Think of all the great hero stories. The foil is always the same
King Arthur, before he knew was king Percy Jackson
And to get some girls in here
Merida in the movie Brave.
Every writer who tells a hero's story begins with the hero being the least likely and unassuming of all character and thus the most unprepared being the one chosen to save the world.
Jesus casts a vision and says:
"Change your hearts and lives!" says Jesus. "Here comes the kingdom of heaven!"
Now, I have always read this passage with adventure in mind. With the literal image of these disciples going to work one day and leaving their nets and fishing gear on the shore and just walking away, giving it all up to follow Jesus, and trust that what they will do and see will be more meaningful and impactful than they ever would in the comfort of their boats and nets. But, that doesn't mean in doing so they don't give up things like security, a sense of control, stability and routine. Jesus tells them they will be fishing for people — which I have always interpreted as bringing people to discipleship themselves, as if their job is to go bring people to Christ. Like the end of the day the disciples would sit down and take inventory and make their calculations and say "well, we brought in 100 more people today, we grew the church by 15% this year."
But now, I'm not so sure that's what Jesus meant by success, or by catching people. Here's the thing, people aren't fish, which means that you don't normally find them in water, and if people are found in the water, they usually need to be pulled out, because eventually they are drowning.
I received a message the other night from a former parishioner who told me that he and his wife just learned she had stage 4 cancer. Her breast cancer had returned and was now in the lungs. Both are in their late thirties and have two young children. He wrote, "we are terrified for our kids, I feel like I am drowning."
What do you say to someone who hears news that completely changes their understanding of the future. — A diagnosis, a job loss, an environmental catastrophe, a divorce, all of a sudden you can go from being on solid ground to feeling like you are drowning.
It is at these perilous moments that we need a word. Not just any word -but THE WORD. A word that comes from God that is uniquely given to that individual for that moment. When the disciples are told to fish for people, they are being told to bring them to Christ, who is the Word made flesh. They are to bring the word that saves them from drowning, so that they know they will not perish, but are saved. Not saved in death, not saved for heaven, but saved in the moment, saved in life, in that terrible, heart breaking, life changing moment, a word comes, through the spirit and says whatever it is the person needs more than anything else and saves them from drowning.
The adventure of being a disciple of Jesus Christ may mean walking into prisons and poverty. It may mean sitting with the sick and the dying. It may mean seeking justice and welcoming the stranger, and it may mean that one day a friend comes to you and says, "I'm drowning" and you have no words to offer, nothing of real substance that can match the fear in your friend's eyes. So, you hold their hand, you take a breath, and you ask God to give your friend a word that is God's alone. And at that moment, you have become a fisher of women and men, and a hero in the story.