Meg Peery McLaughlin
You DO Enough
September 24, 2023
There is a song by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper called Shallow.
My preacher-friend, Becca Messman says she “wanted to hate it because the song makes the two syllable word Shallow into nine syllables… in the Shalalalalalalow.
But it’s so dreadfully catchy that she can’t help but sing it.
The words are Tell me something boy, aren’t you tired of trying to fill that void.
Or do you need more? Is there something else you’re searching for? Then the chorus: I’m in the deep end, watch as I dive in, we’re far from the shallow now.
Longing for something deep, away from the void,
Gaga dives into one of the most powerful currents in being human.
And that is exactly where Jesus takes Simon Peter in today’s text.
This story starts with the exhaustion of the shallows
but goes on to describe a vocation out in the deep water that is full of life .
Prayer for Illumination:
Your word is a light to our feet and a lamp to our path.
Your word is a glue of the universe wherein the whole creation holds together.
Your word has come fleshed among us full of grace and truth.
We are creatures of your word, O God, and we give thanks for it.
Help us hear it again today. Speak, we pray. We are listening. Amen.
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.
The opening scene of this gospel story cuts a bit too close to the nerve.
Simon, after spending the night on the water fishing, is cleaning the nets.
That work took hours, and yet successful fishing depended on the meticulous activity of keeping the nets clean of corrosives and gunk. Nets had to be clean and mended to be ready for the sun to go down again, so the fishermen could get back out on the water. It was a hard way to eek out a living.
Simon and his colleagues are cleaning the nets, but had caught nothing.
Make you wonder: With each barnacle they extracted to throw back into the sea,
did a resentful sigh follow each splash?
They are tired. In body and in spirit. Exhausted and empty.
There in the shallows, staring at a void.
Are you there too?
Perhaps not experiencing a void of fish, but of productivity or progress.
You keep on fishing
but the joy isn’t there, the meaning elusive, the satisfaction has slipped away.
You keep on tossing the nets
and still the goal isn’t reached, it just gets pushed back a little further.
You keep climbing into the boat each night,
yet the expenses and expectations never ever relent. The scales are never balanced.
Or maybe it feels as if there is no margin even to clean the nets,
because where is the time for that,
when there are fragile parents and faltering children on either side
when it’s not just our paid jobs but our unpaid ones that keep us up at night
when there is emotional work, spiritual work, relationship work,
caring for our neighbors work, caring for our bodies work, and it’s never done.
See what I mean? Luke’s gospel, too close to the nerve.
I think about this every morning. The twins’ bus driver, who gets paid less per hour than the babysitters I use for church meetings, only shows about 50% of the time.
And when I call the transportation director to report this,
I hear the exhaustion in her voice too. I wonder if our driver, like her predecessor,
has to drive into town from Mebane before her shift while the stars are still out,
because where can essential workers afford to live in our community?
I wonder what empty nets she is holding.
Friends, we are weary. Collectively.
So I must confess my trepidation about preaching today.
Our scripture this morning is the call of Jesus’ first disciples.
We know enough to know that following Christ isn’t easy:
it leads us into uncomfortable risks, unpopular opinions, and uncontrollable futures.
Yes, a life of discipleship demands much of us.
One morning, after the bus did come this week,
one of my workout buddies was talking about taking a pollinator garden tour hosted by NC State. She was going on about milkweed. Another buddy said, “Oh, how are the bees? They are so crucial to the health of the planet.” Then she said something that struck me: I was so worried about guns, I forgot to worry about the bees.
I was exhausted from the physical exertion, but also lagged under the weight of that comment. Can we ever do it all? Are we expected to? Is discipleship really meant to be a never-ending to-do list?
Jesus says to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”
And goodness, I wonder what Simon chose to not say in that moment:
having just spent all night fishing,
having just finished cleaning the net,
having just given up more of his time,
forfeiting his nap, so Jesus could teach the crowds from his boat.
Church, here is what Simon does say: if you say so.
Sometimes I wish the gospels included footnotes that instructed us on tone.
Is this a “if you say so”, a la, a 13 year, with an eye roll?
I don’t think so.
Just before this text, in Luke chapter 4,
Jesus had been in Simon’s home.
And right before Simon’s eyes and at his own request,
Jesus healed his mother-in-law.
When the news got out, as the sun went down, people kept showing up,
and Jesus kept laying his hands on them in healing.
If you say so.
Perhaps Simon speaks these words as a prayer–
—hoping that healing and wholeness may be for him, too.
And when Jesus instructs Simon to go out into the deep water,
it’s hard to miss the echo of God’s first words to us in scripture.
We have to go way back to the beginning—the very first sentence of the Bible–
where the earth was formless and void
and darkness covered the face of the deep,
and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.
Deep water. Scary voids.
Church, it’s into that
that God speaks into being light and life and all manner of goodness.
If you say so.
Perhaps Simon speaks these words as a memory—
–trusting that God is in the practice of bring life,
and life abundant.
Fish more than our feeble nets can hold.
Life more that we know how to contain.
Meaning more than we know how to explain.
And it’s completely overwhelming–
because it’s not about our efforts, but about God’s amazing grace;
because the catch is not the result of our labor, but of God’s expansive heart.
This is, of course, why Simon falls on his knees.
Luke’s gospel says he blurts out: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
One scholar says this is really: Get outta here!
As in, I can’t believe it! It’s too good to be true!
And since it is in fact true, Simon is overcome by awe.
He falls to his knees.
And what does awe do, except make us aware of just how small we are?
Simon says, “I am a sinful man.” Maybe he thinks he’s beyond saving.
But church, that is never the truth. No one is beyond the reach of grace.
Simon says “I am a sinful man.” And Jesus next words are:
“Do not be afraid.” Jesus doesn’t dismiss Simon,
but calls him to a deeper level of his vocation.
Vocation comes from the Latin word, vocare, to call.
In light of this call, maybe Jesus could have said,
“It might be scary. But in the deep, you connect with me.”
Or “You can’t touch out here. But I am with you.”
Or “I know you’re tired. You do enough. Trust what I can do through you.”
If I understand the text, Christ’s call isn’t to do more, or do something else.
It’s a sunburned surrender to the work God is doing out in the deep.
The call is to trust ourselves to his grace out there in the places we already find ourselves, places where God continues to call forth life and life abundant all around us, and even through us.
Today after worship we are welcoming nearly 20 new members,
I don’t know yet what they do to pay their bills,
I don’t know how weary they may be or if they feel like they’re holding empty nets.
I just know that after the Session votes to welcome them,
They will encourage them to take up some spiritual practices,
you know things like come to worship, find a small group, live as a steward,
things you’d expect. The last one is go. Go live as God’s child out in the world.
After this scripture lesson, maybe I’ll change it to Go deep.
Go do whatever it is you do out there
as one who is claimed and called
Go do whatever it is you do out there
as one who expects God to bring life out of the void
Yes, Go deep, church,
Let down the nets and prepare to be in awe.
And if you feel the urge to protest like Simon,
insisting you’re a too-far-gone-sinner to be good at doing anything at all,
then maybe it’s time to float a bit,
let those nets cradle you and draw you in
to be reminded that you too are worthy of being caught up in
the power and wonder of this Savior .
Go out into the deep waters. If you say so, Lord. If you say. Amen