31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus,] “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”
28Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
37On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43aAnd all were astounded at the greatness of God.
[Jesus said:] 27“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
1Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Everybody has an origin story, whether you’re a comic book superhero or a complex person in the flesh. I’ve always been fascinated with the stories of how they got from Point A to Point B and the many stops along the journey. I often wonder if they ever thought, when they began the journey, they would end up where they were. Nelson Mandela, for example, began his life as a cattle-boy, tending the herds outside his village of Qunu in British controlled South Africa. He was the first in his family to have a formal education, having been sent to a missionary run school at the age of 7. Eventually, after graduating, he found work as a mine worker, a clerk at a law office, before becoming a lawyer himself. He took up the cause of the African National Congress and their work to gain independence from the British and the racist apartheid policies. This was why he was arrested multiple times. Still, he persisted, he used what skills and tools he had available to him, and he continued to support the cause of South African independence and oppose systemic racial oppression. Once the apartheid government fell in April of 1994, he was elected president. Of course, this is just the highlight reel of his life – his story is much more complex than what I’ve just described – but the reality is that a cattle-boy became president of a newly liberated country. He lived by the principle of one of my favorite quotes from him: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived; it is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
I believe we have some other examples of this sort of story in our readings today. We find Isaiah, a man who feels utterly unclean and inadequate becomes a powerful prophet. Paul, the apostle who was once a sworn enemy of Christianity. And Simon Peter, James, and John, simple fisherman who came face-to-face with Jesus and accepted his invitation. Each of these people have found themselves somewhere they, by all rights, ought not to be. Yet, they are remembered and here, 2000+ years later, we are gathering and pondering how God used them and how they show us God’s love and glory.
This is just one more way in which God upends the way we think the world works. It is easy to look at the end results and believe that they were always that way – always a prophet, always a king, always a disciple, always powerful, always faithful – but we are reminded time and time again that God is in the business of surprising us.
Nowhere is that seen more clearly than in the person of Jesus Christ. Our gospel reading shows him turning the tables. He is preaching from a boat to the crowds who followed him and, when he is done, he tells the men kind enough to lend him their boat to throw in their nets. But the thing is that you didn’t fish during the day. They had just fished all night, Simon Peter tells him, and they caught nothing. In the heat of the day, fish swim deep to keep cool. It is only at night that they come up and are accessible to the nets the fisherman used. It made no sense to cast nets now – they were tired, they were hot, and they were probably just ready to sleep off their unsuccessful night. But they were as obedient as they were hospitable, and they cast their nets. What follows is so unexpected that they are immediately convinced of Jesus’ power and they drop everything and follow him.
It’s really easy to see this as some amazing test of faith, which I suppose it is. It’s easy to see them as giants of faith, which I suppose they are. But here’s the thing that’s really interesting. They already had the nets. They already had the words. They already had what they needed to witness the miracle of God’s love and God’s power and to proclaim what they’ve seen. When they felt God’s call and responded, it isn’t as though they changed overnight. They were the same people with the same gifts and the same weaknesses and the same prejudices. They were loved by God the same. The biggest change is that they now saw a new way to use their nets. “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
If being a Christian means anything, it means that we have a new way to use our nets. Christ died and rose for you before you could ever see it, though. You did nothing to earn that love or that life. It did not make you change to earn it. God did not wait until you asked the right way or lived the right life. In the waters of baptism, you are given this life. It is a gift and it is given freely. In the empty tomb of Christ, eternal life is yours. Growing in Christian faith, then, does not mean having more eternal life, but rather learning to live in eternal life now. It means throwing in your nets and trusting that God can and will do something with them.
So throw in your net, whether that net is really your voice or your passions. Throw in your net, whether that net is your sufferings or your joys. Throw in your net, whether you think that what you have or who you are is worth anything. Each of us is given ways to help and serve, just as each of us is helped and served by others. You have been given a place in the kingdom of God and you didn’t do anything to deserve it. And you have been given skills and tools to help make the kingdom known and felt in the world around you in concrete, tangible ways. You have a net and Christ invites you to throw it in, not to convert people or convince people to think like you, but to show people that the love you have, the grace and mercy you have been given, is for them, too.
Maybe your net looks like a dining room table, where people are welcomed and fed. Or perhaps your net looks like a skill or hobby that you can use. Or maybe your net is your very self as you care for others. But the result is the same – the love that you have been given is now yours to give to others. The grace of God, the mercy of God, the justice of God is yours and that is what we share when we throw in our nets.
It strikes me that the humble beginnings of Isaiah, Paul, Simon Peter, James, John, Nelson Mandela, and Christ himself is the story of all of us. Ultimately, it’s the story of grace in the midst of whatever may come. It’s the story of God redeeming those who are so often ignored – the poor, the uneducated, the outcast, and the unworthy. Each person, regardless of who they are and whether or not we value them, is priceless and treasured as a creation of God. And that is true of you – Christ’s love is yours, eternal life is yours, his presence in the midst of pain, suffering, joy, and happiness is yours. So do not be afraid. Throw in your net. Amen.
1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.