Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

An Untimely Catch

Luke 5:1-11
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Non sequitur.  According to the Princeton Online Dictionary, “a reply that has no relevance to what preceded it.”

The first non sequitur in Luke 5:1-11 happens when Jesus finishes preaching.  He turns to Simon and says, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”   What do you suppose Jesus had been teaching about when he was in the boat?  How many fish stories are there in the Old Testament?  Or was Jesus teaching some major new object lesson that doesn’t derive from OT Scripture?  We will never know.  What we do know is that Jesus’ request of Simon must have been the punch-line to one of the great sermons of all time. 

The non sequitur isn’t Jesus asking Simon to put out the nets.   The non sequitur is Simon saying in reply, “We toiled all night and took nothing!”  The fact is that this objection has nothing to do with the request.  Why?  Because if Peter had recognized who Jesus really is, his reply would have been and eager, “Lower the nets, boys!”  Can it be that Peter wasn’t present for the Wedding at Cana?  Even if he wasn’t, we can be sure he had heard about how the water was turned into wine.  And the story of the feeding of 5000 with just two loaves and five fish doesn’t show up in Luke’s gospel until chapter 9, but the gospel doesn’t seem to be quite in chronological order, so there may be some connection to be had there.  But really… think about it… if the God of the Universe told you to put out your nets for a catch, wouldn’t you do it?

Well, Peter does put his nets out.  But he does it so reluctantly as to make us believe that he really expected nothing.  He knows fishing.  He also knows that Jesus is a rabbi, not a fisherman.  And yet, given Peter’s experience with Jesus to this point, you would have to say that he really missed the boat (pardon the pun) on this one.

The second non sequitur comes when the catch is so big that the boats start to sink.  What possible connection is there between a catch of fish that will probably raise Peter out of poverty and give him money to burn, and Peter talking about his sin?  The answer lies in the first non sequitur.  Had there simply been a few fish caught that day, Peter might have responded with, “Heh… the rabbi knows fishing.”  But the catch is so overwhelming that it drives Peter back to his earlier statement, back to his moment of un-faith. 

How many times has the Lord told me to believe expectantly that he is going to dump the truck of blessing, and I have settled for a few fish?  And then, when God does provide in a miraculous way, I try to take the credit for it.  

His provision may not come when I think it will.  Remember, Peter and his partners had been out all night fishing.  They were tired and they needed a bath and a good meal.  How many times that night had they prayed that God would not send them home with their boats empty?  God’s provision rather comes at an unexpected moment.  As far as Peter knew, they were being obedient and giving the Master a better place to preach from.  There was no further thought of fishing. 

I might expect that God will supply men for me to fish and catch in a church or in some pre-planned evangelistic event.  But I’m pretty sure that the real harvest of souls will come when I open my home, not trying to produce anything at all.  When He tells me to put out my nets for a catch in that situation, will I listen?

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