“Try Again”

Here’s the Facebook Live video of the sermon from January 22, 2017


Here’s the scripture and here’s the text of the sermon:

Luke 5:1-11

1 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.


What story do you tell yourself at the end of a long, hard day? What’s your story after a stressful day at school, or a pointless day at work? What do you tell yourself when you get home and feel like it’s all gone wrong, that you’ve got nothing to show for all your blood, sweat and tears? Get yourself into that skin for a moment. What’s your story? Is it about how you could have tried harder, done something better? Are you thinking far back, wishing you would have taken a different job, dated a different person, made a different choice? Do you think everyone is out to get you, that it’s not your fault? What’s your story?

Simon Peter, James and John have had a long day and they’ve got nothing to show for it. They’ve fished all night and they are on shore, washing their empty nets, their empty boats sit on shore, an indictment of their failure. Fishermen with no fish to show for it.

And here comes Jesus. And here comes the crowd. Can you imagine that? A crowd gathering at the scene of your fruitless work? And as they wash their nets, Jesus takes one of their empty boats and pushes out into the water to teach from there. The crowds are only getting bigger, now that Jesus’ reputation of healing and speaking with authority is spreading. Just last week, his preaching incited a near riot in his hometown and they tried to throw him off a cliff after he said stuff they didn’t want to hear.

I wonder what stories they were telling themselves. Maybe Simon Peter is saying, “This keeps happening again and again. Maybe I’m losing my touch.” or James is regretting “Maybe if I had gone to that fishing seminar on the coast, they would have the latest techniques.” or John’s saying, “Man, this lake has changed. I don’t even recognize it anymore.”

And the crowd couldn’t have improved their moods. And then for Jesus to call attention to them, in front of everyone! Who knows, maybe they were part of his teaching. Jesus yells over to Simon Peter, “Hey! you thought about fishing in the deep water?  You should try that.”

I am no fishing expert, but I do imagine the fishing manual would include not only fishing in shallow water but to try the deep water too. Simon Peter, in what I translate as a graceful move, points out to Jesus that they have worked at it all night, implying that they had tried all the depths of all the water. But, in a gracious move, Simon Peter says, “if you say so, Jesus, we’ll try again.”

I just came from a week of continuing education in Cannon Beach, Oregon where the gathering was for the purposes of preaching yet the content was all about our culture. How things have changed. How the church has changed. Our presenter was my preaching professor from Luther, David Lose. At the heart of his presentation was purpose, identity and belonging. All humans are wired to want to be useful, to have a purpose for why we draw breath. And so we look to our families and jobs, our friendships and work relationships to find what we do, where we belong, and why. Increasingly, there is fierce competition for how you will define yourself —  who you will work for and why, where you belong. Culture wants you to feel that you belong by buying something. And culture banks on your never tiring of buying the next thing that will surely define who you are with the latest version, the newest thing, the faster, the shinier.

It has caused the church to bump up against the shore in empty boats, dragging its nets over to be washed and maybe mothballed. We tried the deep water, we tell Jesus. We did that. We tried that. We were up all night.

I met lots of new folks at this continuing education event and over dinner one night, a fellow pastor asked me what River of Hope was like, what we were up to, who we were. After my excited reply, me telling him about you all, our purpose, our identity as children of God, I asked him to tell me of his community. He shrugged and said, “Well, they see themselves as a family and so I don’t worry about numbers. We’re fine.”

I swallowed my smile and thought, really? That’s your story? His response feels like what our story would have been had Peter told Jesus no. No, I am not going to throw my nets again. No I fished there already. I believe Jesus never leaves us at our refusals. I believe Jesus is always calling us to throw our nets again. To try the deeper water. No disrespect to this pastor, but I don’t believe God ever calls us to pull into shore and put our feet up and say we’re fine. Rather God continues to invite us to “try again.”

Jesus sees the fishermen shrug their shoulders. He probably saw how dejected and tired they were. Their frustration was probably rolling off of them in waves. And Jesus says to them, “try again.”

At the heart of the content of the continuing education last week was the story of God’s love of the world through Jesus Christ. It’s this story that gathers us together every week. Each Sunday we wade into the story, to see how it speaks to our everyday lives, to hear it tell us who we are and that we belong. We gather to hear this story and sing and pray and respond to this story so that we can see that it gives us purpose to get out of bed each day and to live like we actually believe this incredible story is true for us and for everyone else. That it impacts our actual lives. It’s why I invite you week after week to read scripture daily, to find connections in your daily lives. It’s why leaders in this congregation read scripture with curiosity and wonder, because the story of the world is no way to lead a faith community.

Today, Jesus looks right at these guys whose jobs are to fish, sees that they have nothing to show for it, and yet these are the ones he tells to follow him. It’s like the worst job interview ever, right? Their nets are empty and Jesus hires them on the spot. Follow me. I’ll teach you a new way to fish.

Because, of course he knows they’ve caught fish before. Of course he knows they know how to do it. But Jesus shows up on their worst day ever and instead of giving them an updated manual or a pep talk or the latest in net technology or the newest boats or a lesson in technique, he says, “try again” and then, “don’t be afraid – come and help me fish for people.”

He doesn’t say, “don’t ever fish again.” Instead, he says, “look at your jobs in a whole new way.” He doesn’t say, “fish only on Sundays” or “go to seminary and become a professional fisher.”

So instead of leaving Jesus here at the Hutchinson Event Center, here at “church” on the day we make for God, dare to live your faith each day this week. Dare to make this your story. It’s why we do the connection cards each week. It’s why the baptismal beads are for the taking. To remind you that you are a child of God, that you are beloved beyond measure. And then. And then. You live your life like you believe it. You act like it’s true. You don’t even have to say the word “Jesus” or “God” or “Christian.” Instead, at school, you can smile at someone you know is having a tougher time of it than you. Or you can show patience with your co-worker or you can pay-it-forward in the drive through. You can show mercy to your relative when you’d rather display your sharp tongue. You can speak up when someone is being put down.
We are all fisher women and men. And the lake has changed. Some days don’t feel as successful as others. And yet Jesus does not judge us by worst days. Rather Jesus comes to us in those days with the invitation to try again.

This is our story – to fish for people in our every day lives. This is our identity and our purpose. And it is the transformative power of Jesus that works in your life and in the lives of your neighbor.

Because no matter the day you’re having, when you’ve struck out, failed the test, said the wrong thing to a friend, have nothing to show for your hard work, royally screwed up, Jesus says to you, “That’s not your story. You’re good enough, I love you. I’m your story. I’m your identity. Come on. Let’s try again. Together. Follow me.”