I like Peter. In fact he is one of my biblical favorites. He has moments of impulsive wackiness, flashes of transformative insight, and he’s totally caught up in his humanity. And Jesus relied on him through it all. If Peter could be Peter and love and serve God, then there’s hope for me, for the rest of us. Luke’s story at the lake of Gennesaret is the perfect example of the hope Peter provides for all of would-be followers of Christ.
Early in the morning the fishermen return with empty nets and were washing them out. Jesus comes along and asks Peter to row out a bit. Jesus then proceeds to teach the crowds from the boat. We don’t know how long he spoke or what he said. All we know is that when Jesus was done addressing the crowd, he told Peter to continue out into deep water. I can almost see Peter roll his eyes before telling Jesus that they’d been out all night and caught nothing. But sure, if you say so, I’ll go out again.
Peter humored the unusual rabbi and lowered his nets once more. To Peter’s astonishment, it was worth it. He needed help hauling in his nets which were full to breaking. And it hits him with full force just who Jesus is and just who he is, “Lord, get away from me! I am a sinner! I did not believe in you or in myself. You picked the wrong guy. I am not worthy.” Jesus response is perfect. “Do not be ruled by your fear. You are meant to be catching people in nets of Love. Come on, we have work to do. You and me, and James, and John, and others along the way. Leave your fear with your boats and follow me.”
And Peter does! Peter will screw up again. His humanity will get the better of him and he will forget that Jesus is Lord. He will let fear overtake him again and again. His impulsive acts will get him into trouble. But he always comes back to Jesus and setting up those nets of love to catch people up short and free them from their fear.
The world needs more Peters. I try. I try not to get caught up in my fear or the fear that is so pervasive around me. I try to string those nets of Love, tying new knots where anger and hatred have torn through. Then there are those days when I just want to cry out, “Lord, get away from me; I am a sinner. I don’t believe this can be done. I don’t believe it can be done by the likes of me. I am afraid to love those who spew so much hatred. I am afraid that anger will get the better of me. I am not the one you want out in the deep water. I don’t think I can drop these nets.”
If I am honest, Jesus is always there saying, “Yes, you can. Love is stronger than fear. Most people don’t remember that, ever. Let down your nets and others will come to help bring in the catch. We have work to do.”
Yes, we have work to do. When a wall is being built in a way that separates loved ones on an arbitrary, human-made border, where is Love? When congressional women wear white and are called defiant rather than powerful and strong, where is Love? When white men in power refuse responsibility for their racism and the racist system that supports it, where is Love? When faithful people of all religions squabble about dogma and doctrine rather than coming together in efforts to raise up humanity and care for the planet, where is Love?
In this time of extraordinary fear and hatred, we must put our trust in that unusual Rabbi who directs us all to venture into deep waters. Then remains with us when we question our value, our ability and wonder if there is any such thing as holy wisdom and guidance, let alone Love. We cannot afford to give in to the fear and hatred that is encouraged by those in power. We need to string together our nets made of Love until acts of resistance topple the current empire and Love has its day. It has to be possible. We cannot give up. Do not be afraid. We are called to catch people with these holy nets tied together with Love.
RCL – Year C – Fifth Sunday after Epiphany – February 10, 2017
Isaiah 6:1–8, (9–13)
1 Corinthians 15:1–11