This past week at Trinity we distributed a questionnaire asking all of you how you thought we were doing in the area of connecting people to Jesus through worship, one of the three key parts (Word of God, worship, and caring service) of Trinity’s mission statement. One part of that questionnaire asked those taking it whether they had ever invited another person to church. I was surprised (and grateful) that many of you responded that you had…and that the result had been positive. But one answer I read was one I found myself relating to: “I don’t have many non-Christian friends.” How is it possible to connect people to Jesus (and the unconditional love of God for sinners like us, found in our loving Savior alone) if we’re surrounded—most of the time, anyway—by people who already know the love of God that we know?
Add that question to our day-to-day weariness, our “I’m sure this won’t work” self-monologue that precedes our inviting others to join us at church on Sunday morning, or the daily distractions that challenge us from even seeing the fish out there ready to be gathered to a God of peace/mercy/abundant grace, and I’m sure we can all relate to the fisherman Simon Peter of our text (to read that text again, click here). At least I know that I do.
Jesus’ invitation to Peter on that morning after an unproductive night of catching nothing was this: “Put out into the deep and and let down your nets for a catch.” Jesus mentioned deep water because he had been teaching the crowds from inside Peter’s boat at a location near the shore, in shallow water…using the surrounding shore line as a kind of natural amphitheater. Still, “the deep” had connotations of what was unknown and uncontrollable in the Greek Old Testament (cf. Psalm 69:2, Isaiah 51:10, etc.). Could Jesus’ invitation not only be a gentle command to leave behind the confines of what was a familiar shore, but also a reminder that He would be present with His followers as they ventured out into the unknown and uncontrollable circumstances of the world “out there”?
One of my favorite writers, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, was a pioneering aviator and adventurer. He once wrote these words: “If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” The world is not always a friendly place for people of faith. But Jesus goes with us. The no-strings-attached love of God we have experienced for ourselves compels us. And the Holy Spirit teaches us not only to long for the immensity of the sea, but to find the people out there who are ready to be “caught alive” and introduced to a God of mercy and Life. We pray today that God might open our eyes not only to continue looking for deep water, but to trust that there is a catch to be had there. What God has in store there is sure to surprise and amaze us.