Do you remember learning how to swim? And the first time you went into deeper water? I don’t remember if it was the FIRST time, but when I was 4, my family took a road trip to southern CA. We stopped at a motel that had not only a swimming pool which is not so unusual, but a high dive as well. My brothers encouraged me to climb that TALL ladder up to the high dive, one of them following close behind me, while another was waiting in the pool. When I got to the top, standing on the high dive, I must have simply jumped off without a healthy fear of heights developed yet or a common sense realization that I wasn’t yet a great swimmer and probably wouldn’t be able to make it to the edge of the pool on my own if my brother hadn’t already been in the pool ready to guide me to the edge. But somehow I survived. How is it that ANY of us survive childhood?
What are your stories of going into deep water…or in over your head?
Luke writes of a time when Jesus called the disciples. Jesus had been teaching a huge crowd near the lake of Gennesaret (Galilee), and later in the day, while Simon and the other disciples are away washing his nets, gets into Simon’s boat. We might wonder about boundary issues with Jesus. The hills around the lake formed a natural amphitheater and Jesus would sometimes push out in a boat to teach – using it as a floating podium. But after he finished teaching he decided to stay in Peter’s boat and get to know him. Eventually Jesus suggests.
‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’
Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’
You can hear the skepticism in his voice, but he placates Jesus. Can you see him, hear him: Simon the fisherman, soon to be known as Simon Peter, soon to become a disciple of Jesus—but not yet. He’s brought the boat in after a grueling but unsuccessful day of fishing. Then this teacher asks him to take the boat out again – AFTER the NETS have ALREADY been washed for the day. Put yourself in the story: Your energy is gone. You just want to go home. But for some reason you say OK. Kind of like the parable of the two brothers – one who said he would and didn’t, and the other who said he wouldn’t and did. After Simon takes the boat a little ways from shore, Jesus says: “Go out deeper,” he says. What would it mean if Jesus asked you to go out further – into the deep water? Like jumping off the high dive.
Jesus is always inviting people to the deeper end of things. Staying in shallow water is a temptation where you can see beneath the surface – if it’s not a summer day at the lake where all the kids are mucking up the lake floor. It doesn’t take as much courage to stay in shallow water. The deep water of faith is where those things we say we want are swimming around. Jesus was teaching a spiritual principal. We could substitute catching fish for wisdom or love, healing or peace. Most of these are things we want in abundance-like the catch of fish. What if those things required going into the deep.
“Leave the shore, Simon. Go into the deep.” Deep water is where the abundance is. Deep water is a risk. Deep water takes faith. The shallow is where we begin the adventure, not necessarily where we finish.
Is there some area of your life where you stay on the surface of things? Are there relationships in your life that remain superficial but could deepen? Are there commitments you’ve made that could be taken more seriously? Are there ideas or a call from God you ignore, that you don’t want to plunge into, because it might disturb the surface of your worldview? What would it mean to seek God in deeper places? How might we go deeper – emotionally, intellectually, spiritually with Jesus?
Simon went out to deeper water and to his astonishment the nets filled so fast they needed another boat AND more people to haul it all in. Abundance beyond measure. In that moment Jesus did not call the disciples to change jobs. They remained fishermen all their lives. He didn’t call them to DO something different. He called them into a different way of BEING.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote about how Michelangelo once said that
the beautiful sculptures he created were already there, inside the stones. He simply removed the excess to reveal the precious essence that had ALWAYS been there.
She says we do the same thing as we learn life lessons: we chip away the excess to reveal the wonder of who we are inside. Another way of going “into the deep”. To dive into the inner life to discover what is there, perhaps to discover God, and God’s call for our lives.
In the book “Healing the Purpose of Your Life” the authors (Linn family) start with this story:
7-year old Connor said, “Mom, I realized I’m here for a very important purpose.”
Stifling her amusement, she asked, “Do you want to tell me more about that?”
“I don’t know my important purpose but I think I could change the world. Then everyone in the whole world is going to know me because of this thing I’m going to do.”
“Do you think it’s something scientific?”
“I don’t know, but I think it’s important and the world’s going to be better after I do it.”
“Well Connor, if I can help let me know.”“OK Mom.”
While naive and innocent, it holds an insight into a sense of holy purpose.
UCC minister Lillian Daniels wrote about a dentist & part-time licensed minister. He believes that his work as a dentist connects him to God.
“Over the years I have enjoyed caring for families. I have spent many years drying the tears of someone who lost a spouse or loved one, comforting someone facing surgery, listening to someone facing a divorce or laughing about the trials of parenting. When the day is done I pray for all of them.”
It was not what he did but how he did it that changed people’s lives.
People might say that the net full of fish is the miracle of this story. But the real miracle might be that Simon listened to the invitation, responded and experienced abundance.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that we sometimes say, “If only I believed then I would obey.” No, says Bonhoeffer, “Obey then you shall believe.”
Jesus did not ask Peter to stop being a fisherman, but to be a fisherman who can use his fishing skills to change the world.
When Peter saw the catch of fish his first expressed emotion was shame and unworthiness: Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ But Jesus reaches beyond his shame, consoles him and calls him in to a deeper life of faith. Simon realized Jesus could change his life, that Jesus had the power to see beneath the water, beneath his defenses, limitations, excuses, and into his soul.
God comes to us where we are, on the shore, mending our nets, washing dishes, paying bills, hiking in the mountains, contemplating tesseracts on a park bench, pondering our future. And then God calls us to go into the deep, below the surface. Surface is easy. That’s all around us. Appearance, fashion, fads, what we can do to make people like us.
God calls each of us to go deep, hang with deep folks, and be transformed into a new path. There we will find abundance. May it be so in your life, and in the life of our church.
Awaken our hearts and minds, Holy One, again to life’s possibility, and help us to hear your call again. Amen.