6 February 2022 at Saint William & Saint Peter the Apostle Churches in Naples, FL
Isaiah 6. 1-2, 3-8 + Psalm 138 + 1 Corinthians 15, 1-11 + Luke 5, 1-11
The mission is never dependent on the worthiness of the minister. That is the message we hear three times today, from Isaiah, from Paul, and from a fisherman called Peter. He and his companions have been hard at it all night long. Jesus walks up and suggests that he knows something these professionals do not know. Instead of scoffing at the idea, they try something new. The result is surprising. It is not their first encounter with Jesus. Just a few verses earlier, Jesus has been at the home of Peter and cured his mother-in-law. So, their willingness to let him in get into one of the boats is not too surprising. When Jesus tells them to put out into deeper water after his teaching of the crowd. There is brief moment of hesitation as Peter reminds Jesus that a full night of fishing has brought nothing, and then he says something that is important: “At your command, I will lower the nets.”
Two weeks ago, we heard the Mother of Jesus say to stewards at a wedding, “Do whatever he tells you.” When they do, water jars filled to the brim become more wine than they could ever consume. Isaiah, Paul, and Peter are three people who did what God told them to do with surprisingly successful results. We do not tell their stories today to sit back and admire them. We tell their stories today because they are not the only ones who can overcome obstacles, discouragement, and a weariness that comes from working without results. We tell their stories today because we believe that their experience is not unique to them or that it takes some great skill to produce surprising results. What it takes is what Peter shows us: let Jesus get in your boat, and do what he asks no matter how you feel about it.
All of us have come up against what seem to be impossible challenges with regard to our calling in life, our health, our jobs, our families, and sometimes we have given up and quit. The Good News we proclaim today is that it might be possible for us to face that challenge one more time with Jesus in the boat listening carefully to what he tells us. It might very well be something we never thought of before or had dismissed as too hard or too risky. The story of Peter, the story of Paul, and Isaiah ought to give us just enough courage or hope to try one more time or try an approach we had not thought of before.
Those three people put before us today all thought they were not worthy of what God asked of them, but they discovered that worthiness has nothing to do with it when it comes to the mission to which we are called. What I find remarkable and admirable about Peter and Paul is that they never thought they knew it all. They were willing to take the sage advice of trying things in a different way under the direction of Jesus. When they did, grace came. It was the grace of peace. It was the grace of knowing that in spite of unworthiness, or maybe because of knowing and admitting it, great and surprising things happen.