Homily: Why Some People Don’t Catch Fish
A fishing story is supposed to be flattering to the fisherman. Fishermen are supposed to talk about the monster fish they hooked but that got away, or they’re supposed to talk about the bait they use to make the fish just jump into your hook.
The Bible tells a different kind of fishing story though. This story is about fishermen coming up empty after fishing all night and about a carpenter, who commandeers a boat, preaches a sermon, and tells the fishermen where the fish are.
After hundreds of pounds of fish are finally caught, a fisherman, Simon, immediately resigns from fishing and starts fishing for people.
I told you this is a different kind of fishing story. If there’s anything to learn from this story, it’s *”why some people don’t catch fish.”*
You Have To Go Deep
Some people don’t catch fish because they refuse to go into deep water. Jesus told Simon, “Let’s leave the shallows and go to the deep.”
Everybody knows the schools of big fish are in the deeper water. And the first rule of fishing is you’ve got to go where the fish are. But we shouldn’t limit this to fish only. Jesus was teaching a spiritual principal.
We could substitute fish for abundance or wisdom or love, healing or peace. All those things we want in abundance. Some people don’t catch these things because they simply refuse to go deep.
Deep water is where the increase is. Deep water takes faith. Deep water is a risk. Focus of mind and heart are needed.
The visibility in deep black water is next to nothing. You’ve got to trust the words and directions of others who have passed through deep water to make it there. Jesus is always inviting people to the deeper end of things.
But shallow water is pleasant. It tickles our ankles when we walk in it. The minnows and the half-grown fish gather there. You can see all the way to the bottom in shallow water.
Staying in shallow water is such a temptation. Shallow water doesn’t cost much; it doesn’t take a whole lot of courage. But Simon knew the minnows couldn’t feed him. They couldn’t fill him. The minnows weren’t the desire of his heart. The deep water of faith is where those things we say we want are swimming around. The shallow is where we begin the adventure, not where we finish.
Deep water is where we have to go to get what God has for us.
You Have To Expect To Catch Fish
Some people don’t catch fish because they don’t expect to catch fish. When Jesus tells Simon, “Let’s go to the deep water,” he doesn’t stop there. He says, “…prepare for a catch.” What an encouragement.
This is a word for us there who go to church regularly, and pray regularly. Week after week we go to the deep water of worship, but do we go preparing for a catch? Do we go believing that a wonders are just waiting for us? Or do we go out of dumb habit? Expectations count with God. It’s all through the Bible.
Expectation is the first-born child of faith, “the substance of things hoped for.” No expectation, no real faith. When we say we believe in God, we are not saying I am agreeing with some abstract idea; we’re saying we expect the things that God has promised to me.
We’re saying that I’m a partner with the God who is “the giver of every good gift”. And among those gifts God has promised us are fruitfulness and fish and forever.
I like how Jesus keeps pushing Simon’s boundaries. “Leave the shore, Simon. Go into the deep, Simon.” These are easy in comparison to “Expect something wonderful, Simon.” Jesus was calling Simon to risk everything in order to find wonder.
Some people don’t catch fish because they don’t go to the deep water, and some people don’t catch fish because they don’t expect to. But some people don’t catch fish because they think they know more about fish than God does.
Simon almost makes this mistake. He tells Jesus in that exasperated tone, “Hey, we’ve been fishing all night. We know fish. The fish don’t run in the day. Aren’t you a carpenter moonlighting as a preacher anyway?”
You Can’t Think You Know More About Fishing Than God Does
Some people think they know more about fish God does. It happens to all of us sometimes. It’s not that we actually think we know more than God; it’s just that we behave that way.
We hear God’s instructions: Forgive a whole bunch. Bless those who curse you. Give abundantly. Visit the sick and the imprisoned. Forget your life and you’ll have a ball. Remember the Sabbath. It’s for remembering God, for worship and family not for catching up on work.
But we ignore God’s invitation to Abundant Life. We say to God by our actions: “I know what it takes to survive in this world, I know more about how to be healed from life’s disappointments and disasters, I know a better way to handle life’s insults than forgiveness, better ways than peace to handle the world’s violence, better ways than generosity to prevent going without than you do, God.”
Simon forgot that God is God, and God knows how to teach us how to survive, and thrive in this troubled world. Modern culture tells itself that it can know everything. Funny, huh?
Our information highway keeps repeating that over and over again. But Simon, at that crucial intersection we all come to over and over again, learns he doesn’t know everything, that his present emptiness and frustration had made him ready to learn.
People say that the net full of fish is the miracle of this story, but I disagree. The real miracle of this story is that Simon decided that God could teach him a thing or two, and that he could fill his life with good.
That’s when our miracles will begin to happen, that’s when we will start reaping an abundant harvest, when we decide that ‘God’s foolishness is wiser than any human wisdom’.
Simon’s full net is just a consequence of that fact, of that revelation. What freedom Simon found that day, what a joy…that God’s way of peace, and generosity and unselfishness will make us rich beyond measure.
God alone put the sword in the swordfish, the sail on the sail fish. He put the big in the whale and the play in the dolphin; it was Him alone who put electric in the eel and the reward in unselfishness. And if He’s God enough to do all of that, what can He do with you, when you’re ready to catch fish?
© Very Rev. Robert C. Wright