Are You Following Me?
Are you following me? I didn’t catch what you said. That sounds like a big fish story. Reflecting upon this week’s gospel reading of Luke 5:1-11 I went down a rabbit hole of idioms. I came across this guide to idioms. You might have some fun looking at it.
Hook, line and sinker- I was all in as I explored how often we use idioms, metaphors, and stories. Often I have to check to see if I am correctly using an expression or if that which was used previously still has the same meaning. I got to practice being gracious with myself several years ago when the teen age clerk gave me an odd look and took me to a swimsuit section when I asked for what are now called flip flops but I used the term from my teenage years of thongs.
When Jesus tells Simon Peter to put out into “deep water” I heard it both ways—to go further into the Sea of Galilee and out of Simon’s comfort zone. In over his head - in deep water- Jesus who helped Simon’s mother-in-law who had a fever now is helping out with fishing.
Did Simon wonder what Jesus, a carpenter’s son, could possibly know about fishing? Jesus had asked to use Peter’s boat as pulpit (as the Message fondly puts it) and then Jesus seems to “barge right in” giving him fishing instructions. Simon’s response is “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”. It sounds like he also let down his defenses, his doubts, his fears in the deep water.
Here is where we get the ‘big fish story”. A catch so great that the nets are breaking. It would soon be a sinking ship had they not asked for help. When Simon Peter saw the catch- it caught him unaware, he was a fish out of water, He wants to deny his worthiness for such a catch- he’s not a big fish in a small pond he’s not up to snuff, he’s green around the gills when it comes to miracles. Was Simon’s blood running cold? Was he shaking like a leaf?
Jesus tells them all not to be afraid. He tells them from now on they will be catching people. Did he just spring this on them? Was Jesus talking a blue streak? Did they know that following Jesus would make them like fish out of water? Were they tempted to turn a deaf ear? When James, John and Simon Peter brought their boats to shore, left everything and followed Jesus were they winging it? Did they already see eye to eye? Were they going for broke?
As they left “everything”- I wonder what was on their minds and in their hearts?
They don’t know beans about fishing for people. In Jesus’ invitation do they feel like the apple of his eye? Do their families think this is a red herring?
They left everything it says. That is a lot. They left the huge catch of fish, their boats, the crowd who had earlier been pressing in on Jesus, and James and John left their dad Zebedee with a whole bunch of fish to fry. They jumped in with both feet. Jesus hadn’t tried to butter them up. They were told “do not be afraid”.
This wasn’t going to be a walk in the park and they weren’t traveling down the yellow brick road. As friends of Jesus they were now going to rub elbows with the Messiah, the Son of God. Were they in over their heads? As they left everything behind they became the first followers as Jesus got this show on the road. They caught what he said. They would be friends with One who would shelter them in storms and call them to not only fish in deep water, but walk on it.
No longer would it be a life of fishing to bring home the bacon. This was an about face in which they would bet their bottom dollar. This faith journey of friendship with Jesus as his followers would not be a life for the birds. Getting down to brass tacks what lay ahead would demand they lay down their rose colored glasses and pick up their own crosses to bear. They are followers and friends. This is an invitation for us to be also. This is an invitation to listen and learn.
All kidding aside- the disciples are going to shake a leg and roll with the punches. As followers and friends of Jesus there will be times on cloud nine and times they feel as though they have a millstone around their necks. They will wonder if they bit off more than they could chew or barked up the wrong tree.
Their stories get to become part of our stories. The friends of Jesus will paint a picture. We will hear of times they had to sit tight. They will recount how their friend Jesus would shoot the breeze. Jesus will tell stories that will ring a bell. Over the years friends and followers will repeat those stories. Friends and followers will go where the Spirit leads and keep getting into deep waters. They will leave things behind and take up their crosses.
Is this going overboard? They may ask that of themselves and one another. When they ask it of Jesus he will tell them they don’t know beans about God’s love. Jesus will take them places they could never have imagined. This is the just the beginning. They, like us, may need some time to chew on it. Then like a wake up call we too will have those experiences where we drop our nets. We let go of the catch. We let go of everything that is in the way of following.
And when we are in over our heads, in what may feel like we are between a rock and a hard place we remember to be follow the directions; to let down our nets, to take the next step. At first it may seem like only a drop a bucket and over time we get up to speed. We come to learn the response of discipleship—Here I am. I am all ears.
Letting God call the shots, we know, that not by the worlds standards —but by the Spirits direction—-this is a charmed life. We learn to take the back seat. We go along for the ride. When directed to get up and out of the boat -we don’t chicken out. We step onto the deep waters. Jesus calls us as friends to follow. We learn to let go of the fear that our checkered pasts can preclude God’s grace.
We let down our nets. We let down our doubts. We let down our defenses. We let in this deep love friendship called discipleship and it is a shot in the arm. This isn’t a status update - to count our chickens before they are hatched. We learn- the catch and the harvest belong to God. In friendship with Jesus we discover that the beauty is in the surrender and so much of discipleship is about the leaving things behind.
Our own stories of friendship and following, of being led by this one who loves us aren’t just big fish tales we share they are food for thought, manna in the wilderness and part of how God does amazing and extraordinary things in us and through us and with us in our everyday and ordinary lives that often words just cannot express.
There will be the times when we are between the devil and the deep blue sea, at the end of our ropes, behind the eight ball. Here we get to trust Jesus meets us right where we are. He gets in the boat with us. He calms the seas. We learn to walk by faith not by sight. In deep waters we listen for directions. We respond like Simon Peter, “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets”. We will say, “ I am picking up what you are putting down.”. And when we are asked “are you following me?” Our response is; here I am Lord, it is I.