Darn that groundhog!
OK, maybe it wasn’t the fault of Punxsutawney Phil or any of his imitators. But it seems too much of a coincidence that a couple of days after that rodent was scared by his shadow, we get dumped on by Snowmaggedon! I didn’t make that up. I saw it in an online news report before it happened. It was a prediction. Snowmageddon is coming! Run for the hills! Or the beach. Or someplace warm. A desert.
OK, reel it in a bit here. Still, February snow storms always catch us by surprise for some reason. Maybe we had a taste of warmer weather (Hey, this is Indiana, 40 is warmer in January), maybe the previous snow had melted, and despite the prognostications of burrow dwelling creatures we were setting our minds to the end of winter. Then, BAM! Another storm hits. We’re out there shoveling again wondering where this came from. We’re out there, and it is deeper than we had thought it was going to be. Deeper than we were prepared for. Deeper than we had imagined.
So, now we have a taste of what those first disciples felt that day on Lake Gennesaret. Here is our passage for this first week in February.
Luke 5:1-11 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He 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. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." 5 Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets." 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So 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. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and 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." 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
In the conversation we learn that it hadn’t been a good night for Simon. Fishing was done at night in those days. The fishermen would spend the night in the shallows tossing their nets and pulling in the catch. Then as dawn broke, they would bring the fish to shore and sell them at the market. Because of a lack of facilities for preserving fish, this was a daily event. Except this day.
This day, for Simon, was a hungry day. Nothing to sell, nothing to take home for his family. Nothing. It might have been that he was still sitting in his boat because he didn’t want to go home and tell them that he had nothing. It might have been that he was sitting there feeling empty, feeling worthless, feeling shallow. Until that man came and asked him to go out into the deep.
Luke says that Jesus was teaching and everyone kept pressing closer and closer. The crowd grew and pressed in to hear. So, Jesus looks around for options, and sees Peter sitting there in his boat with failure on his hands. So, Jesus steps in and asks if he would mind rowing out a little way so that he could teach without risking getting wet.
An amazing thing, don’t you think? A little invitation, a small inconvenience and before you know it, Simon was in over his head. Did Jesus show up that day looking for followers? Or was that a bonus? The catch of the day?
And what was the lesson that day? I find it interesting that Luke doesn’t say a word about what Jesus taught. In Luke’s haste to get to Simon Peter’s story, we skip over Jesus’ words. Typical, I suppose. We sometimes miss what is right in front of our faces, because we want to get to something more personal. We skim over the article to see if our name is there, we glance through the program to find someone familiar, we scan the crowd to find a certain face, and in so doing we miss everything and everyone else. Jesus may have been talking about paying attention. It was a common theme in his teaching elsewhere, no reason to think it would have been absent here. "Consider the lilies," he would say, "look there, wheat and weeds growing together," that road, this seed, those fields – Jesus was always asking us to pay attention to what was around us. Like a preschool primer, Jesus said "Look and See."
Yet it was never just the appearance of things that interested Jesus. He was really saying look deeper. Which is what he said to Peter when the teaching was over. "Let’s go deep." That’s where the drama is, isn’t it?
I know that tomorrow is the Super Bowl, and I first thought about using that as the entrance into all of this today. But given that I live in a house with non-sports fans all the time, I thought it better to go with the sudden snow storm (besides who could resist a word like "Snowmaggedon"?) Yet, even a nominal fan knows the excitement of a long completed pass that moves down the field with a combination of skill and grace. Going deep brings the big cheers. And while I will join those who are hoping for a Colts win, my secret hope is for a exciting game, filled with going deep - to Reggie Wayne, and Pierre Garcon and Dallas, and Austin and all those other Colts players! Go deep.
Peter was open. He didn’t know it, because he wasn’t paying attention, but he was. He was open to going deep. Even though it was against his better judgement. Even though it wasn’t the way things were done in his business. Even though he had been unsuccessful the night before. He was open. And that small opening is all it takes for miracles to occur. A willingness to look deeper, to live deeper. There is so much right in front of our faces, and we miss it.
Peter knew he was in over his head. "Go away from me," that’s the first thing he thinks to say in the face of someone who lives so much more deeply than he did. Go away, I can’t handle it, I’m not good enough for it, I don’t have the strength. Remember he had been up all night, struggling with his failures. Someone once said Jesus doesn’t come when we are well rested and ready all that often. Usually it is when we have labored all night and caught nothing, often it is when we want to give up, when we think there is nothing left and we aren’t any good at life. Then Jesus comes and says "go deeper."
"From now on you will catching people." Like he did that day on Lake Gennesaret. Like he did because he lived deeply. Like he has done for the past two thousand years, gathering up those who long to live deeply, to live aware of life. It is no wonder that when they came to shore, they walked away from the fish, the biggest catch in their careers. They walked away to go deep.
Snowmaggedon drifted as it fell last night. There were bare spots in the driveway as Rhys and I shoveled this morning. Bare spots and deep spots. Some of it was easy to move, a light touch, a minimal effort. Some of it required more attention and effort and energy. And yet, somehow there was more satisfaction, more of a sense of accomplishment from going deep. Don’t you think?