Just two weeks ago we sat in this sanctuary and experienced the joy of hearing of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But what changed in your life after that? Anything? Nothing? Are you still preoccupied with the problems you had before you came into the church that day? If Jesus showed up today, on our shore, would we recognize him? Or would we be too busy dealing with our problems that the resurrection becomes just another nice platitude we remember when we need it, or that serves to make Christianity just a crutch or a bumper sticker or the morality police when the power of the Christian community is so much more than that?
Maybe nothing changes for us because, for all intents and purposes, we still belong to the world and not to Christ. Maybe the world has its hooks into us so that we cannot free ourselves no matter how hard we try. And maybe we try to make ourselves better people or to solve all of our own problems by ourselves, but we are left with empty nets… Because no matter how hard we try to fulfill the demands of the world, it wants more and more and more.
But this Word we heard today, it has something to tell us. I have read this text many times, and so have you, or at least you have heard it several times in your life. This time, I couldn’t get my mind off of the net. That net was something else. I think it should be one symbol of our life together, and it should serve as a reminder it is not up to you to find peace with God on your own, and we cannot even serve God on our own.
Hook & Bait
I think a lot of congregations fish using the hook and bait method. They decide what kind of person they want to catch, get the right bait for that person, get the right size hook, and then fish… And it is not surprising that that method works because they catch what they set out to catch.
But the disciples used a net, and that net doesn’t care what fish it catches. It grabs them all. The disciples caught 153 fish when they followed Jesus’ word. 153 fish. Why 153? There are several theories but I think that number represents the whole church on earth… many different fish or different shapes, sizes, old, young, etc. etc. And, you know what? The net didn’t tear.
You and I are caught in that net. And the thing about being caught in a net is that we didn’t choose to be caught. We didn’t see a worm on a hook and decide to eat it. Just the same, we did not, we cannot decide to believe in Jesus Christ. We cannot decide to accept Jesus as our Savior and any time we do we are only fooling ourselves. No, we have been caught in the net. The Greek word that John uses for caught is the same word he used to describe the arrest of Jesus. They do not catch the fish. They are seized… as though against their will.
Caught in the Net
And, if our will had anything to do with belief and with being a part of Jesus’ church, we’d all be lost anyway. Faith in Jesus Christ brings membership in a community of believers and we are here because we have been caught up in Christ’s net… against our will, thanks be to God.
And the word that John uses when describing how the net is not torn? “σχίζω” Schizo. The net is not schizo-ed, or rent or torn apart, despite all of these different fish. I wonder if John is not using that image of the net as a challenge to us. A challenge that somehow, some way, there is a way for us to all hang together in this net and not let our divisions tear the church apart?
There must be a way. Any other organization in the world, where people are free to choose to associate with it or not, has to cater to the needs of the people who belong to it or else they move on. But the church, the church exists to challenge the established way of doing things and yet people stay in the net, and the net does not tear.
Everything to do with Christ
I believe it has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Christ’s word and the promise of the resurrection. It is that word that has caught us up into the promise and our will has nothing to do with it.
Jesus goes on to tell Peter that his discipleship will cost him his life. Brothers and sisters, our faith in Jesus Christ has already cost us ours. In our baptism, our old, sinful selves were put to death and a new creation came forth from that water to live new lives as children of God. Do you remember that you have already experienced the resurrection in your life? Do you know that the call to discipleship is a costly one and no matter how hard a church might try to water that down, it just can’t be done?
We have been commissioned, commanded, and freed, to serve each other in the radical humility of a community that does not put itself first, that does not seek fame or fortune, but that lives so that it might die for another person, another community. It’s fishy business, but the subversive freedom of moving through the world is knowing that it can no longer hook us away from Jesus Christ. That is the kind of freedom that can be found only among those who follow Him. Let us follow him, let us not be held captive even by our own past successes and yes, even our traditions. Let us look forward to who it is that we will become… Christ followers each and every one of us.