Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Have any of you had the opportunity
to go to Israel? I know that some of you have. I was fortunate enough to go on
a fourteen day study tour back in 1999. One of the reasons that this story this
morning resonates with me is because I was there.
We began our tour in Galilee. We
spent our first couple of nights in a vacation village on the Sea of Galilee …
or … Lake Gennesaret. We slept in little cottages and ate in the dining room.
The food was amazing! The hummus was incredibly fresh, and on the salad bar
they had a dill/yogurt dip that was out of this world.
A few of us even went for swim in
Galilee/Gennesaret. The “sea” is very shallow along the shore. I had to walk
way out from the beach before the water level even came up to my waist.
On the second day, we climbed aboard
a replica of a first century fishing boat and went across to Capernaum and ate
at a restaurant that served St. Peter’s fish. The boat ride was not long. The
lake is only eight miles wide. From the boat, we were better able to see the
contours and characteristics of the coastline. It was rocky and craggy with
little inlets all around the shore.
And it was in one of those little
inlets that our passage for this morning likely took place.
As we heard in the Children’s Lesson
a couple of weeks ago, Jesus visited the synagogue in Capernaum. He preached
and taught, and he also performed a number of healings. People brought their
ill to Jesus hoping that he would cure them. And then at some point Jesus knew
that he had to move on, but the people pleaded with him to stay. He told them
that he could not. He had to bring the message of the Gospel to people across
We can imagine that the crowd that
was following Jesus that day was made up of some of the people that had been in
the synagogue. They pressed in hoping to hear more. Perhaps they were still
bringing their sick with them hoping that Jesus would cure them. In order to be
better heard, Jesus climbed into a fishing boat and pushed out from shore. The
little inlet would have created a natural amphitheater, the sound traveling
easily across the surface of the water.
And then, as we heard, after he was
done speaking, he asked Simon Peter to push out to the deep water and drop his
nets. Clearly, Jesus was done speaking, but he was not done teaching.
We do not know if Simon Peter and
the others knew who Jesus was. But he was being followed by a crowd of people.
Obviously, there was something special about that man. Peter initially objected
stating that they had toiled all night with no results. However, Peter relented
… according to Jesus’ word … meaning that Jesus was responsible for whatever
happened … and the result was the miraculous catch of fish!
When I was in Israel, we visited a
museum in which archeologists were working to salvage a first-century fishing
boat that had been discovered in the mud. The boat was approximately
twenty-three feet long and eight or nine feet wide. It would take a lot of fish
to nearly sink that boat. The catch of fish was miraculous! It was a
The power of the event caused Simon
Peter to drop to his knees and proclaim his sinfulness …. his unworthiness. To
which Jesus replied, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will be catching
Imagine what that moment must have
Imagine that you are Peter. You are
tired from a long night’s labor. You are exhausted and you are frustrated
because you did not catch any fish. You will have nothing to bring to market.
You and your crew have worked your whole lives as fishermen. Every day you
perform the same chores … loading the nets, pushing out to deep water, dropping
and pulling nets over and over again, going back to shore, unloading, cleaning
and repairing the nets to be ready for the next day.
And then Jesus asks you to do that
same something that you have done thousands of times before. But this time, the
result is completely different! Not just from the previous night’s work, but
different from anything that you had ever seen!
How would you respond in that
And now … imagine that you are not
one of the fishermen, but rather you are one of the crowd on the shore. Imagine
that you followed Jesus after he left the synagogue. You pressed closer as he
began to speak from the back of the boat. He spoke with such power and
authority. And then he stopped.
He asked the fisherman to put out
into the deep water. You lean this way and that trying to see what was going
on. Can you see anything? Can you hear anything? Maybe you can see the surface
of the water roil and boil with the activity of the fish. Maybe you can see the
men straining to pull in their nets. You see the other boat going out to help,
and then watch the two boats return overflowing with fish.
What is it with this Jesus? How is
it that such amazing things happen in his presence?
Why did you follow him out there? Were
you just curious? Or were you searching for something? Hoping for something?
In Luke’s account of the call of the
disciples, we never heard Jesus say, “Follow me.” He simply declares, “From now
on you will be catching people.”
He does not need to extend the invitation.
He knows what is working in their hearts. He knows that they will follow.
How could they not?
What about you? What about me? What
about we? How could we not follow as well?
But … what does it mean for us to
push out into the deep water?
A few weeks ago, I shared the story
with you about how I nearly drowned when I was ten years old. I went swimming
right here in Ocean Park when there was a storm approaching and got caught in a
riptide. I was being pulled farther and farther out until someone swam out and
pulled me to shore.
For years after that event, I never
swam at high tide. I was terrified of the undertow. I was afraid of the deep
water. Whenever someone asked if I wanted to go to the beach, I would always
check the tide chart. So you see, I did not mind the shallow water of Galilee.
But Jesus knew that one does not
catch fish in the shallow water. You have to drop your nets where the water is
Too often, churches … and the
Christians that gather there … want to stay in the shallow water. It is nice
there. You can wade, dip your toes, maybe even set up your beach chair and let
the gentle waves lap at your feet. It is safe in the shallow water. You can see
the bottom and you are close to shore.
However, sometimes we need to push
off from the shore. We have to venture out into the uncertainty of the deep
water. We have to be willing to do things in a different way.
Let me point out that Jesus never
told Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John that they were doing anything
incorrectly. He never implied that they did not know how to fish. Instead, his
lesson was that their efforts combined with his power resulted in a very
In the same way, we need to listen
for the leading of Jesus Christ. We must allow ourselves to go where he calls
us. He may ask us to continue with what is familiar, or he may call us to do
something completely new.
Jesus left the synagogue and took
his message on the road. Jesus met Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John where
they were … in their boats. He did not wait for them to wander into the
synagogue, he went to them. He met them in the midst of their everyday lives,
and he showed them the power of his presence in their lives.
This lesson speaks to us today.
Whoever we may be in the story, or wherever we may be, this lesson still
folks may be like the fishermen. Some folks have been laboring long and hard.
Some people are tired and frustrated. They do not want to push off from the
shore. They have worked and have nothing to show for it. They may not feel the
presence of Jesus in their labors anymore. They may be doing what they have
always done because that is what they have always done.
folks may more closely resemble someone in the crowd on the shore. Some folks
are following, searching for something. They may be pilgrims searching for
something, but they may not know what it is. They may be looking for a release
from a burden. They may be searching for peace. They may have heard something
about this Kingdom of Heaven, and desperately hope to find their way there.
we are in the story, Jesus is speaking to us. Jesus is inviting us. Jesus is calling
us to journey with him.
with me into deep water.”
with me and find your peace.”
with me. Follow me to the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Congregational ChurchUCC, SACO MAINE12 BEACH STREET | SACO, ME 04072