I had a really interesting chat with someone who is training to be a Vicar this week. She described her worry that when it comes down to it, she will be rubbish! She won’t know what to say or do, the thought of taking services does not fill her with a sense of excitement, but rather dread.
We speak in the church of calling and vocation to ministry but the sense of being called was filling her with unease about her capabilities. She has got through the selection process and someone obviously thinks that you have a potential that will grow.
It’s hard if not impossible if we have to be the finished article at a task or job immediately. It is something that you can grow into and when we start it is highly likely you will get a few things wrong as very often we learn from experience.
I think that the story today from St Luke is one for anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed and lacking in confidence.
It is well known that Jesus’ first followers were fishermen, but the Gospel stories describe how they became disciples in slightly different ways.
In St Luke the focus initially is on the crowds of people who wanted to see and hear Jesus speak about the “word of God.”
Then Jesus sees two boats and he gets into Simon’s and asks him to put out a little way from shore. It is from here that he teaches the crowds.
Rather than go back to the shore of the lake Jesus encourages Simon to go out into deeper water and let down the nets. Simon is not convinced as they have been fishing all night with no success.
Yet, as Jesus has said he goes along with it.
The story tells us that they caught so many fish that their nets began to break and they had to call on their partners in the other boat to come over and help them. Even with two boats the catch is so large the boats seemed to be in danger of sinking.
Peter’s response is to say: “Go away from me. Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
There a few ways of interpreting this:
They are in deep water and the boat is sinking.
Whatever is happening and there is no reason to suggest that Simon, and his companions, understand what is going on, they want it to stop.
I think also is that Simon recognises that something has come into his life that is unexpected and remarkable.
Jesus calms the disciples’ fear and revealed their calling – a vocation which, upon first hearing, must have been confusing to the fishermen. “From now on”, Jesus said, “you will catch people.”
They are given a new direction in life and they don’t deliberate.
These three men – Peter, James, and John, whose entire livelihood was fishing, pulled their boats up on the shore, left everything, and followed him.
They didn’t ask questions? Didn’t try to haul all those fish to the market first? They didn’t sit down and jot down a pro and con list. Maybe outline possibilities and rank order priorities.
Not Peter, James, and John.
They left everything and followed him.
As the focus is on Simon it is very clear that he is not the finished article.
His story in the Gospels is well know and later on he will despite his promises deny that he even knows Jesus.
I wonder even at the beginning he knew his weaknesses and felt it would be better if Jesus left him alone.
“Depart from me for I am a sinful man.”
The good news of the Gospel is that God does not answer that prayer.
There is something in the Bible stories about God calling people to remarkable and difficult tasks from unpromising beginnings. He calls Abraham, an old man with no children, to found a nation.
Moses, an ineloquent speaker to stand up to Pharaoh. David armed with a sling to take on Goliath the giant of the Philistine army. Mary, a teenage unwed girl, to give birth to his Son.
To the people he’s calling, God’s call doesn’t make a lot of sense.
If for no other reason, because they don’t feel worthy of such an appointment. So God calls ordinary people to exceptional tasks.
It’s encouraging to know that shortcomings and weaknesses don’t render us ineligible for God’s work, but that’s only the beginning.
Not only does God seem to call people beyond the normal scope of their individual abilities, he calls them to challenging tasks.
It is through these tasks and how we respond to them that will define us as individuals and as disciples within the church.