! And frankly, on this side of glory, where faith is concerned, this is just about as good as it gets. Trusting in the Word of Christ alone and living according to that Word.

Jesus, because You say so, I will let down the nets. I hope you can see the connection here with your own life, your own vocation, and the time and place to which Christ has called you! Jesus, because You say so I will do what You say. Even when my life is confusing. Even when I’m overwhelmed. Even when many of my friends, my family members even, and even the whole culture is telling me to go a different direction. But because You say so, I will instead follow You. I will gladly do what You command and trust in You.

With my money, with my body, my life, my love, with all I have. I will order my life according to the authority of Your word. I will not give in to despair, I will guard my post, I will serve at my work, I’ll care for my children, I will lighten the burden of my neighbor. I will follow where Christ my Lord leads me. In short, I will go fishing. And I will leave all the results to God alone.

The third lesson you might consider this morning from the miraculous catch of fish is this. We cannot let our sinfulness disrupt our love and relationship with God. Simon Peter, when he realized that the Lord of heaven was standing in his boat, cried out, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Now it’s right to feel unworthy in the presence of God, but this sense of unworthiness we cannot allow to draw us away from God. Instead the very opposite. It ought to draw us more closely to Him who loves us and has given His life for us.

Despite our sinfulness, Jesus still calls us His friends, beginning on the day of your Baptism. Even though Peter said, “Depart from me…” he spent the rest of his life following Jesus. And sure he sinned, in the courtyard of the high priest. But Christ restored him. And it sure wouldn’t be the last time. But through it all he followed Jesus. Even to his own cross, from which he begged to be crucified upside down, not counting himself worthy to die in the same manner as our Lord.

Today the Lord called fisherman to be fishers of men. The sea is the world, the fish are the people, the net is the preaching of the Gospel, and the boat is the church – the ark of salvation to which you belong.

So the miraculous catch of fish! What can you bring home with you? Well, first the Lord seeks us and calls us in our daily vocations. He calls us to newness of life through Baptism, Absolution, and His Supper. Second, we learn to trust in the authority of the Word of Christ – to do what He tells us, even when it contradicts all human wisdom, remembering that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God stronger than men. Third, we learn to let our sinfulness not drive us away from God but more closely to Him – trusting in His mercy. Simon Peter invited Jesus into his boat and so should we. Into our hearts, our homes, and places of work, acknowledging that the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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