Night Shift

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Jesus had a lot of nerve, am I right? 

Simon was just trying to go home. 

Simon had just wrapped up working an all-nighter. He and his crew were cleaning their nets and backing everything away. They had been fishing all night and, by their own words, had not caught a thing. They were probably thinking about finding something to eat and a place to rest their heads.

Anyone who has ever worked nights can attest to the eye-roll Simon may have given Jesus when he asked him to go back out into his boat after an unsuccessful night of fishing.

I remember working nights when I first began as a government security contractor. I worked 3:00 pm until 6:00 am. When we got back to the shop and our boss was rolling in, the last thing I want to do was to talk to Darrell. Darrell was a nice guy, he was actually the boss everyone wanted to have, but after a night of pulling our hair out because let’s face it, the person who designed what we were installing was not answering their phone at 3:00 am when their design made no sense, the last thing I wanted to do was to check in with D for some small talk or, worse be given the “opportunity” to work some overtime that morning. 

I knew some of my fellow co-workers, this is not me confessing, who would intentionally park on the opposite side of the business park from the entrance to our office so they could avoid running into Darrell or any other managerial figure who was looking for people who seemed like they had nothing better to do.

Working nights is no joke. None of your friends or family understand why you are still sleeping at 1:00 pm. As the sun is coming up, all you want to do is lay your head down and get some rest. Simon and his partners, James and John, had just pulled an unsuccessful all-nighter, and now the traveling preacher had commandeered one of their boats.

Jesus had gathered quite the crown, large enough that even in his commandeered boat he required more space between them and himself. Simon was kind enough to give him a push out to sea, but not far enough to where the crowd could not hear his teachings. Simon, along with James and John, had to have been within earshot of what Jesus was saying, after all, they owned the boat Jesus was standing in. 

On top of having the nerve to bug a few guys trying to wrap up a long night’s work, Jesus thinks it is wise that Simon set off on another fishing expedition. To hear this request on the first ask must have seemed ridiculous.

“You want me to do what? Don’t you realize what we’re doing? Yeah, we’re cleaning up after a night of fishing and if you can’t tell from the lack of piles of fish on the ground, we did more casting that catching.”

Like Darrell asking me if I want to work a “few extra hours,” the request Jesus made to Simon must have seemed hard to obey. But I said Simon, along with James and John, had to have been within earshot of what Jesus was saying because Simon complied with Jesus’ request.

Simon pushed off from shore, went out away from the shore, and lowered his nets.

Following is tough. Discipleship is not an easy task.

Discipleship is one of those church words people like me and Jeff throw around and rarely define the meaning. I feel the same way about the word discipleship as Pastor Ed feels about the word awesome. They are both powerful words yet they are overused, and worse misused with such a frequency that the meaning and emphasis intended to accompany the word is often misplaced or forgotten.

Discipleship is not a one-way endeavor. 

Discipleship is the act of teaching and learning.

Leading and following.

Invitation and response.

The nets came up full, so abundantly full that another boat was dispatched to help haul in the load, which Luke tells us was still not enough boat for the haul as both boats began to sink! 

Simon fell to his knees, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” The reality of who Jesus was, was known to Simon as two of his boats, along with the largest catch of his fishing career began making a B-line for the bottom of the Sea of Galilee.\

As dramatic of the scene that must have been, we still are not the hinge-point of the scene. The hinge-point of Saint Luke’s story comes after Simon had fallen to his knees, confessing his sin before Jesus, when Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 

And with those words, Simon, James and John gave up the biggest catch of their fishing career. They left their nets, their boats, their families, everything they had accumulated up until this point in their life to follow a guy who had abundantly provided for them in a place where they had not been able to provide for themselves. 

Again, discipleship is not a one-way encounter. Discipleship is not something you or I can do on our own.

First, Simon, James, and John experienced the awesome abundance of G-d. Now, the abundance they experienced probably caused a bit of fear as their boats began to head towards the bottom of the sea but still, the abundance of G-d revealed to them through the miraculous sign of fish signaled to at least Simon that what this guy had been teaching on the shore was worth paying attention to. So much so, Simon and his partners decide to leave it all on the beach and walk away to follow Christ. There it is, discipleship as a two-way encounter.

Jesus sought these three men out. Before he was teaching on the banks of the Sea of Galilee they were a group of business partners who had a bad night at work. Before Jesus stepped into Simon’s boat, Simon was just a guy trying to clean his fishing gear and go home. But that’s the way discipleship works. Before you or I decided to be a follower of Jesus, Jesus revealed the awesome abundance of G-d in a way that made sense in our lives. 

This invitation is not one-size fits all. Some will have a moment where they hear G-d whisper into their ear or better, speak loud enough there can be no doubt who is addressing them.  While some, like me and I would guess many of you, had the awesome abundance of G-d revealed to you in ways that in hindsight make perfect sense, but at the time, were not as clear as Jesus telling you to out in a boat and fish.

Simon’s response in the boat is not unique, after the awesome abundance of G-d was revealed to us in whatever way G-d saw fit to do so, we, on some level, acknowledge that we are not worthy to be in the same boat as Jesus, let alone follow him. We confess we are not worthy to be in the presence of the Lord.

Yet after this act of repentance, we heed Christ’s words of not being fearful along with the promise of a new vocation. Yeah, leaving everything behind (economic security, physical security, family, and friends) is difficult but the promise of the awesome abundance of G-d made by Christ is too much for us to ignore.

It is the promised abundance of G-d that sustains our community as a group of people who have committed to responding to this invitation from Christ.

The awesome abundance of G-d was revealed to Simon, James, and John through ordinary means: fish. I love eating fish but when I’m at the grocery store I’m not waiting for G-d to be revealed to me through some wild caught sol or crab cakes, but maybe I should be.

For us as a community the awesome abundance of G-d is reveal to us through the ordinary meal we share when we gather around the table. 

Bread and wine. 


Water at the baptismal font.

Those objects may not give many pause to consider the awesome abundance of G-d, but for our community, and communities like ours, those ordinary objects are a means of experiencing the awesome abundance of G-d’s grace, and in them we find nourishment and sustenance for the vocation Jesus will call us to both as individuals and as a community.

Discipleship, putting the nets down, leaving the catch and boats behind is not an off the top cost calculation for us to make. Discipleship is a response we offer after we have experienced the awesome abundance of G-d at the end of a days labor when our nets came up empty.

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