Hearing God now in this moment
Reflection Sunday 6 February 2022
Please slowly read Luke 5:1-11 a few times pausing on words that stand out. Then read aloud the direct words spoken between Jesus and Peter. These words are highlighted in bold print italics. In hearing the words read slowly aloud we may engage more closely and intentionally with what hear and perhaps may hear something that we may not gather by just reading in our mind.
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 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. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "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."
When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who are partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
The last time I preached on this passage I focused on God calling us out into deep water to evangelise, to make connections beyond Sunday services and church buildings. This time I am calling attention to the spoken words between Jesus and Peter. What do these words reveal to us? An important thing to remember when reading Scripture is that we are not just trying to understand, for example in this instance, the depth of truth contained in the words spoken between Jesus and Peter, but what God is speaking to us in our situation, in our time.
In this encounter between Jesus and Peter, it is when Jesus speaks directly to Peter that things get interesting, they move to another level and Peter realises the depth of which he is suddenly in with God. I imagine Peter is comfortable watching Jesus at a distance and even when Jesus asks to get into the boat Peter is happy to help, but when Jesus asks Peter to put out into deep water then the encounter becomes much more personal, more challenging.
I am putting the emphasis here on our ears hearing the words spoken between them rather than on what Peter and the others with him saw with their eyes, which was nets beginning to break and boats filled with fish and beginning to sink. We are often looking for proof of God’s existence, or evidence of God’s presence. When Peter witnessed the enormous catch of fish and the boat beginning to sink under him, his attention went from what he was seeing to Jesus. Beyond the obvious, the enormous catch of fish, Peter became aware of whose presence he was in. The ordinary everyday activity was infused with the presence of God – the extraordinary in the ordinary. If we witness something good happening, we tend to think God is at work here. If something not so good or bad is happening, we tend to think God is absent. We forget that the ‘Kingdom of God’ is always here, within and around us. God is always present, God is always at work, whether we classify something as ordinary or extraordinary. Rather than pointing to occurrences as evidence of God, or reciting doctrines of right belief to support our faith in situations when things may not look so good; our ears are to be open, seeking, listening for what God is speaking to us at all times.
In evangelical circles emphasis is put on a person responding to a ‘Gospel Presentation’ by acknowledging one’s sin, believing that Jesus died on the cross for one’s sins, accepting Jesus as one’s saviour and committing one’s life to Christ. I am not disagreeing with this; however, we may settle for believing about someone rather than accepting the actual person of Jesus and that we are relating to a living God in our daily lives. We can settle for keeping God at a distance rather than engaging with a God within us and around us in every situation, every day. John Bennington says, ‘Conversion can so easily become an armour against any further encounters with God, and our Christian faith a spiritual asylum where we hide from the frightening truth about ourselves, clinging on to the illusion that we are finally right with God … instead of risking (God) remaking us in (God’s) image (p.88 Culture, Class and Christian Beliefs).
eter’s response was to tell Jesus to go away from him because of his sinfulness, but Jesus would not leave him in that state and said, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." In other words, don’t stay in the safety and comfort and standards of your sin, follow me, listen to me, hear my words of life and with me bring people into an awareness of my kingdom, my life. Peter was afraid of the ‘I AM’ but the ‘I AM’ refused to be distant, the subject of a doctrine, a theology; the ‘I Am’ engaged Peter and asked Peter to come with him.
We do not just reflect on what Jesus said to Peter in this reading but ask what are you saying to me God in the situation I find myself in life, and as a congregation we ask what are you saying to us God in every situation we find ourselves in as a congregation.
It is the present moment which is most important in our relationship with God. Are we listening for God now? This is God’s moment. The ‘I AM’ can be known by us here and now in our every day lives and concrete situations not just in the stories of old or in a future life.
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Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation